New Survey Offers a Glimpse at Association Staffing Trends, Challenges

PNP Staffing Group's "2017 Association Salaries, Staffing & Trends Report" reveals some common threads among associations, including organizational priorities and the effects of more millennials in the workplace.

As associations grow in size and influence, they are also challenged with attracting and retaining qualified staffers. Those are just some of the takeaways from PNP Staffing Group’s recently released “2017 Association Salaries, Staffing & Trends Report” [PDF].

The survey of Washington, DC, area associations—which was conducted at the end of 2016—provides a look at staffing priorities and challenges in the association world.

“Despite challenges of changing demographics and organizational structures, associations report positive trends in the sector and a pervasive sense of confidence in both the immediate and long-term future,” the report says.

Among the trends identified in the report is that associations are growing: Sixty-three percent of respondents said they increased their staff in 2016, while 26 percent reported no change, and 11 percent said the number of staffers decreased. As for 2017, 40 percent said they plan to add staff, mostly for membership services and education programs.

Regarding salary and benefits, 88 percent said they increased staff salaries last year, while 24 percent increased their benefits. (Also worth noting is that 73% of associations surveyed did not make any changes to staff benefits.)

Recruiting and retaining talent is a significant challenge, the report shows. When asked about their association’s effectiveness in recruiting top talent, 58 percent said their associations were “somewhat effective, but not consistently,” 25 percent said they were successfully attracting talented staff, and 17 percent said they were not getting the caliber of staff they need.

“Association leaders are concerned about recruitment and retention strategies because many require new or specialized skill sets for growth,” PNP Staffing Group CEO Gayle Brandel said in a statement. When you add turnover, retirement, and attrition, the result is “a significant push for new hires, leading to a very competitive talent marketplace for associations.”

At the same time, millennials are changing the workplace landscape. More than 60 percent of respondents reported that millennials had moved into leadership roles in their association, and more than 52 percent said this age group constitutes at least half of their staff.

The report notes that millennials’ nontraditional priorities affect associations’ recruiting and retention efforts. Respondents said the top-three things millennials look for in a job is the ability to work remotely (65 percent), opportunities for rapid promotion (64 percent), and training and professional development opportunities (60 percent). Among other things on their list is a salary sufficient to both pay off student loans and start a family.

“Significant differences exist between baby boomers and millennials regarding expectations for job satisfaction,” said Brandi Scott, managing director of PNP’s Washington, DC, office, in a statement. “This generational shift is challenging staff recruiting, policies, and practices.”

The study also provides a window into the priorities of the associations surveyed. These include strengthening, developing, and improving education and program services (51 percent), marketing and communications (49 percent), technology (46 percent), membership development (43 percent), training and professional development (42 percent), salaries (39 percent), board development (33 percent), and fundraising (30 percent).

The results of the survey indicate that associations are looking forward to organizational growth and “are acting on the recognized fact that talented, capable staff, particularly with millennials taking on leadership roles, are more apt to be engaged and productive if they see real opportunities for personal and professional growth in their jobs,” the report states.


Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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