Your Association is in Transition, Whether You Know It or Not

The past couple months we’ve been talking a lot about strategies, and in particular, the need for associations to develop strategies around important areas of interest like online communities and job boards.

Part of that need is being driven by fast moving competition that, while not specifically targeting associations, are on a course to run square into them sooner than later.

Yesterday we held a webinar entitled, “Social Networking, Mission Creep, and the 2014 Job Market, The Potential Risks and Rewards for Your Association.” It focused on the looming challenge of social media giant LinkedIn to “become a disruptive force in the traditional job search market in 2014. The reasons why this should matter to virtually every association are numerous.

There are big changes going on in the social media world at this very moment. Just this week, Facebook purchased tech startup WhatsApp, and its instant messaging app, for $19 billion. The fact that the company has never disclosed whether or not it is profitable, makes the price tag a little hard to understand. Half of the companies in the S&P 500 aren’t worth that much. In fact, WhatsApp is now more valuable that Southwest Airlines. Ready for a get away?

Facebook set a goal of one billion users, which they announced earlier this year they had reached. But now they are moving fast to do a little “retooling.” Why? In our research on LinkedIn and their quest to be the “de facto standard for where someone goes to go to find a job”, we learned that their fastest growing base of users are 18-24 years olds. By coincidence it also happens to be the fastest growing group that is leaving Facebook. In fact, there are 30 million students or recent college graduates on LinkedIn.

Associations need to prepare to maintain their influence in the marketplace by not giving up the job board market to powers like LinkedIn. There is evidence that niche job boards (like an association career center) are still highly attractive to job seekers, recruiters and employers. But to figure out where your association needs to be in this picture requires a careful strategy, not a shoot from the hip plan of action.

In a recent blog, Jamie Notter wrote about an issue of the Harvard Business Review that spotlighted “Strategy for Turbulent Times”. He referenced an article by Rita Gunther McGrath on “Transient Advantage.” In the piece she argues that the days of long-term competitive advantage are for the most part over. While some companies may still achieve it, they will be the exception rather than the rule. The rest of us are going to jump from one transient advantage to the next, because the markets are changing that quickly. The organizations that figure out how to move through these transient advantages more adeptly are going to be the successful ones.

Jamie’s take is that it will be hard for associations to buy into this concept, simply because for decades many of them have been enjoying a sustained competitive advantage. McGrath’s theory is that the companies (or organizations) that have had an advantage for some time are going to resist the truth that times are changing. Resisting to this change will lead to trouble.

The transformation being brought on by the social Internet mirrors the association business model – education, information and networking, and now job placement. We are definitely entering a new era regarding competitive advantages, which in her article McGrath calls “reconfigure.”

McGrath provides a simple assessment to gauge how competitive you are. Three of the statements you can agree with point directly to an association losing its relevance. With these I am substituting members for customers, although our members are our customers:

  • Customers are finding cheaper or simpler solutions to be “good enough”
  • Competition is emerging from places we didn’t expect.
  • Customers are no longer excited about what we have to offer.

Remember, 30 million students or recent college graduates are users on LinkedIn alone. They will at some point enter the job market and be hired, if they are qualified for the jobs employers are filling. What they will need from their association in terms of networking and professional development may look different from your current members’ needs. But, they are key to your future.

By 2018, one in four workers will be over age 55. Ten thousand boomers are reaching age 65 every day, which will continue through 2020. To a large extent it has become a numbers game.

At some point most associations will need to reconfigure what they are doing to keep their advantage fresh. Their organization will need leaders who aren’t afraid to radically rethink business models or resources.

Are you ready? Because your association’s transition has most likely already begun.

The Power of an Association Job Board

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CC Infographic

This week we want to share an infographic on the power of an association job board or career center, and what it can mean to your organization. With 4 million unfilled jobs in America at the start of 2014, many of them in the industries traditionally served by associations, there is real opportunity for your organization to increase its relevance by hosting a career center that brings value to members, job seekers (prospects), and employers looking to recruit the most qualified talent available for their open positions – your members. In today’s job market, there is no more powerful interaction between an association and a member/prospect than helping them find a job. Increasing member loyalty while driving non-dues revenue through a job board is only part of the picture. There are other pressing reasons to have an job board/career center strategy for your association.

In today’s job market, there is no more powerful interaction between an association and a member/prospect than helping them find a job.

