What are the important issues affecting young professionals in the association community? According to discussions at the recent NextGen Association Summit, integration is one.
With all the “unknowns” about young professionals and the millennial generation, wouldn’t it be great to have the opportunity to round up some of the brightest young minds and discuss the issues that are important to them and what changes they’d make to the association community?
I was honored to have been selected to facilitate the second NextGen Association Summit held last week in Reno, Nevada, for a number of reasons—one being that I was able to do just that.
In my mind, the very best part of the NextGen experience is getting the chance to talk with young association professionals, not at them. Applicants are required to submit an essay regarding the topics they would like to address if they were selected to attend. One theme that seemed to resonate with the class of 2014: integration.
How are associations adjusting their culture, their workflow, and their practices to better integrate young professionals? It’s an incredibly important topic when you consider that, by as soon as next year, YPs will make up the majority of the workforce.
Here are four areas of integration that are important for the association community to address.
Career environment: Ideally, there would be solid, systematic ways to ensure all employees are fully integrated into the workplace. Perhaps there are better ways for associations to help their younger members advance their careers and make sure they have adequate, equitable access to professional development and coaching resources. In addition, the young professionals at the summit had questions about how to balance the need to “learn the ropes” with a desire to showcase talents and move quickly through the ranks.
Social environment: It is one thing to discuss the particular characteristics of a generation; it is another to discuss whether those differences are cosmetic ways of communicating or true expressions of unique human needs. Fully integrating all generations into the workplace does take sensitivity and a sophisticated awareness of differences in style and tendencies. However, we ought to spend some time developing a deeper awareness using other lenses, not relying too heavily on generational definitions alone.
Association environment: There are questions regarding the value associations provide to younger people. Fully integrating younger people into membership will take a conscious effort, as well as changes in both culture and policy. Attracting young professionals is one thing, but engaging them is another. This is a generation that is well versed in using Google to solve a problem or learn a new skill, so how can associations provide greater value to them and engage them in their profession? What does it mean to be engaged, and what specific changes should associations consider when revamping their operations?
Global environment: Global population trends show important demographic shifts across all age categories. Currently, 50 percent of the global population is under the age of 25, and they are facing daunting issues related to employment and living conditions. While there are signs of economic recovery, youth unemployment remains stubbornly high. In fact, 30 of the 40 countries included in the latest report from the International Labour Organization show increasing rates of unemployment among youth worldwide, not the other way around.
Thinking about all of the environmental conditions affecting young professionals and developing potential solutions has direct implications for the future of the association community.