At the beginning of 2014 we started a conversation on the importance of a career center strategy for associations, especially in light of social networking giant LinkedIn’s aggressive efforts to become the leading online job board aggregator.
The concern we saw wasn’t specifically that LinkedIn was moving into the job board space but more so about their overall strategy for creating higher levels of engagement with job seekers and employers. LinkedIn’s goal was to not only help someone find a job but to also prepare them for their next employment opportunity.
Looking at how LinkedIn’s efforts could potentially impact associations, we saw a trend of a gradual move into areas that associations have long held influence with members. The idea that LinkedIn would help someone prepare for a better job pointed directly to professional development. The question was how would they do it?
That question was answered in November when LinkedIn launched a new feature that will allow professional education companies and eventually colleges to provide certifications for LinkedIn users who have completed their courses. The new certification feature followed a yearlong test program that launched with a small number of companies, including Coursera, Lynda.com, Microsoft and others.
Three areas of concern come to light when looking at the overall potential of LinkedIn and other for profits crowding into areas of service previously “owned” by associations:
- Non-Dues Revenue – The potential loss of much desired revenue generated through recruiting fees via paid job postings and online advertising.
- Data – The loss of business intelligence being collected by LinkedIn through user interactions on their platform. Data that allows LinkedIn to develop new products and services with huge revenue generating potential.
- Relevance/Influence – LinkedIn will be able to build loyalty through its efforts to connect “members” to job opportunities and new professional development/continuing education offerings. Their multi-tiered membership strategy makes it easier for potential prospects to bypass the association they might normally consider joining.
So where are we at the start of 2015? The good news is that associations can co-exist and compete with LinkedIn and others by using these social networks to promote their own programs and services, driving traffic to these opportunities.
There is no question the U.S. job market continues to heat up. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in November employers advertised the most job openings in 14 years. As a result the unemployment rate dropped to 5.6% (the lowest rate since 2008) and job openings rose to 4.97 million (the most since January 2001). More job vacancies generally lead to more hiring. And don’t forget, the challenge of finding and hiring qualified workers still remains the biggest factor in why so many jobs remain unfilled. Associations through their members can provide qualified talent that remains in high demand for employers.
And the online education market remains very much in flux as traditional education costs continue their dramatic rise, causing people to search for more affordable options to help advance their careers. Associations have an opening to be a driving force in this arena.
We believe strongly in the need for associations to utilize online career centers and learning management solutions to create more membership value and drive greater engagement with both members and prospects. These were driving factors in our recent acquisitions of Job Target’s Career Center Business Unit and Digital Ignite.
January is the perfect time to reach out to your members and do your own “needs assessment” for your association. Determining your members’ current challenges, and immediate and future needs can provide you with insight into how best to help in today’s quickly changing environment. Being prepared for inevitable change has never been more important.
Special note: On January 22, we hosted our first CAE Thought Leadership Webinar for 2015, titled Fads, Trends and Signals: Three Keys to Successful Innovation for Associations. Led by Shelly Alcorn, CAE, and we focused on the value of using a curve-jumping strategy and how to tell the difference between fads, trends and signals. Carefully deciding which objectives to pursue in an era of limited time, talent and treasure is the key to ensuring your association stays relevant in the lives of your members.