Recently, we held a webinar titled Social Networking, Mission Creep, and the 2014 Job Market. It focuses on the 2014 job market and the competition that is poised to challenge associations in the form of social networking job boards – specifically LinkedIn. I recently wrote about how this will affect many associations in the near future. We hope you will sign up to attend what we believe is an important and interesting topic for all associations looking for every advantage to build and maintain member loyalty in today’s highly competitive market.

The 2014 job market: the potential risks and rewards for your association

As we wrap up 2013 and look into the New Year one thing seems already apparent to even the most skeptical of economic forecasters, the US job market is making strides in putting people back to work. Admittedly, the progress is slow, but it is happening.

Preliminary numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that through October, on average employment is up over 2012 and 2011. In addition, the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) report confirms that 2013 has been a solid year for job creation.

College graduates ready to enter the workforce can look forward to a better year in 2014 as well, as employers are projected to hire close to eight percent more new graduates than in 2013, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ NACE 2014 Job Outlook Survey.

And finally, a survey by Right Management, a subsidiary of staffing management firm Manpower, reports the improving employment picture will be cause for many workers to look for other opportunities in the New Year. In a recent online poll, 83 percent admitted they would be looking for a new position in 2014. Of those polled, 12 percent were unsure if they would be actively looking, but admitted to increased career networking activity and to updating their resume. Only five percent of those responding plan to remain in their current position.
This all points to a potential great year for your association in terms of influence in the marketplace; and from a bottom line perspective, the growth of non-dues revenue if you offer your members access to employment opportunities through an online job board or Career Center.

“LinkedIn has a very engaged group of users and they have recruiters coming to the site to find people for their job openings. That attracts more users, which attracts more recruiters. It’s a virtuous cycle.”

The good news is that if you have already implemented a Career Center or job board you are in position to succeed. However, if career resources are not a part of your overall strategy, your association is at risk of losing more than just potential non-dues revenue – competition is coming for your members and they are armed and ready to dilute your influence with them.

According to David Meier with the fool.com, LinkedIn is poised to become a disruptive force in the traditional job search market in 2014. The social media giant is quickly positioning itself as “the place to go not only to find a new job, but become better at the job you are currently in.” And It will do so much more than just help someone find a job; it will actually make finding a job in the future that much easier.

Meier adds that LinkedIn “has a very engaged group of users and they have recruiters coming to the site to find people for their job openings. That attracts more users, which attracts more recruiters. It’s a virtuous cycle.”

And what LinkedIn is doing to ensure that cycle becomes an infinite loop? They are making sure there is “tons” of relevant content available for anyone to digest who comes to the site. Their goal is to be the de facto standard for where someone goes to go to find a job.

As an important step to that goal, LinkedIn is helping young people find the right college. By registering on LinkedIn students are able to see where others have gone to school and what they have accomplished professionally. That can definitely have an influence on where someone decides to go to college. And LinkedIn encourages young people to get their information out there early and to start building their networks. Is it working? According to LinkedIn the 18-24 year old segment is their fastest growing base of users. LinkedIn is looking to make lifetime users, today.

In case you haven’t made the connection yet, Meier is talking about networking, high value content and job opportunities for YOUR members and potential future members. Why worry? In the quest to remain relevant to your members, and prospective members, your association NEEDS to be positioned as the career resource for your industry within your area. You should be the trusted resource for all things career oriented for your members. If your members are turning to LinkedIn for that, they most certainly are turning away from you.

And while there is cause for concern, associations don’t need to take a back seat to LinkedIn. Our Association Career Network has experienced impressive growth once again in 2013. Participating associations are growing their influence as the trusted resource for career seekers as they continue to provide access to career opportunities within their industry. Employers are searching for the most qualified candidates available for their open positions, and they are finding them on those association Career Centers. Associations, by their very nature, provide those highly sought after candidates via their member base.

Experience tells us that employers are more than willing to pay to list and advertise their targeted opportunities to members and prospective members, all while creating a steady stream of non-dues revenue for the association. By posting jobs on an association’s Career Center, employers gain exclusive access to the best, most qualified candidates, consisting of engaged, (career minded) professionals with the degrees, certifications, and experience needed to increase quality of hire and candidate success. Online career centers connect an association’s members and prospects to the top employers and opportunities within their industry, helping to build greater member loyalty and engagement.

We are definitely bullish about the growth of the Association Career Network in 2014 and would like to share what that could mean for you and your association. We will be offering proven ideas and strategies for your association’s Career Center at our Xperience 2014 Customer Conference, March 31 – April 3, 2014 in St. Petersburg, Florida. We hope to see you there.