Go to virtually any association’s website and you will find advocacy listed as a membership benefit. Is it really a benefit?
Which of your members would rank advocacy among their top five reasons for joining your association? For a young professional, their reasons for becoming a member may be different. Some want to develop a network. Others want to learn more about their chosen field and seek out job opportunities. And yet others are interested in advocacy.
Before we assume that democracy is dead, associations need to figure out a way to engage all members across generations in their advocacy efforts in order to be successful. What you do to promote advocacy to your Baby Boomer members may be significantly different to your Gen X and Gen Y members.
So, how do you get your younger professionals, Generation Y especially, involved?
There’s no excuse for excluding your younger members from your grassroots advocacy. Some of the best Hill visits I’ve ever sat in on were with our students and new professionals. They brought a passion to their meetings with congressional staff that some of our veterans can’t match. Get them involved now and you’ll have an advocate for life.
Just because your younger members may not know who their Member of Congress is, don’t write them off as disinterested. Truth be known, most people don’t! Just like your long-time members, many younger members just need to be informed and educated on the key legislative issues your association is facing.
If your younger professionals are all over social media, use this medium to give them the information they need to be advocates for the association. Direct them to the Facebook pages or Twitter handles of Members of Congress who are champions for your issues. Consider having a blog to report on your legislative activities.
Who’s featured in your government relations communications? Who serves on your GR committees? Do your GR activities reflect the cross-section of your association? If not, your younger professionals may not feel that advocacy is for them. Utilize the potential of great leaders within your Gen Y membership base.
Your younger members may not have $250 to contribute to your PAC. However, they may be able to do $25 or $50. As you plan PAC events, please keep this group in mind. If you get your younger members into the PAC early, you will develop a regular contributor who will encourage others to do the same.
Young professionals should be engaged in advocacy even before they graduate. Student members are eager to learn and participate. Organize a Hill day just for them that includes advocacy training and a networking reception.
Generation Y holds strong values and strong intent. They are willing to be a part of your movement, your advocacy, so long as they see the benefit to society and the benefit to them. Engage your younger members by engaging with them through their interests, their passions and their causes. Show what you truly mean as advocacy as your member benefit.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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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