"At Membership2020 I learned why various generations have the attitudes and behaviors that the do, why it’s important to customize your marketing messages and methods of communication to your target audience, and why doing things the same way we have always done them won't work in the future..."

- Michele Feder, Materials Research Society

Generation Y has a different set of values

Understanding the new majority is key to the future of your association
By Sarah Sladek | 04/21/2016

Generation Y. Millennials. Echo Boomers. Trophy Generation.

Regardless of how you refer to them, the generation of young adults now moving into the majority of the workforce and consumer spending has perplexed organizations worldwide.

In 2015, Generation Y (born 1982-1995) became the majority of the workforce, marking the largest shift in human capital in history. Not only are they the largest generation to have roamed the earth, Gen Y is also the first generation to come of age in the post-Industrial Era – an era driven by technology, instant gratification, customization and globalization.

What’s your association doing to prepare itself – and the industry it represents – for this unprecedented shift in both demographics and economics?

Generation Y poses a great threat – and opportunity – to nearly every industry sector, government entity, nonprofit and membership association, which still are managed, governed and supported almost entirely by baby boomers (1946-1964).

The fact is, most membership associations are ill prepared for this shift. The arrival of Gen Y isn’t just about a young demographic coming into power; this generation is actually introducing an entirely new value system to the marketplace.

Think you know Y? Think again.

This tech-savvy, globally minded generation isn’t joining, buying, networking, learning, or engaging like other generations. This generation has been difficult to engage because the traditional membership association doesn’t meet their values and therefore falls drastically short of meeting their expectations.

Further exploration of Generation Y’s shifting values reveals that as this generation has aged, many of the cornerstones of organizations have lost their value and become irrelevant.

• Ownership vs. access. After defining ourselves for centuries by possessions – cars, houses, books, china patterns, stocks, boats, land and jewelry – what matters to a growing number of young people is not so much ownership but access. The pressure is on associations to deliver continued, quick and easy access to new information, valuable services and products, meaningful relationships, and experiences that deliver a real return on investment.

• Loyalty vs. relationships. Generation Y is more apt to move from one opportunity to the next, garnering them a reputation for having a lack of loyalty. Actually, Ys are very loyal, they’re just not loyal to institutions; they are loyal to people. Gen Y commits when meaningful relationships and great experiences are actively present. To them, loyalty is not something you do “just because”; it is something that is earned.

• Community vs. globalization. Members of the older generations are more likely to define community as knowing your neighbors and participating in association events. Generation Y thinks of community as having access to and interacting with a global network via social media. As a result, some Ys won’t see the need to be organized by geography or physical location, and will desire the option to be organized by common interests instead.

• Status vs. inclusion. Leadership is no longer synonymous with experience. Gen Y is the most racial and ethnically diverse generation in history, the most tech-savvy and entrepreneurial, the most educated, and the first to have more women than men obtain postsecondary credentials. Associations need to take note and reformat their boards of directors to allow for the participation of members from all ages and backgrounds.

• Jobs vs. entrepreneurs. In recent years, more workers have detached from conventional jobs to take on contract work, the demand for flextime has increased, and Gen Ys have launched a record number of start-up businesses. The world of work is moving into an entrepreneurial mindset. Associations will need to reconsider their benefits considering people may not have the time or affinity to a profession to want to join an association.

• Sales vs. service. Gen Y is turned off by anything resembling a sales pitch. They are extremely savvy consumers, seeking a meaningful relationship and expecting exceptional service. Ys want personalized, knowledgeable human interaction when they interact with your association. They want to see that the association is connected to and responsive to their specific needs. They want to feel appreciated, valuable and important.

• Control vs. freedom. In the past, associations have had certain rules that needed to be followed and traditions upheld. This left little room for innovation or change. Gen Y has been raised in a world driven by knowledge, innovation and technology. They will expect associations to forego operating in a controlled environment and be open to new ideas emerging everywhere, from everyone.

