Your Secret Weapon in Protecting Your Members From Burnout

Professional development could be just the thing to help revive members’ sense of joy around their careers—but only if it’s presented and marketed correctly, says learning strategist Tracy King.

With a full 20 months of the pandemic shifting livelihoods and approaches to working, it’s perhaps inevitable that burnout was going to affect how members approach their careers.

Burnout isn’t just about long hours and piles of work, though. It’s also about joy—or rather, lack of it. So how can you help your members rediscover the delight they once took in their fields? Tracy King, CAE, CEO and chief learning strategist of InspirEd, suggests that a fresh approach to professional development might be the path forward—especially given that the conversation has moved past talking through our feelings about the pandemic.

“The question really has shifted to what creates energy for learners and constituents,” she said.

King points to two particular things that can help turn professional development into a redemptive moment: content outcomes, or the benefits that they see from the lessons they’ve learned; and an energizing experience, often built from a strong community element.

Naturally, learners can still feel stress piling on from external sources, including losing the time and energy being diverted to education. But King explained that if the session is worthwhile, it can be a big boost of energy to the overall psyche.

“If I leave that space with human connection and an immediate action I can take, suddenly my attitude shifts completely and I recognize, ‘That was an amazing, well-spent piece of time there,’” she said.

Sell Solutions, Not Stress

Of course, the idea of bringing people into a professional development environment doesn’t work if the people you’re trying to reach are turned off by it. If the idea of even taking part in an educational session stresses them out, you might need to rethink your marketing strategy.

“What is really driving people to professional development, especially now, is solving problems. So they see themselves and their challenge in that program description and marketing copy, you’re gonna pique their interest,” King said. “Because right now it feels like there are so many problems, so if we can solve this little situation over here, our load will feel so much lighter.”

King explained that it’s the content’s job to ease this load, but that the presentation can help as well. She pointed to the original use case for webinars—educational formats, designed for universities, that allowed for interactive learning, rather than as a mere one-to-many presentation format.

“So we’ve got to take it back to its roots and think about how this virtual technology can be used as a forum for utilizing all these interactive capabilities,” she said.

Emphasize Community and Flexibility

Of course, not everyone needs the same type of education at the same time—and not everyone has the time to attend in-person or online.

So it remains important to offer options in more passive forms, such as podcasts and web content, or formats designed for asynchronous learning. But King said that ultimately, it should build to an interactive setting in the long run.

“You get to a point in that learning journey where you realize, well, there’s a bigger next step I need to take,” she said. “And that’s where that live program comes to play.”

By teaming the more passive and interactive settings together, it creates an opportunity for what King called a “connected constellation” of options that come together to offer a deeper learning experience.

“If we can, at least with some of our high-priority content, create a more networked experience, we’ll develop a relationship with our learner constituents through our content,” she said.

Listen Closely to Member Needs

King suggests that associations shouldn’t ask what their members want—as they might suggest more tactical solutions that don’t get at the underlying problems—but that they should listen intently to conversations in the community, in a way that goes beyond surveys.

“Often our constituents don’t know what’s going to relieve this heaviness,” she said.

But by listening in on conversations happening on community engagement platforms and social media, you may be able to uncover threads that can be turned into opportunities for education.

“Really be listening for where the friction is in their work-life balance and in their career,” King added.


(Jacephoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

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

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