Five Ways Associations Can Better Serve Late-Career Professionals

Highly experienced and nearing retirement age, members who are far along in their careers deserve focus from the organization that represents them, too. An association executive breaks down a few ideas for serving their needs.

The conversation about trying to reach members often centers on professionals who are younger and newer to the field. But it’s unwise to overlook another valuable part of your community: your older members. Your organization benefits when you keep these highly experienced members engaged.

“If members have experience and want to share their learnings, the association has to make that easy for them to do,” says Tony Lee, vice president of editorial for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “just as it needs to make it easy to get feedback from new college graduates or from retirees.”

How can you ensure that late-careers professionals feel at home in your association? Here are a few recommendations from Lee:

Give experienced members a place to share their expertise. Association members often want to share what they know with other members. To provide an outlet and to help SHRM gather member knowledge, the association created a number of special expertise panels, which Lee says attract large numbers of people who are well into their careers. Panel members, who must apply to participate, get a stake in SHRM’s decision making. “They’re people who are experienced and have a track record that they can rely on. And so we really value those contributions,” he says.

Make sure your content targets different demographics. Segmenting has been a key part of how SHRM delivers content to members. “In fact, we actually have an audience segment structure set up so that we are specifically creating content for every audience segment that we’ve identified,” Lee says. He adds that even more-experienced members need assistance making sense of new initiatives and requirements in the human resources sector. “We’ll provide that guidance, assuming they already have a basic understanding of a lot because they’ve been around a while,” he says.

Target based on seniority. Targeting members based on their level of experience helps with content planning for those in more senior roles. “We have a whole slew of new content focused on senior executives, and we talk about strategy,” Lee says. These members value content and conversations centering on the kind of work that more experienced professionals do, such as crafting strategy and making big-picture decisions.

Don’t forget career-changers. Age doesn’t necessarily indicate how fresh someone is to an industry. Some professionals may change careers later in life, bringing them into a new field. Lee says SHRM has met this demand by creating venues for members to discuss their new roles with others. “When you have someone who’s making a career change, the first thing they want to do is talk to others who’ve done the same thing, and find out what their experience was like and what they learned and what advice they might offer,” he says. “So we have multiple channels to encourage that.” SHRM has extended this kind of peer-to-peer conversation to virtual environments during the pandemic.

Create ways for retiring members to continue to contribute. Many members who are ready to retire want to stay engaged with their association. One way to take advantage of their desire to contribute is through a mentoring program. “If the association can facilitate a mentoring program, that would certainly make sense for people who’ve retired from the field to be able to help those who are younger who could benefit from their experience,” Lee says. Other strategies include offering writing and speaking opportunities. “Anything’s possible. It’s just a matter of resources,” he says. “If the association has the resources to accommodate, then they should leverage that.”

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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