Critical to this point is the fact that associations will be challenged to innovate not just a little bit or once, but significantly and diligently, without pause. The relentless pursuit of innovation is a common expectation for a generation raised during an era of rapidly changing technology, customization and instant gratification.

Knowing how to engage Generation Y – the millennials – begins with knowing why this generation is unlike any other. It’s equally important to know why engaging this generation will be the best business decision your association will make.

Take note: The behaviors and choices of younger generations historically have been an indicator of future workplace, consumer and economic trends. The same is true for membership right now.

The trends and influences introduced and shaped by Generation Y are having a “trickle-up” effect – changing the value of membership and expectations of the membership experience for every generation. Trickle-up effect (also known as bubble-up effect) is a term that has been used to describe the flow of wealth and fashion trends. In both cases, as in this case, movement is from the bottom up and eventually influences the majority.

In other words, if membership is declining in value for Generation Y, soon it will decline in value for all generations.

This would seem like “The End of Membership As We Know It” – but it actually marks the beginning of unparalleled opportunity for those associations willing to embrace change and innovate. For example:

– Air Traffic Controllers Association shifted its focus onto Generation Y in 2011, resulting in a 30 percent membership increase and 25 percent increase in event attendance of all generations of members. Equally impressive, the association’s bottom line emerged from losing $300,000 per year to establishing a healthy and growing financial reserve.

– Marine Retailers Association of the Americas launched a Young Leaders Advisory Council in 2009, and observed a 200 percent membership increase and $100,000 revenue increase.
These are two examples of the Trickle-Up Effect at work. Focusing on the successful engagement of a Generation Y membership significantly improved engagement and revenue for the entire membership.

You can choose to dwell on the challenges that lie ahead, and the unprecedented and significant shifts leading to irrelevance, or you can dwell on the opportunities and create something of unprecedented and significant relevance.

One thing is certain – whatever choice you make from here on out, it will begin and end with Y.

Register for Membership2020 today and you'll come away ready to start building up your Millennial membership base immediately!

Register for Membership2020

Why millennials quit

New research from XYZ University on millennial turnover
By Sarah Sladek | 08/25/2016

Millennials are notorious for job-hopping.

These young adults, ages 21 to 34 and also known as Generation Y, change jobs three times more often than other generations. In fact, 48 percent of millennials are planning to leave their jobs within the next 24 months.

Employee turnover is now costing U.S. companies an estimated $30.5 billion per year. (Yes, that's billion with a "b.")

But why? What's causing these high rates of employee turnover and what can employers do to reduce it?

As the saying goes, denial isn't a river in Egypt. The inability to retain millennials is crippling our collective bottom line, yet many employers are shoulder-shrugging and passing blame. We've heard every possible excuse for why employers can't keep their millennial talent, such as:

- It's youth rebellion. ("No worries! Job-hopping is something they will eventually outgrow.")
- It's a character flaw. ("Those millennials are such an entitled, needy, difficult-to-please generation! They have no work ethic.")
- It's a culture problem. ("We just need to add more perks, like nap rooms and Bring Your Dog to Work Day.")

Could a $30.5 billion loss really be chalked up to youth rebellion? We weren't convinced. We wanted to hear from the millennials themselves to better understand their reasons for being three times more likely to quit a company.

For the past three months XYZ University surveyed and interviewed more than 500 Millennials in 45 states--and it turns out none of the bulletpoints listed above are accurate descriptions of why Millennial turnover is happening.

Yes, job turnover was previously associated with youth. Since the 1980's, the trend has been for young adults to change jobs frequently.

However, according to XYZ University research, the job-hopping behaviors of the millennial generation aren't reliant on age alone. Rather, their expectations of work have been influenced by the social change prevalent during their childhood and adolescence.

Consider that millennials are the first generation of the post-Industrial Era, raised in a world driven by technology and globalization. They came of age during the worst economic decline the U.S. had experienced in 70 years, and they are the best-educated and the most protected and supervised generation in history.

