Amy Gitchell is a marketing and research specialist at GrowthZone AMS with a focus on association industry research and growth. She is passionate about marketing communications and has extensive experience in digital media strategy.
Millennials (Born 1981-1996) are now the largest generation in the U.S. labor workforce, overtaking Generation Xers (1965-1980) with more growth on the horizon. Meanwhile, startups continue to sweep the business and tech worlds, a gig workforce is building steam and companies are recruiting in droves as workplace expectations shift.
Millennials are no longer the youngest generation, and a striking change is taking place in corporate America as more of them advance into leadership roles. A recent Gallup Poll found that only one-third of full-time employees are engaged at work — defined as being “emotionally and psychologically attached to their work and workplace.” The study also revealed millennials had the lowest percentage of engaged employees. It’s no surprise that although millennials are rapidly going into leadership roles, they represent the lowest percentage of engaged employees. In fact, it highlights a genuine need for these employees and the companies they work for to bring their approaches together.
One characterization of millennials is their intense need for continued development and education, but many find their employers lack sufficient learning resources. So, where can this generation go to fulfill their career needs? Associations.
Millennials have changed the workplace, technology, shopping patterns and certainly businesses. Competition for members is fierce, and meeting the demands of this young demographic is critical to survival. Associations must learn to provide what they want.
Millennials want to believe in a mission that promotes passionate and fulfilling work; associations meet these expectations in addition to giving them the tools to advance in their careers. To set themselves apart, associations should be continually looking for new ways to offer their members better loyalty benefits and opportunities.
Associations must be able to show why millennials should want to invest their time, energy and money being involved in the organization. Here are a few benefits that associations should embrace and promote to recruit and retain young professionals:
The biggest reason young professionals seek association membership is job opportunities. Therefore, associations must be able to offer these members leadership roles and volunteer opportunities that expand their resumes, and networking opportunities that help them make meaningful connections. It is also important to provide members with exclusive job listings that give them a leg up in the hiring process.
Associations should seek to develop programs that teach the leadership skills young professional members need to excel in their field. From the smallest engagement (answering questions in an online forum) to major participation (speaking at an event), millennials should be able to take advantage of numerous professional development opportunities.
Millennials are searching for new ways to connect with professionals in all stages of career development, and promoting exclusive access to networking events, guest speakers and job fairs is a great way for associations to capture their attention. Associations should organize events on a monthly basis that make learning more collaborative.
The communication strategy group Mahlab explains the importance of making millennials feel included, stressing that there is a “misconception that all you need to do is give [young professionals] a committee and a trivia night for under 35s.”
Instead, focus on planning events that get everyone in the same room sharing ideas, experiences and advice. Word-of-mouth travels fast, and engaging millennials is the key to spreading the word about an association throughout the broader trade community — increasing interest and growing membership.
Millennials are known for their love of loyalty and rewards programs. Therefore, associations should make sure to promote their members-only benefits and discounts. These may include savings on products and services tailored to their business needs, group health care, travel discounts and access to mentoring programs, young professional groups, exclusive conferences, trade shows and events.
Millennials are always looking for new ways to grow their skill set. They know finding new ways to educate themselves is key to career advancement. Associations should strive to offer training courses and educational resources to members both on-site and online, which cater to their busy schedules and allows them to take courses at their own pace. Utilizing online portals, associations can provide members with webinars, thought leadership, reports, modules and workbooks at any time, from anywhere. Content should be updated regularly to provide relevant resources that will continuously develop skills and knowledge. By sharing educational content with millennials in more tech-savvy ways, associations can reach this network of people in their preferred mode of communication — mostly through the device in the palm of their hand.
Email marketing and social media are what most entice a vast majority of millennials and how they feel connected to the groups they join. So, how can associations leverage these sites to attract new members? Start by developing a social media strategy that identifies the association’s target audience and focuses on sharing a mix of original content and relevant articles/studies. Sharing a variety of curated content will position the organization as a thought leader that all members, not just millennials, can turn to for the latest industry news.
Millennials look to join associations to share challenges and discuss common issues in a collaborative environment. An association showing off the way its members interact and exchange ideas on social media is sure to catch the attention of young professionals looking to get involved. Associations should consider turning to social media to showcase the collaborative nature of their next meeting.
Millennials have changed the workplace, technology, shopping patterns and certainly businesses. Competition for members is fierce and meeting the demands of this young demographic is critical to survival. To stay credible and relevant, associations must learn to provide what they want.
Innovation increases annual growth and retention that will keep members engaged throughout the membership life-cycle. This list may seem daunting, but in reality most associations are already doing most things on this list — they just have to promote it. By effectively communicating key benefits of membership, associations can recruit and retain young professionals.
Amy Gitchell is a marketing and research specialist at GrowthZone AMS with a focus on association industry research and growth. She is passionate about marketing communications and has extensive experience in digital media strategy. AC&F