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Talent Development

But We've Always Done It This Way!

How many times have you heard committee members try to maintain the status quo with this statement? The problem with struggling associations these days, though, is that the status quo is stagnant – what used to work simply doesn’t work as well anymore. Members of associations everywhere are rethinking their return on investment, questioning everything from dues to monthly meetings. What used to work even five years ago no longer works today to bring in new members or please anyone except the most loyal members (probably the same traditionalists I’m referring to).

How many times have you heard committee members try to maintain the status quo with this statement?  The problem with struggling associations these days, though, is that the status quo is stagnant – what used to work simply doesn’t work as well anymore. Members of associations everywhere are rethinking their return on investment, questioning everything from dues to monthly meetings. What used to work even five years ago no longer works today to bring in new members or please anyone except the most loyal members (probably the same traditionalists I’m referring to).

What is your association doing differently than five years ago?

We’ve all heard the famous saying attributed to Einstein:

“the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.”

Associations that are relying on doing things the same way they’ve always done them are definitely not facing the reality of our new culture. Members no longer simply renew dues and attend monthly meetings because it’s the right thing to do, or because it’s the norm in a particular industry.  Every dollar and hour spent with an association is measured these days against the value it brings.

If you aren’t delivering new value, you are in danger of bleeding out members.

You can’t blame the economy anymore

People join and participate in associations these days because they are looking for new ways to engage, network and drive new business opportunities.

What is your association doing to serve these needs differently?

You’re not just competing with other associations that serve the same audience – you’re competing with the association you used to be a few years ago. If you haven’t evolved, you’re standing still. If you’re standing still, the rest of the world surely is passing you by. You can’t blame the economy anymore – if you’re not retaining or increasing your membership base as the economy recovers, then your current and former members are telling you in no uncertain terms that you’re not providing the value they need.

What can you do about it?

How about forming an Innovation Committee, comprised of current and prospective (and possibly even former) members? Mix in different generations and professions to get a strong representational group that is truly reflective of the association you want to be going forward (NOT the one you have been in the past). Task the committee with revisiting every aspect of the association, with nothing being off-limits.

Why not involve the entire membership with a social media campaign or an anonymous poll? Find out from as many people as possible what they want and need, don’t just rely on input from the longest-standing members who traditionally form an association board.

Whatever your method of triage, you’ve got to find out what matters most going forward. Forget traditions that no longer serve your members or help you grow. You simply can’t afford to do the same thing again and again and expect different results – trust Albert Einstein, I’m sure he belonged to an association or two.

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.

 

Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.

 

Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.

 

Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

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