Whether you are a healthcare association or some other type of industry group or professional society, you need to protect its long-term viability by engaging young professionals and student members. A look at some ideas to enhance your current tactics.
If your association has encountered challenges as a result of COVID-19, you are probably asking yourself how to ensure the long-term health and viability of the organization. Living in a pandemic, working remotely, and a lack of interaction with our stakeholders has precipitated a paradigm shift that has made it necessary for societies to address this question quickly.
One immediate step your organization can take to protect its future is to implement a robust engagement program for students and new professionals with the goal of attracting and engaging the next generation of healthcare leaders and maintaining their involvement in your organization long term. Here are five tactics your organization can deploy today to disrupt or enhance your current offerings.
1. Provide opportunities for your members to network. As newer generations continue to grow up in a progressively digital environment, “staying connected” has taken on an entirely new meaning. Therefore, providing these future leaders with engaging networking opportunities will be more imperative to an organization’s success than ever before.
There are several ways your association can begin to build these networking opportunities, such as providing a robust chapter experience, offering networking opportunities during in-person and virtual events, developing online communities, and fostering engagement in existing communities where connections are already being made. You can also stimulate your next generation leaders’ participation in special interest groups or working groups and in specific hashtag discussions on social media. As an added networking benefit, you can encourage your highly engaged students or new professional members to serve as ambassadors for other groups within your organization so they grow their own networks in the process.
One immediate step your organization can take to protect its future is to implement a robust engagement program for students and new professionals.
2. Engage them early by providing volunteer leadership opportunities. When it comes to building a sense of connectivity to a society among next generation leaders, incorporating volunteer opportunities into the governance of your younger member groups is crucial. This can be accomplished by formalizing a robust leadership structure that includes a student chair, student advisor, chapter presidents, guidance for the chapter presidents from a regional lead, committees to help staff with executing various tasks (i.e., meeting planning, education, survey and evaluation, etc.), and ad hoc working groups.
Outline an identifiable “ladder of engagement” that new members, and especially new professionals, can follow to become more engaged with your association. Common entry points for students and new professionals may include, but are not limited to, research grants, educational scholarships, discounted memberships, financial education, and free online microlearning modules. Depending on association structure and needs, multiple engagement paths may be defined, such as an education path or a leadership path.
3. Tailor your educational content to the needs and interests of your next generation members. The rising generation of young professionals and students is in a unique position in their relationship with technology. As the first generation of true “digital natives,” their needs in terms of content delivery will likely vastly differ from other groups. The pandemic has served as a catalyst for moving those initiatives to the forefront for other groups within your organization, but younger members are already savvy at using digital platforms. Ensuring your association has a robust pipeline of content for younger members and an engaging vehicle for delivery will be crucial for capturing their attention.
To be frank, the “digital revolution” that we are experiencing was inevitable. The general perception of chaos that has resulted from the world being forced online by COVID has tempered expectations of refinement and polish, which makes this the perfect opportunity to reevaluate your association’s systems, products, and services with an eye toward embracing the digital medium.
4. Recognize next generation members for their contributions. Once you have next generation volunteers who are engaged in various groups within your organization, providing recognition for contributions is key in demonstrating the organization values and appreciates volunteers who go above and beyond. This recognition can occur in several forms: properly crediting volunteers for their work, ensuring that committee and workgroup rosters are up to date, giving research grant recipients the opportunity to present their findings to the association’s membership, and offering scholarships or other programs.
5. Be a resource for your members’ career and personal development. According to Community Brands’ Member Engagement and Loyalty Study, career-development resources are consistently identified as a primary catalyst for why younger members decide to join an organization. Whether it is to gain mentorship from seasoned professionals, sharpen skills needed for the field, or identify employment opportunities, your organization should have resources to assist with each of these unique needs.
Robust job boards, professional and leadership development, wellness and personal development, and financial-education resources are just a few of the ways associations are supplementing their regular programming to better support their student and young professional members.
If you are not currently leveraging some of the strategies provided, or if you feel your association can do more to serve next generation members, consider these suggestions during your business planning process. Implementing these tactics will go a long way toward safeguarding your organization’s pipeline of future leaders.
Bob Moore, Drew Register, and Amy Sherwood—members of ASAE’s Healthcare Community Advisory Committee—also contributed to this article.