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7 Ways To Engage Gen Y With Your Association

As XYZ University CEO Sarah Sladek said in her recent whitepaper Engaging Young Generations, “If we fail to engage Generation Y, we prepare to fail.

It is such a simple statement, but extremely powerful. Sarah’s research and interviews with several organizations shows that if an association is going to continue to exist, we do not have much time to make significant shifts in how we engage the next generation of leaders – through programs, events and other outreach.

According to the 2013 Pulse Report, only 23.6% of association have a plan in place to engage Generation Y.  So, what could your association be doing?

Here are seven examples of ways I have seen organizations succeed at engaging Generation Y:

1. Give them a seat at the table

If you want to ensure that your association continues to succeed, you need to recognize that your board cannot solely consist of members from the Baby Boomer generation. They may have done their research on how to engage Generation Y, but who is better to provide feedback on what your organization should strategically be doing with their marketing, communication, advocacy and other activities in the future? The generation you are trying to attract to survive. Seek out a member from this generation (at a minimum), and give them a seat at the table.

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2. Mentor them

Research has shown that Generation Y is looking to Boomers for their experience, so that they can develop their career paths. What better way to make that connection then offering a mentorship program within your organization? A committee could be formed, and a guide to the program can be easily developed through online resources. Speaking from experience, this does not take a lot of time to put together, and certainly does not take hundreds of man-hours to manage.

3. Offer a Young Professionals Program

Create a group of Young Professionals that gather together to address key issues that will help them move forward in their careers.  Developing education that will help them move from junior-level management positions to Senior Managers, Directors, and C-Suite Executives will be perceived as very beneficial.

4. Networking

It has been said that it cannot be positioned as a member benefit, and I tend to agree to a certain point. However, if done properly, networking can still draw a much younger crowd. This can be done around your conference, or perhaps on its own. There are several companies that exist who hold multi-day conferences that draw several hundred from the Under 30 crowd. Why? Because their entertainment is relevant, their programming style is interactive, and they offer the technology that keeps their delegates engaged.

If you are not prepared to completely re-vamp your conference structure, you could start small – host a pub night, which will draw all generations from your membership and instead of having a speaker who talks at them for over an hour, have multiple speakers that address an issue within 10-15 minutes (think Ted Talks).

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5. Give them community space online

Your CRM/CMS should be online, and offer a private community online to ensure that your members have the space to engage, communicate and meet other members in a space that is just for them, on their own time.

  1. Create the proper communications strategy. Instead of newsletters, perhaps blogs are the way to go. Other than online communities, possibilities to consider are text messaging, instant messages, Google+, Facebook, Twitter (and the list goes on)…are you communicating with Generation Y in the method they prefer?

  2. Offer new services. This does not have to be difficult. Structure your conference to add services that would be interesting to the next generation of leaders; a résumé building workshop, mock interview sessions, career planning workshops, and perhaps a career corner that would allow recruiters within your industry to offer on the spot interviews for next-level positions.

Ultimately, you have to step back and assess what Gen Y needs from you within your industry. Do your research. Everything you do should be about getting them involved; their time is precious, and they will give it to you; you just have to give them a reason to.


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