All of these social shifts have influenced this generation's career trajectory. The millennials are a changed generation, and the research clearly indicates that as a workforce, Millennials are seeking to fulfill different needs from their employment experiences.

XYZ University's research paper, Why They Quit, cites 10 reasons millennials quit their jobs. To sum it up, millennials have spent more time than other generations exploring careers and opportunities for advancement because:

1. They are searching for jobs that tap into their values for education and collaboration; and

2. They are still reeling from the recession, desperately seeking jobs that will allow them to support themselves financially.

The bottom line: Increased turnover is the outcome of a shift in workforce needs and values; a shift that is here to stay.

Turnover is not just some rebellious stage the millennials will soon outgrow, and it's not something that will be resolved exclusively by a switch-up in culture. (Trust me, Bring Your Dog to Work Day isn't going to curb the employee turnover epidemic.)

It's time to stop making excuses. Accept that if your organization can't keep its young talent, there's a reason why and it likely has little to do with their age and more to do with your company's inability to meet their needs.

Simply put, create a place where millennials can learn and grow and turnover will decrease. Ignore the situation, will it away, and employee turnover will continue to be the billion-dollar elephant in the room squashing everyone's potential.

Register for Membership2020 today and you'll come away ready to start building up your Millennial membership base immediately!

Register for Membership2020

What can an association do to improve culture?

By Sarah Sladek | 10/05/17

In 1996, two students at Stanford University conducted a research project that would eventually grow into a business earning $50 billion in revenues and attracting one million job applicants each year.

From its inception, Google became renowned for having a workplace culture that was truly revolutionary. The free cafes, funky offices, and games are among Google’s trademarks, but according to the Senior Vice President of People Operations, the perks aren’t the reason for Google’s success.

Rather, it’s the fact that Google was built on the knowledge that people want meaningful work, knowledge of what’s happening in their environment, and the opportunity to shape that environment. In other words, Google understood what motivated employees, and created a company to deliver those experiences.

Does your association know what members want -- and is it dedicated entirely to creating it?

Associations tend to make decisions based on membership trend reports, surveys that ask members what time of day they prefer to attend events, and historical perceptions of how the association should be performing. All of this is creating incomplete, flawed assumptions about what’s really driving membership, which is the membership experience itself.

The experience – also known as culture – makes a significant difference in how effective an association is at recruiting and retaining members and generating revenue.

Culture is evident in every interaction with your members. It’s how members feel when they talk to your receptionist on the phone, visit your association’s website, attend an event, and meet your board of directors. Those feelings—whether good or bad—are very powerful influences. The association could be doing amazing projects or providing unique services, but if members don’t feel good about the membership experience, they won’t engage.

Culture has always been important, but right now it’s crucial. Culture matters to Gen Y/Millennials (1981-1995) more than any other generation, and they are the largest generation in history and majority of the workforce.

This generation has been given the negative label of being entitled, and well—they are. Their expectations are set a little higher and their patience is a little shorter because they have been raised in a world driven by technology. This is the instant gratification generation. They have been given more choices and access than any other generation, so they’ve never had to settle for inadequate or irrelevant, and they’re certainly not about to start.

Frankly, culture matters to a generation driven almost entirely by personal happiness. They will refuse to engage in anything negative, stressful, unorganized, or draining of their time and energy.

What can an association do to improve culture? Here are some suggestions:

• Inspire Excellence
Ask yourself whether your team exemplifies the association’s purpose of putting members first. The people who interact with your members must fully appreciate and understand your association is in the service business and that the culture they create for your members plays a critical role in your association’s ability to succeed. This is an awesome responsibility not to be taken lightly, especially considering Millennials are drawn to people and experiences and not organizations.

• Focus
Have you ever sat in a board or staff meeting and someone is saying: ‘We don’t want membership to continue to decline,’ or ‘We won’t be able to change’? If your team is consciously and unconsciously focusing on decline, you’ll probably just get more decline. Instead, focus on what you want to change. Start by writing down what won’ts, don’ts, and can’ts are holding you back. Next, write down what you want to achieve. Shift your focus.

