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Six ways your association can rock the labor shortage

gig economy

Every day in the United States, 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65, a trend that will continue until 2029, when the last boomers reach the traditional age of retirement. This mass exodus from the work force is already creating a vacuum of skills and experience. The Society for Human Resource Management reports that replacing retiring Baby Boomers is one of the key challenges facing HR professionals.

Despite the demographic facts, few organizations have planned for how to retain and accommodate an aging workforce, according to the SHRM report, The New Talent Landscape: Recruiting Difficulty and Skills Shortages. Most employers are taking a wait-and-see approach to labor and skills shortages.

This demographic phenomenon presents associations with an opportunity to step up with solutions. How? By offering education, benefits and networking opportunities that support older employees who want to remain active participants in the work force.

Here are six ideas for how your association can serve older members, based on my experience as a boomer who counts herself among the many who expect to work well past 65.

Technical skills training. Everyone knows how quickly technology changes, but many employers continue to hold onto the notion that older workers can’t learn new technology. This is a generation that went off to college with manual typewriters and slide rules; we have a demonstrated ability to adapt. What training can you offer to help all of your members learn new technical skills?

Industry knowledge. Sure, we’ve “been there, done that,” but we still need to stay current in trends and developments in our field. Is your association the go-to source for developments in your industry? Are you ahead of the curve in reporting industry news? In addition to offering original content, do you help members sift through the avalanche in their in box by curating information from other sources?

Flexibility. Many older workers work part time or on a contract basis. Some choose to work in the “gig economy” because they want more control over their schedules or they are away part of the year. Others are caring for grandchildren or aging parents (or both). Or, part-time or freelance work may be the only gig they can find. How can your association offer these members the flexibility they need?

Affordability. Because employers can be reluctant to invest in the professional development of aging employees or contract workers, your older members are more likely to be paying their own membership dues and registration fees. What are some ways you can offer affordable opportunities to participate in your organization? Can you offer a membership category for part-time employees or freelancers? How about meeting for breakfast or happy hour instead of hosting more costly dinners?

Networking opportunities. If you’re part of the gig economy, you’re always looking for the next job. Members of all ages want opportunities to network that involve more than a business card exchange. How can your association help members make meaningful connections and showcase their expertise? When you’re looking for a guest blogger or workshop presenter, consider inviting older members.

Camaraderie. One of the reasons people continue to work past retirement age is the sense of belonging that comes with the workplace. Associations are ideally suited to offer members the social benefits of working together for a purpose. What are some innovative ways your association can involve members who have “graduated” from board and committee service but still want to be a part of the group?

While much has been written about recruiting and retaining younger members, I encourage you to consider how you can engage older members. In the end, we participate in associations for the same reasons younger members do – professional development, social interaction and a commitment to a common goal. Rock on!

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Name badge ribbons. You love ‘em. You hate ‘em.

For some organizations, name badge ribbons are a necessary tool for networking at meetings – an immediate way to recognize new members, sponsors or those with particular professional interests. They have their place, for sure. But they can get out of hand . . .

badge ribbons

And what about the logistics of distributing the ribbons?

  • Do you go through the tedious process of cross-referencing multiple spreadsheets?
  • Do association staff peel and stick them on each badge?
  • Are they stuffed in the back of the badge so that attendees can stick them on themselves?
  • Or are they laid out in piles at registration for self-selection?

One solution to never-ending ribbons is to print designations right on the badge. One of AMPED’s clients does this, identifying member type, board member, speaker, or sponsor in different-colored banners at the top of the badge. This works most of the time. Although there are always special circumstances, like when a board member is also a speaker or a speaker is also a sponsor. We deal.

This same client has never used ribbons. But a few years ago, they started requesting that staff stick gold stars to badges to identify first-time attendees – yep, the same ones your kindergarten teacher gave out for good behavior. Problem was, very few attendees knew exactly what that gold star represented. Additional requests came in to identify certified members, or those who used the insurance plan, or still others who were part of peer groups.

In search of a creative way to satisfy all the requests without resorting to ribbons and without the time-suck of having to apply stickers before-hand, AMPED staff devised a make-your-own badge solution.

badge stickers III  

We designed the badge so that the bottom 1” of the card was left open. Then we produced a half-dozen separate 1” square logos and had them printed on roles of stickers. Next, we set up badge stations on tables near the meeting registration area and directed registrants to step over and complete their badges. We built traffic by putting big bowls of M&Ms and Swedish Fish on the same tables.

The badge stations were a hit! Attendees enjoyed self-designating themselves and the whole process saved time and money. No ribbons. No labor.

Do you have a creative badge idea? We’re always looking for suggestions that save time and money at the meeting registration area. Let’s hear from you!

