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Knowing Y in Holland

Generation Y. Millennials. Echo Boomers. Trophy Generation. Regardless of how you refer to them, organizations worldwide are really perplexed by the generation of young adults now moving into the majority of the workforce and consumer spending.

Generation Y. Millennials. Echo Boomers. Trophy Generation.

Regardless of how you refer to them, organizations worldwide are really perplexed by the generation of young adults now moving into the majority of the workforce and consumer spending.

On March 25 and 26, I traveled to Holland to present at the VM Spring Conference on the topic of my latest book, Knowing Y: Engage the Next Generation Now.

During my visit, I was present for the announcement of De Nederlandse Associatie—a new association for association executives, which is launching this fall. I also had the opportunity to meet with some associations regarding the Next Generation Association iPortal, an online experience I’ve co-produced to help association leaders learn how to create ‘next generation associations’.

Holland’s association community is clearly focused on the future, which is exactly where it needs to be. I hope other associations in other countries follow suit.

Generation Y (1982-1995), also known as Millennials, is expected to become the majority of the workforce by the end of 2015, marking the largest shift in human capital in history. This demographic poses a great threat – and opportunity – to nearly every industry sector, government entity, non-profit, and membership association, which are still managed, governed, and supported almost entirely by Baby Boomers (1946-1964).

The fact is, most membership associations are ill prepared for this shift. The arrival of Gen Y isn’t just about a young demographic coming into power; this generation is actually introducing an entirely new value system to the marketplace.

This tech-savvy, globally minded generation isn’t joining, buying, networking, learning, or engaging like other generations. This generation has been difficult to engage because the traditional membership doesn’t meet their values and therefore falls drastically short of meeting their expectations.

Take note: The behaviors and choices of younger generations have historically been an indicator of future workplace, consumer, and economic trends. The same is true for membership right now.

The trends and influences introduced and shaped by Generation Y are having a ‘trickle-up’ effect – changing the value of membership and expectations of the membership experience for every generation. Trickle-up effect, also known as bubble-up effect, is a term that has been used to describe the flow of wealth and fashion trends. In both cases, as in this case, movement is from the bottom up and eventually influences the majority.

In other words, if membership is declining in value for Generation Y, soon it will decline in value for all generations.

This would seem like ‘The End of Membership As We Know It’ – but it actually marks the beginning of unparalleled opportunity for those clubs willing to embrace change and innovate.

You can choose to dwell on the challenges that lie ahead and the unprecedented and significant shifts leading to irrelevance, or you can dwell on the opportunities and create something of unprecedented and significant relevance.

One thing is certain – whatever choice you make from here on out, it will begin and end with Y.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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