Four MX Trends to Follow in 2023

Image of paper with handwriting asking what's next?

As 2022 comes to a close, we're approaching nearly three years of disruption to the way we live and work. The events of the last several years have changed everything, and many of us still don't feel like we have a firm grasp on the "new normal."

Association leaders continue to ask themselves what it really looks like to serve members in the post-pandemic world. They have a strong desire to craft a future-focused member experience, but unrelenting change has made it difficult to decide where to start. 

Short of gazing at a crystal ball, a useful practice to predict the future is to look at the recent past. As we approach 2023, we're identifying emerging trends, looking at how those trends have touched associations this year, and asking what association leaders are doing about them moving forward.

Putting Purpose First

Driven by evolving generational beliefs and ideologies and broader shifts in society, articulating an organization's purpose has become more important than ever. From staff to members to public constituents, people want to know why your association exists and what it aspires to be and do. 

And purpose does more than set your brand apart from others–it can enable transformation and drive growth. Research suggests that purpose-driven companies evolve faster than others and inspire greater loyalty on their evolutionary journeys. In 2023, association leaders will advance their purpose by prioritizing community.

"Returning to our first in-person convention in November 2022 provided so many windows to see our association's role in action. It was obvious that community is a raison d'être," said Emily Kirkpatrick, Executive Director, NCTE. "We exist to provide opportunities for literacy educators to develop connections with one another. Leaders looking to drive growth–and purpose–within their association next year should prioritize community throughout all operations, programs, and strategies."

 
Supporting Members of the Great Resignation / Migration

In 2022, many associations saw member benefits that impact individuals' careers rise in importance. Increasingly, members are seeking their association's support with certifications, job opportunities, and career development. Interestingly, these offerings that were once top priorities for members early in their careers have now emerged as priorities for members mid-career, as well.

That shift is likely a result of more and more people making the bold decision to shift career paths, exploring new jobs in new industries that better align with their evolving personal and professional goals. In 2023, association leaders will support professionals' transitions by organizing community and designing offerings aligned with job paths and career stages. 

"The great resignation [and] migration have introduced the opportunity for association membership and education to align closer to create career and job paths for members," said Amber Winter, CEO, Web Courseworks. "There's a need for introductory courses and cohort-based learning with the migration of the workforce to new roles in new (to them) industries. It's a great opportunity for associations to step up and provide a valuable community of experts to new entrants to their industry's workforce."

 

Personalized Member Experiences

There are presently five generations in the workforce, all with different (and sometimes conflicting) attitudes, behaviors, and ideals. In recent years, associations have noticed an increasing generational divide, with different groups expressing different expectations and needs from their associations. 

In response to the expanding expectations, many associations are taking greater care to adapt their strategies and create an experience that feels custom-fit for each member. In 2023, association leaders will focus on meeting all members' needs by evolving personas and journeys and enabling a frictionless experience.  

"Many associations are likely reaching the tipping point, in which more than half their members are 40 or younger. These folks grew up with the internet as part of their lives," said Jason Bellamy, SVP Member Experience, APTA. "[It] seems safe to assume that this growing group of internet-era members will have higher expectations about the ease of engagement with their association. Meeting their needs won't be solved with technology alone, but providing immediate, friction-free experiences will become increasingly important for years to come." 

 

 

“Post-pandemic, our learners are increasingly wanting an experience that is customized for who they are,” said  Laura Cox, Manager of Online Program Development at ACC “They tell us they want to learn from their peers and more experienced practitioners. Those factors mean we almost need to create a bespoke experience for each learner: creating opportunities to co-create knowledge among peers; building out more robust learner profiles as starting points; filling in gaps along the natural career path; and implementing technology that helps to suggest training based on their interests and skills gaps.”

 

Digital-First Mindset

According to a recent study, 63% of members and 65% of association professionals believe that professional organizations that don't transform technologically within the next few years won't survive–yet only 34% of associations have a transformation plan.

Association leaders are working hard to define and keep pace with what matters most to their members. With needs and preferences shifting at the pace of technology (in other words, rapidly), many realize they need to rethink how they've also done things. In 2023, association leaders will prioritize investments in content, events, programs, and offerings better suited to members' new needs. 

“As we move closer to the ‘new normal,’ I see 2023 as a year of accelerated digital transformation. I believe we will continue to see advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), predictive technology, the internet of things (IoT), and augmented reality.,” said Rodneikka Scott, Chief Membership and Diversity Programs Officer, Endocrine Society. “I see associations spending both time and resources to embed thoughtful technology in every area of operations to improve customer engagement and member experience.”

 

While the emerging trends can be daunting to keep up with, Reggie Henry, Chief Information & Performance Excellence Officer, ASAE, pointed out that they’re also ripe with opportunity.

"Disruption equals opportunities," said Reggie Henry, Chief Information & Performance Excellence Officer, ASAE. "As we look back on the disruptions from the last two years, let's remember how lives have changed (we're not in offices, we have different communication patterns and styles, and our members are more selective about how they spend their time). We need to think about our strategies and systems to take this context into account, not rush back to 'the way things were.'"

 

As association leaders look back and look forward, many feel as if they've experienced a decade of change in under two years' time. The start of a new year is a great time to think differently about how we shape our strategies, where we make investments, and where we focus our energy.