Targeted Professional Development: How Industry Associations are Filling the Gaps
While companies often make an effort to target different segments of their consumers, industry associations are finding real benefits in a targeted approach to serving their members. It’s a successful strategy, and I’ve been fortunate to partner with some of the progressive associations who are dedicated to providing more focused value for the eager employees who join their groups. The intriguing twist? They are filling the gaps left by many Fortune 500 companies.
Here are two examples:
Young Professional Groups
Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) are now genuine players in the business world, holding all kinds of positions in companies worldwide. Despite the stereotypes, most of them are actually quite enthusiastic about continuing their education and learning new skills. The problem? Professional development budgets within major corporations are moderate at best, and those budget dollars are frequently reserved for a select few.
That’s where many savvy associations are stepping in.
Associations recognize that their members (especially millennials) want more than networking in return for their annual dues. Members crave the educational opportunities that their employers aren’t providing to those in earlier stages of their careers.
In response, many associations regularly sponsor half-day or full-day conferences designed specifically to support forward-thinking millennials who want to advance their professional development. These millennials are working hard to launch careers that will support them for five decades or more, and they represent the next generation of leaders for every type of organization. This is a critical time for them to learn new skills and expand their knowledge base. Beyond that, they can probably gain the most benefit from figuring out how to market themselves and determine the true value they bring to the table.
In my experience speaking at events for groups like American Rental Association and The Independent Community Bankers of America, I have been extremely impressed by the quality and drive of these bright, young attendees. They seem to be fully embracing the benefits of association membership as a way to expand their careers and tap into resources they wouldn’t otherwise have. The most popular topics for young professional groups have included personal branding, career acceleration, and communications skills.
The associations who develop these customized programs for millennials are generating a higher sense of loyalty and creating new brand ambassadors. By supporting their early development in a direct way, associations are giving millennials the added boost they need to make a greater impact for their companies and simultaneously turbo-charge their careers.
By the way, associations win, too. These loyal millennials are likely to remain active in the associations over time, participating with committees or taking on leadership roles within the group. It makes perfect sense.
Leadership Academies and Workshops
Some associations offer programming targeted to mid-level managers who have the desire and potential to reach positions in senior leadership. These programs—often called Leadership Academies, Leadership Summits, or Leadership Conferences—expose future leaders to engaging content that will better prepare them for senior or executive positions at their own branches, firms, or large corporations.
Associations’ leadership programs can range from one day to six months or more, and it’s interesting to note that many have elevated the quality to compare with the robust, high-potential offerings of Fortune 500 companies. Some of these association leadership academies even include face-to-face kick offs, virtual monthly content programs, individualized assessments and coaching, and perhaps even a group project. Topics of interest include leadership and management skills, developing leadership style, executive presence, resilience, emotional intelligence, and innovation.
Having worked closely with high-potential groups for Dell, Freeman, and USAA, I know the remarkable benefits these programs can offer. Unfortunately, many organizations aren’t making that investment in their talent, so associations are taking the lead to fill that important gap.
Industry associations today are setting a great example of elevating the benefits they provide for their members. They are identifying member needs and taking action to meet them. Customizing their programs in unexpected ways. And developing professionals who will ultimately become strong leaders, advocates, and mentors with thriving careers.
I think that’s a phenomenal success story for providing targeted services that deliver value at every level.
A rare blend of analytical entrepreneur and perceptive warmth, Sara Canaday has a unique gift for helping high-potential professionals to achieve their best. As she climbed the ladder of corporate America, Canaday repeatedly observed a surprising phenomenon: the most successful people weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or best job skills. She recognized instead that career advancement was much more closely linked with how people applied their knowledge and talents — their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others.
Today, Sara Canaday is a speaker, consultant, coach, author, and owner of her rapidly growing firm, Sara Canaday & Associates. This gives her the opportunity to mentor and support thousands of people in diverse situations, inspiring many of them to move from insight to action with dramatic career results. To book leadership and branding speaker, Sara Canaday, contact Executive Speakers Bureau at (901) 754-9404.