Your Association Needs a Mix of Generations—and Event Content for All
In the association industry, it takes all types. You’ve got to have the event planners with detail-orientation that puts their colleagues to shame. You’ve got to have “big picture” thinkers to envision the association’s future. And, yes, you’ve got to have the board to keep it all under control—and within budget.
The diversity in your association staff, not to mention your members, goes far beyond merely position and skill set. People differ in gender, socioeconomic class, education, upbringing, and personality. They also differ in age and generation, and this can be a source of strength and longevity for an association that knows how to make the most of its members and staff.
Boomers (born approx. 1946-1964) bring experience—both life and professional—to the table. They’ve seen it all, from years of constant growth to the recent financial crisis. And they are troupers! Don’t miss the opportunity to sit down for coffee and pick their brains, full of ideas on how to persevere and build solid business relationships.
Generation X (born approx. 1965-1982) is sandwiched between two much larger groups, the Boomers (78 million) and millennials, or Generation Y, who number 80 million. (Gen X is comprised of a “mere” 48 million.) Although this generation is sometimes seen as a stop-gap between the pragmatic boomers and the tech-savvy, sparkly millennials, don’t count Gen Xers out. As the first generation to grow up with access to home computers, they have mastered the art of transition. They are ready to play with their new “toys”—learning and development is practically in their DNA. Independent and competent, Gen Xers can get the job done.
Millennials (born approx. 1982-1995) have just begun to enter the workforce and will change the face of your association. Generation Y likes to ask “why?” Technology is second nature to them; from cable TV to video games to cell phones, innovation and new tools have always been close at hand. The future doesn’t look as bright to millennials as it did to boomers. With tragedies like 9/11 still fresh in their memories, everything beyond the given moment seems uncertain. No wonder YOLO (you only live once) is their battle cry. This generation is more open to feedback than either of its immediate predecessors. Good thing! You need a thick skin to do engage in a Twitter war. Comments on social media can be brutal.
For Best Results, Shake Well
Just like you need the board to balance the dreamers, including all three generations in your association (and its staff) can be beneficial. If the lines of communication stay open and everyone is open to learning from others (two big “ifs,” I realize), a mix will incorporate the strengths of all while mitigating the shortcomings of each. What results is an association that’s tech-savvy but not foolish, hopeful but not pie-in-the-sky, and ready to learn but not afraid to fail. With care and planning, you’ll get a smooth transition of leadership and a business culture that celebrates differences.
Let’s take it one step further. Picture all three generations at your annual event. How does each consume content? Are the boomers skimming the printed program? How about Gen X? See that woman in her mid-30’s, helping the boomer (maybe her dad?) learn the finer points of using your mobile event app? Are the millennials using tablets to view your event content online? Give them a responsibly designed website and they’re good to go.
It’s not ageism; it’s accommodation. Welcome boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials into the folds of your association because they all have strengths that will benefit the group. Offer your content in as many formats as you can to reach all of your members. A richer, more diverse membership will only strengthen your association’s mission and goals.