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Going green in 2016: How we ditched paper and went mobile at our association meetings

206 app collage

Meeting season is winding down here at AMPED and aside from our usual awesomeness, I am pretty proud of our success in transitioning most of our clients to paperless meetings. Gone are the program and abstract books, restaurant lists and printed maps. We moved all of that information (and more) to mobile or web apps. Andoverall, the feedback from attendees was positive. Here is what I learned along the way:

Native vs. web apps: Three clients utilized a native mobile app that was downloadable via app stores. The upside to this is that, generally, once these apps are downloaded to mobile devices, attendees are able to access the schedule, speakers, maps, etc. without Wi-Fi or eating up their data plans. That said, providing strong Wi-Fi is crucial for a paperless meeting, especially for those attendees who download onsite or if the app houses external links.

One of our clients used a web app that was built for mobile devices and was provided free of charge through their abstract management system. This app was not downloadable and required Wi-Fi to access. It offered many of the same features of a native app, but was a little more complicated to access regularly. As this client had not originally planned on going paperless, this was the most cost-effective alternative to a native app.

Scheduling: All of our apps offered a personal scheduling tool, which is (in my personal opinion) one of the biggest benefits of moving away from a printed program. Allowing attendees to schedule their participation at the meeting and view it all in one place is more convenient than taking a pen and circling sessions in a program book. Whether this feature is solely housed in the app or connects to the calendar on the user’s phone, attendees are able to receive reminders and enter in personal meetings or events that are not listed in the formal program.

More information, less space: There is a limit to the amount of information we can print in a program book before it becomes excessive; with a mobile app, we can include it all and it remains compact and robust without taking up a lot of storage space on our attendees’ phones. The app we used for our client Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS), housed session titles, presentation titles, authors, bios, photos, abstract texts, presentation slides and/or electronic posters. Imagine trying to carry a print version of that!

The social network: Event mobile apps provide a method to easily engage attendees and allow for networking — directly linking to social platforms, offering a photo gallery or incorporating an in-app newsfeed. Our client Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) used a mobile app with a newsfeed that promoted discussion and photo sharing, and a way to measure the most “influential attendees” based on their activity.

Doing it live: In event planning, there are ALWAYS last-minute cancellations and requests. The beauty of a mobile app is that it can be updated in real time and eliminates the cost of printing a program book that might be outdated the moment it gets off the press.

Easing the transition: Some attendees still prefer something tangible. In lieu of a full program, we designed a “pocket program” with a very high-level schedule of the session titles, names, and rooms that fit in the back of the registrant’s badge sleeve. Attendees really appreciated this as an alternative and loved that it wasn’t bulky.

After working with four clients, three platforms and two mobile app vendors for this transition, I learned so much from going green in 2016, and am excited to grow and improve the process for 2017!

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Bye-bye pipe and drape: Kiosks are welcome upgrade for expo

expo

The exhibit program of AMPED's partner client, CSIA (Control System Integrators Association), has seen tremendous growth over the last few years, nearly doubling the number of exhibitors since 2009. How, you might ask? Well, much of this success can be attributed to staff’s commitment to building relationships with new exhibitors and sponsors while continuously strengthening long-standing connections. Sure there are plenty of articles out there with tips for evaluating exhibition effectiveness, but the fact is that a strong meetings team is engaged with attendees and therefore is naturally in tune with how the participant experience is shaping up onsite. Listen to your exhibitors and, when considering a change, get their buy-in first. We did just that with CSIA’s exhibit program earlier this year.

Year-after-year, CSIA’s conference attendees say that the number one benefit of attending the annual meeting is networking among business leaders from all aspects of the industry. Well, if networking is one of the prime reasons to attend, shouldn’t the exhibit program reflect that, too? Anyone who has ever been on the exhibitor side understands how easy it is to become distracted by the entire process of setting up and dismantling your booth — making sure that all your shipments have arrived, tracking down someone to help you find any missing packages, unpacking, setting up, etc. Before your know it, it’s time to take everything down! The window for networking is closed all too quickly. That’s exactly why, this year, we proposed a kiosk-based exhibit model and it was a HUGE hit!

We pitched the idea to the volunteers of the partner committee who represent the exhibitor demographic at the annual conference. As soon as they heard the benefits, they were all in! We told exhibitors to keep it simple: bring your business cards, laptop or tablet for “virtual demos” and marketing collateral/giveaways if desired. Everything else would be there waiting for each exhibitor when they arrived, including a personalized prefabricated kiosk with custom graphics. Say goodbye to shipping costs, too! Leave the bulky demo equipment and booth displays at home. No need for the hard sales pitches either – just focus on making connections in a casual happy-hour type of atmosphere. Of course not every exhibitor was initially jazzed about this change; however, you know you've made a wise decision when even those who were skeptical compliment you on your brilliance during the show!