• Start at the Top
Millennials are the most protected and supervised generation in history. Helicopter Parenting forged a unique relationship between parents and their children, which has influenced this generation’s views of leaders and relationships in the workplace. As a result, creating an exceptional membership for Millennials begins with exceptional leadership. Not the hierarchical kind, but the ‘I want to know you better and create something really inspirational together’ kind.

Associations were built on the premise of community and belonging, yet in recent years many have lost sight of that purpose. But culture is what we need to hold fast to, not only because it really matters to Millennials and is central to engaging them, but because it matters to everyone.

After all, without culture Google would just be another technology company. And without culture, your association is just another group of people paying admission to get together. Without culture, there’s no value, no competitive advantage, and certainly no reason to show up.

Register for Membership2020 today and you'll come away ready to start building up your Millennial membership base immediately!

Register for Membership2020

Keynote Urges Associations to Solve Global Workforce Crisis

About 20 years ago, as Generation X came of age, associations started to report declining membership.

What happened with membership associations was a preview into what would happen in the workforce. In recent years, there have been countless articles written and studies conducted to try to pinpoint why employee turnover among Millennials is skyrocketing.

There’s a reason why disengagement is happening. Disengagement is happening because younger generations feel like they don’t belong.

Belonging, by definition, means you have a sense of ownership and a secure relationship.

Successful organizations disregard age or years of experience, to ensure everyone feels empowered and an important and valued part of a team.

People first.

The arrival of the Millennial generation is closely aligned with many powerful economic transitions. In fact, they came of age alongside six trends that were so influential, they were called economies: Experience Economy, Gig Economy, Knowledge Economy, Sharing Economy, Impact Economy, Digital Economy.

I seriously doubt the arrival of a single generation has ever ushered in this much transition. There is much to learn and much untapped potential.

Now consider all the developments on the immediate horizon: artificial intelligence, robotics, DNA technology, self-driving cars, the move toward working fewer hours or part-time, the need to revamp education, and so on.

Some people are not made for this pace of change. They get annoyed, they start blaming each other. Others avoid the subject altogether.

But the organizations succeeding in today’s world are those that stay focused on the future, constantly asking: How do we stay relevant? Where do we need to be next? How can we be a generation better rather than a generation behind?

Future focused.

People first. Future-focused. That’s how we will solve the workforce crisis.

Regardless of where you live or what industry you work in, talent generation (or a lack thereof) is influencing your life. I can pretty much guarantee there’s an organization within 10 miles of your home struggling to find, keep, or train talent.

That presents a lot of challenge, yes, but also a lot of opportunity for your association.

Solve the workforce crisis, and your association will become the most valued resource in its community and industry.

Ladies and gentlemen, now is time to think about talent. Without talent, society fails. Without talent, we have no purpose, no future, and no hope.

As associations, you have the power and the influence to create a better future for us all. So don’t avoid disruption. Own it. Solve the workforce crisis. Make work work again.

If you do that, I guarantee it will be the best decision your association ever made and the most important job you’ve ever had.

Register for Membership2020 today and you'll come away ready to start building up your Millennial membership base immediately!

Register for Membership2020

June 21, 2018
1727 I St NW, Washington, DC 20006
CAE Credits:
Eligible for 7 credits
Who Should Attend: Chief Membership Officers CEOs & Executive Directors Membership Development Directors Member Services Coordinators & Managers Marketing Managers & Directors Communications & Social Media Staff
What's Included:
  • A full day of expert-led training
  • Interactive strategy sessions
  • Breakfast, lunch & networking reception
$445 Early Bird Rate
$545 (after 05/18/18)
$395 Add'l attendees

I ate up every bit of Membership2020 . As a millennial, it was truly a "preaching to the choir" moment but was so validating to hear that we're not crazy, but that times really are changing, so our outreach needs to change, too.

- Ashley Erickson, Public Relations Coordinator, Minnesota Association of Professional Employees

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