Whether your association has just recently penned a new strategic plan or you’re three or more years into a long-term strategic planning cycle (however impractical that may be given today’s environment), do me a favor and locate this document. Whether in hard copy or (preferably) electronically, open it up and conduct a simple search of the following key words:
- Professional Development
Record the number of times each of these key words appears throughout this document specifically related to member learning (as opposed to the professional development of staff members, board members and volunteer leaders or any other possible reference). Obviously, conducting the search electronically will save you some time and energy – so what are you waiting for? (And, by all means, feel free to conduct a more comprehensive review of your strategic plan should you feel compelled.)
[Insert Jeopardy "Think Music" here.]
Finished? Good. What did you discover? In my mind, there are really only two possible outcomes:
- Member learning is well-represented in the strategic plan, both as a core service of the organization and as an important revenue stream. Adequate time, money and other resources (including a talented and knowledgeable complement of staff) have been allocated to this essential association function.
- Member learning is not well-represented in the strategic plan. And this could be true for any number of reasons. For example, perhaps it’s just not a part of the association’s mission, vision and values statements and, therefore, has no real place in the strategic plan. Likewise, it’s entirely possible the organization has created a separate strategic education plan.
Or, perhaps, the less desirable alternative is true: Member learning is important to the organization (maybe it’s even specifically cited in the association’s mission statement), but it’s just missing from the strategic plan, inadvertently left out or somehow taken for granted. Whatever the case, following are 10 tactics your organization can immediately implement to right this wrong:
- Convene a representative stakeholder group to set strategic education goals and measurable learning objectives for your organization.
- Identify current (and optimal) engagement levels for the organization’s signature programs.
- Launch a survey to determine satisfaction of current education program offerings, member needs, opportunities for improvement and communication/technology preferences.
- Conduct a full SWOT analysis to identify learning gaps and priorities, environmental cues and organizational capacity.
- Research the organizations in your industry offering competing education programs and identify opportunities that exist within the marketplace for the addition of unique program offerings.
- Identify core member competencies, including job tasks performed, knowledge needed and skills required. Develop an optimal annual meetings calendar aligned with these knowledge domains.
- Explore opportunities for the application of web-based, virtual and hybrid programs based on survey analysis and market research.
- Create a comprehensive plan to sunset legacy programs and develop new programs based on current learning gaps.
- Develop a plan to more deliberately and timely cross-promote education program offerings and more effectively communicate program value to members.
- Review adult learning principles with professional development staff, subject matter experts and industry speakers as a first step toward developing more innovative and engaging learning opportunities.
So, my question to you is this: Which organization are you? Is member learning well-represented in your strategic plan or not? If not, which of the aforementioned 10 tactics do you think will be most helpful and valuable in refocusing the association’s available resources on member learning?