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(June 15, 2006) The generational demographic changes that make recruiting and entertaining sport also drive the future of Associations. For Recruiters, the demographics mean the potential for real scarcity. For Associations, the issue is relevance and membership.
The two topics are inextricably intertwined. Associations are huge networks ripe for harvest by effective Recruiters. Recruiters, in turn appear to be revenue positive stakeholders in the association eco-system. The future of associations is, in some ways, the future of Recruiting and vice-versa.
From here, it looks like the ongoing redefinition of retirement is going to add longevity to association membership. Adapting to the needs of workforce veterans who choose new and flexible roles in their chosen profession is an enormous outreach issue for the association membership team. Developing services and value-added offerings for this newly emerging group will be a significant chore for the associations that prosper in the coming years.
At the same time, Gen Y is entering the workforce with a vengeance. Their communication and work styles are, at the very least, different from baby boomers. Multi-channel synchronous conversations are the norm. Social networking is a contact sport.
Many of the core assumptions that drive association design and development are, as we've mentioned, built around older sorts of communications models. The newer folks don't necessarily understand the worldview that sees information flowing sequentially. That's a paper based understanding. People who grew up using computers and the web see more simultaneity in their relationships.
A recent and fascinating bit of research (Generations and the Future of Association Participation pdf), takes a hard look at the implications of shifting demographics on the world of associations. Dispelling the notion that population shifts will yield fewer association members, the authors sketch out data and scenarios for the membership future. Growth is relatively flat with the bright spot being the possibility oif retaining seasoned members for a longer period.
Like workplaces, associations face a four generation future. For the next five years (as retirement and skill shortages drive the workforce participation numbers for the over 50 set through the ceiling), the workplace will have massive commingling amongst four groups:
It's an enormous set of challenges. It's easy to imagine the stultifying feeling facing a 20-something with a 70 year old boss. It's equally complex to imagine a different 25 year old with a team of 60 plus subordinates. Lots of social ideas and barriers will fall in the new work environment. Associations will either be a productive source of new approaches or get left in the dust.
Currently, 51 Million Americans belong to Trade and Professional associations. Generations and the Future of Association Participation suggests that an additional 10% will join in the coming decade. Their needs and desires will be a microcosm of the workforce as a whole. Associations can either demonstrate the future or react to it.
For Recruiters, Associations represent a nest egg of more than 25% of potential candidates. This group is high potential and somewhat self-screening. It's clear that the symbiosis between Associations and Recruiters is entering a new phase.
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