Moral of the story: be engaged, know your audience and get their buy-in. It’s a win-win for everyone in the end.

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A day in the life of an AMC staff member

wiseman w mug II

Each week you read on our blog how we all “wear many hats!” While this is the case for many association professionals, I feel that it is particularly true for AMCs like AMPED. Between the various needs of our different clients, some days we can be all over the place! I thought it might be fun to document one whole day at work to get an idea of the wide variety of tasks we tackle. It would have been hard to capture it all, but I did my best. Enjoy!

7:25 a.m. — Kiss dog and husband goodbye. Yes, in that order.

7:25:10 a.m. — One more kiss for the dog - she’s so cute. Off to the office!

7:43 a.m. — Pass by my usual drive-through Starbucks. Running a bit late. Decide I can make it without caffeine today.

7:56 a.m. — Arrive at office. Spend a few minutes reviewing each of my in-boxes (six total). Respond to messages that have quick answers and prioritize my day.

8:00 a.m. — Laugh at self for thinking I could survive without caffeine. Grab a coworker and head to Starbucks. We are both named Emily and we both get iced coffee. That really throws the baristas off.

8:05 a.m. — “The other Emily” and I use the walk back from Starbucks to discuss a knowledge-sharing session my colleagues had yesterday that I missed due to a call with a potential member. I give her a heads-up that I need her help pulling a specific set of abstracts from a recent client meeting to add to the client website.

8:30 a.m. — Recurring calendar reminder: time to update a client’s member list in email marketing service site. This particular client has rolling membership renewals, so their member list is constantly changing. They use this service to send out weekly e-newsletters and upcoming webinar invitations, so it is vital that it is consistently up-to-date.

8:45 a.m. — Lynda will be in the office today. Write up a quick list of items to discuss with her, including an upcoming client Board meeting.

8:53 a.m. — Follow up with emails from members for a particular client regarding their membership directory listing. Make changes to the database if required.

9:30 a.m. — Come across a voicemail from last night for a client member who wants to renew their membership. The message is a bit hard to understand, so I spend a few minutes searching the database for partial phone numbers and names to see if I can figure out who this is.

9:35 a.m. — Find the company name and confirm the phone number. Review my notes from the renewal workbook. Oh, awesome! This was a company that previously told me they weren’t planning to renew their membership. My follow-ups had worked! *Pats self on the back*

9:36 a.m. — Pick up the phone to dial the member.

9:36:15 a.m. — Realize the company is in California, where it is only 7:36 a.m. Ugh. *Hang up phone and create myself a calendar reminder for 11a.m. to give them a call back.*

9:45 a.m. — Calendar reminder pops up to write AMPED blog. Already on that! *dismiss*

9:56 a.m. — Pop over to “the other Emily’s” office for her to show me how to find those abstracts. Turns out to be super simple. Spend the time originally dedicated to writing my blog to updating the client website. Web updates for this particular client aren’t typically in my job description, but I work closely with the volunteer leader who inquired about it and I know the person that would normally take care of this has a lot on her plate, so I don’t mind at all. (Reason #536 I love working at AMPED – we all do this sort of thing for each other.)

10:20 a.m. — Microsoft Word crashes. Luckily, both documents I had been working on saved.

10:25 a.m. — Website updates complete. It bothers me that previous entries on the page are inconsistent. Spend time cleaning up the format and notify volunteer leader that the page has been updated. Notice that one portion is completely missing. I assume the client will want it added in, so I send an email to a colleague to find missing info.

10:30 a.m. — Three email campaigns were scheduled to go out today to notify various groups for one of our clients about an upcoming webinar. Watch notification emails as they come in to make sure everything seems right. Notification emails end up in my clutter inbox. Give clutter a quick once-over to make sure there is nothing important.

10:33 a.m. — Review inboxes and respond where necessary. One question required a bit of research, so I spend a couple minutes searching through documentation for an answer. Not finding what I need. Send an email to the person who will have the answer.

10:41 a.m. — Office manager, Trisha, comes in to let me know that she ordered a Graze Box trial for the office. *Yay! We love snacks.* Speaking of snacks…

10:42 a.m. — Grab snack from fridge.

10:47 a.m. — Tony pops over to discuss a potential member for one of our clients and come up with a quick plan to keep them engaged.

10:54 a.m. — Jeanne asks me about award order for client Board member. Shoot. Should have filed original email in ”waiting for response” folder. Send reminder email to Executive Director to select the award.

