In a world where consumer expectations shift daily, it's become harder and harder for organizations to keep up. For associations, the challenge is compounded by changes in the world of work that have prompted needs for learning and connections that far exceed those of professionals just a decade ago.
Associations' ability to thrive depends on understanding—and responding to—members' wants and needs. So, how can leaders get a handle on the modern member? These 8 traits reflect the changing expectations and needs of today's professionals.
1. They demand speed and ease
The modern member expects quick and easy access to information and resources that can help them improve their skills and advance their knowledge. In the age of instant gratification, members are used to getting what they want when they want it and have come to expect the same level of ease and accessibility from their professional associations. Think of microlearning—short, easy-to-digest training—as an especially useful strategy to reach busy professionals with limited time and attention
2. They expect a custom experience.
It should come as no surprise that many now view personalization as just table stakes. Think of the recommendations you see when watching Netflix, listening to Spotify, or shopping on Amazon. The modern member desires a personalized experience tailored to their specific needs and preferences. And according to one survey, 69% of customers want a personalized experience that extends across channels, from physical to digital, too.
3. They may or may not come to your conference - and that's ok.
Today's professionals are feeling the constraints of time and location. Some are hesitant to take time away from work (or home) to attend in-person events, and some organizations have yet to resume support (or reimbursement) for live training and conferences. The modern member may or may not attend in person, but they have become more comfortable fulfilling their desire for professional development and networking through hybrid and virtual events.
4. They're looking for more than just a certification.
In the past, many professionals engaged transactionally with their associations to obtain credentials or certifications required by their professions. The modern member has a different view of learning. Associations are poised to welcome a generation of continuous learners who value ongoing development and are committed to growing their knowledge and skills over time. A survey from The Pew Research Center found that 87% of people think it will be essential to learn and develop new skills throughout their careers to keep pace with workplace changes.
5. They're driving a different definition of 'social network'
The next generation of members may not belong to Facebook, but they value a social network's core benefits: opportunities to connect, collaborate with, and learn from others. Network-oriented members value the relationships formed through their associations, and members and their employers alike see the benefit of social learning. One study uncovered that 86% of employees believe collaborating with others helps them learn the skills they need, and 73% of companies plan to increase their investment in social learning.
6. They may have a nonlinear career path.
The days of holding a single profession for 40 years are gone. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employees stay in one job for just 4.5 years on average. And the younger the worker, the shorter the stay—it drops to 3 years for Millennials and 8 months for Gen Z. As the job market rapidly changes, the modern member will be more likely to take a nonlinear career path—and that means they'll be seeking opportunities to reskill and upskill all along their journeys.
7. They want to contribute.
Aligned with their draw to social learning, the modern member is eager to contribute and share their expertise with others. Associations are perfectly positioned to honor the "Expert's Halo," recognizing members for their expertise and knowledge and encouraging their participation. This may prompt associations to redefine how they work with willing members and assess the processes, tools, and technology that enable (or inhibit) their contributions.
8. They are motivated to succeed.
Today's members are focused on achieving their professional goals and motivated by the tangible benefits association membership provides, such as access to resources, opportunities for career advancement, and increased earning potential. But our State of MX Report last year uncovered that many members are unsure their associations can continue delivering such value. An experience that matches the modern members' priorities and helps them meet their goals will be the key to member acquisition and retention.
Responding to the modern members' needs
Understanding how the wants and needs of the modern member have shifted in recent years is the first step towards envisioning—or re-envisioning—your member experience strategy. For maximum impact, association leaders can prioritize their efforts to adapt in the following ways:
Foster community and connections. Create opportunities for members to connect with and collaborate with one another. Emphasize your online community as a space for social learning, a hub for resources, and a platform for thought leadership.
Personalize the experience. A one-size-fits-all approach has become dated and must be replaced by strategies that make members think, "My association understands me." Use what you know about your members to design customized experiences and content matching their needs.
Embrace technology. Technology-driven solutions deliver dual benefits: they make it easier for members to engage and easier for you to deliver value. Evaluate your current tech stack to determine where integrations or upgrades can help you elevate the member experience.
Create opportunities for continuous learning. Some of your static offerings still have value, but those programs must be continually refreshed with dynamic content that keeps pace with members' evolving needs. Ongoing opportunities for professional development should be relevant, flexible, and easily accessible.
Enhance your value proposition. Take a step back to assess whether your member benefits directly impact members' careers and professional goals. Delivering meaningful value may require a deep dive to understand members' perceptions of the value they receive in exchange for membership and retooling your offerings to create a more meaningful experience.
As professionals change, the associations that serve them must, too. Understanding the traits of the modern member—and shifting your strategies in response—will empower your association to remain relevant in an ever-evolving environment.