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Time to get in the game. There’s a game being played?

by | May 22, 2014 | Industry News & Trends

Last week we hosted our monthly Thought Leadership Webinar, featuring a whitepaper published by Association Laboratory entitled Looking Forward 2014: An Environmental Scanning Whitepaper for the Association Industry. I recently shared some thoughts on the whitepaper, focusing on the statistic that 78 percent of the association leaders participating in the study identified managing the volume of information they receive as a major concern of their members.

This is actually good news for many associations as it calls out the need to become content curators for their members. Elizabeth Engel, MA, CAE recently spoke at our customer conference, Xperience2014 on this very topic.

In last week’s webinar Dean West, FASAE, President of Association Laboratory did a wonderful job sharing the highlights and his insights from this thought provoking paper. The group attending the webinar consisted of 34 percent executive level leaders, and 66 percent department managers within their organizations.

Throughout the webinar we conducted polls to gauge where the attendees were in relation to the participants featured in the whitepaper. When asked what they considered to be their association’s biggest challenge today, not surprisingly, over 65% listed membership issues.

However, what was surprising to me was the response to our poll asking what they saw as their biggest opportunity to help their members. Professional development lead the way with 55 percent of the responses, but the surprise was that only 12 percent looked at jobs and careers as an opportunity.

That response flew in the face of what was identified as a substantial concern for association members in the whitepaper. More than 40 percent of association professionals indicated that identifying, recruiting, and retaining qualified personnel as an issue most likely to affect their members in 2014.

Although unemployment rates are trending downward in most major metro areas, the recent JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed there were 4 million job openings in the US at the end of January 2014.  That’s up from 3.8 million openings listed in the final report for 2013. And as reflected in Association Laboratory’s whitepaper, the reality is that employers are not finding the qualified candidates they seek, and are unwilling to make risky hires just to fill an open position.

According to a recent survey by Right Management, a subsidiary of staffing management firm Manpower, the improving economic picture is providing incentive for many workers to look for other opportunities. In a recent online poll, 83 percent admitted they would be actively looking for a new position in 2014. For many of these workers, they have been standing pat; not wanting to risk their employment status while the economy struggled. This pent up desire to make a career change should become evident as the year progresses.

This leads me back to the survey response regarding opportunities to help members. Once again, only 12 percent listed careers/jobs as an area of interest. How can associations overlook this opportunity being presented to them?

The unfortunate reality is that not all association leaders look at association job boards the same way. Job boards have never been a part of their strategic initiatives. Why? I wonder if they are focused on the mechanics of a job board rather than the value it provides to members, prospects, and their organizations as a whole? I suspect that is why so many give away job listings for free, or worse yet, allow job postings on their LinkedIn or Facebook pages.

Setting the non-dues revenue aspect aside for a moment, there is the role a successful job board can play in influencing members and driving member loyalty. The value of being viewed as the career resource within your industry by your members and prospects cannot be over emphasized.

If your association has compulsory membership, congratulations. The search for new members looks a little different to you. But for everyone else trying to offer relevant value to members and prospects, the impact of helping someone find a job, or a better job can be a game changer.

However, even with compulsory membership, an association career center can become a real lifeline for members. Case in point is the Florida Bar Association. Even though every lawyer in Florida belongs to the Florida Bar, membership does not guarantee employment. This was particularly true in 2009, when members were faced with unprecedented layoffs, as attorneys in Florida became casualties of the downturn in the state’s economy.

The commitment to an online career center resulted in more than 1000 employers, including six of the state’s 12 largest largest law firms being registered to post, which increased traffic to the career center site and grew non-dues revenue by 98 percent in just three years. The most important result from this was that hundreds of Florida Bar members were able to find the right job to continue their careers.

How much value would you place on the member loyalty created from their success?

As I wrote in an earlier blog, associations need to prepare to maintain their influence in the marketplace by not giving up the job board market to powers like LinkedIn. There is evidence that niche job boards (like an association career center) are highly attractive to job seekers, recruiters and employers.

But before you can figure out where your association needs to be in this picture you have to get in the game. And yes, the game is most definitely on.


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