10:56 a.m. — Process new member application and send email with invoice and payment instructions.

11:12 a.m. — Realize reminder had popped up to call member in CA from earlier. Dial number, but learn that contact is only in office on Monday and Friday. Get email address from secretary and send follow-up. Create reminder for me to follow up on Friday. Respond to other emails while in Outlook.

11:47 a.m. — Process continuing education reimbursement application for a client member. Members receive up to $50 reimbursement every two years, so I first check to make sure this particular member qualifies.

11:52 a.m. — *HR hat on.* Discuss staffing plans now that two of our interns are gone for the summer.

12:00 p.m. — Only halfway through the day? Hope people are still reading! Discuss onboarding/orientation plan for new volunteer leaders with outside Executive Director for one of our clients.

12:05 p.m. — Help Tony and Brittany prepare for meeting with a client partner member. Discuss 2017 sponsorship package, including membership, conference registration, marketing support, etc.

12:20 p.m. — Quick walk around the Square. Stop at local cheese shop to put together Wisconsin-themed gift basket for aforementioned partner member meeting. *These are the really rough parts of association management.*

12:40 p.m. — Catch up on emails while eating lunch. I normally try to eat outside on nice days like this, but I’m taking the afternoon off on Friday and want to keep things moving.

12:55 p.m. — Calendar reminder for member database training with new Latin America staff person for one of our clients. Pull up documentation, database and screen sharing software. Quickly finish lunch.

1:00 p.m. — Give high level overview of membership database to new Latin America staff. Thankfully I have all of the most common database procedures documented. Our cloud server allows me to share the documentation via a web link to ensure that our Latin American staff always has the most current version of the document.

2:15 p.m. — Reach out to account manager for VoIP service to follow up on a new phone order and inquire about headsets for some staff that share offices.

2:21 p.m. — Update membership and staff reports for upcoming client Board meeting. I’ve already had various staff members update their areas, so I just need to finalize my sections.

2:30 p.m. — Does it bother you when you ask someone two questions in an email and they only respond to one?

2:46 p.m. — Provide updated membership numbers to finance manager so she can update budget forecast for client.

2:48 p.m. — Receive answer to question from 10:33 a.m. Pass along response to member and quickly respond to other emails while in Outlook.

2:52 p.m. — The new member application I processed this morning has made payment online. Complete processing membership and send welcome kit.

2:55 p.m. — There’s someone with a megaphone yelling outside my window. It’s always something . . .

2:58 p.m. — Review graphic and member listing for publication in a client’s magazine. Doing so reminds me of some web updates to make. Create reminder to do so once I receive answers to a couple questions.

3:13 p.m. — Follow up with a few new client members for their logos and text for their listing on the website.

3:18 p.m. — *IT Person hat on.* Boot up former employee’s laptop to look for document. Not able to find it. Deliver bad news to colleague.

3:28 p.m. — Yep! I was right – the client asked about that missing portion of the website from 10:25 a.m. Good thing I’m already on it.

3:31 p.m. — *All hats on.* Catch up with Lynda: potential clients, potential employees, upcoming client Board meetings, client financials, life.

4:32 p.m. — Review inboxes. Someone requested a list from a recent client meeting, so I repurpose one that I already have rather than starting from scratch.

4:40 p.m. — I won’t get to a larger project that I had planned to work on this afternoon, so I move it to tomorrow’s calendar. One of our clients is implementing a complete Association Management System to replace several independent systems (event management, email marketing, abstract management, etc). Moving a client to a new database is a big project and takes lots of prep work, so I block off an hour or so on my calendar every couple days to chip away at it.

4:42 p.m. — There’s a line out my door since I’ve been away from my desk. Assist colleagues with a few questions regarding financials and where to find specific documentation.

4:53 p.m. — Prepare projects for intern to work on tomorrow.

4:59 p.m. — Check survey sent to a client board regarding their availability for an in-person meeting. Send reminder to members who have not responded.

5:01 p.m. — Review calendar and to-do list for the day to ensure there was nothing missed.

5:03 p.m. — Shut down laptop, lock up. Head home to my cute dog (and husband)!

5:06 p.m. — *IT hat back on!* I notice an email on my phone from a colleague who accidentally deleted a file. Unfortunately she hadn’t saved it at all yet, so I am unable to recover. Deliver the bad news.

5:50 p.m. — Send background information files on a potential client to a new employee. I can do this from my phone. *Cloud computing for the win!*

5:59 p.m. — Okay now I’m done working for the day. Heading in to the gym.

9:04 p.m. — Peek at inboxes on my phone one last time. I like to have an idea of what will be on my plate when I get in to the office tomorrow. I swear I’m done now.

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