It’s the age-old question. And as association professionals, it’s a question that’s always lingering in the back of our minds. We intend to launch a new program, product or service, and the first measuring stick used to determine if we’ll be successful in our new venture is whether or not our members will find value in whatever it is we hope to share with them.
If we can demonstrate significant value – and the new program, product or service is in some way contributing to or supporting the association’s mission, while at the same time serving to enhance the association’s bottom line or is otherwise filling the role of “lost leader” – our new venture has merit, resources are appropriately deployed and it is launched for (hopefully) an initial, pre-determined period of time.
Otherwise, the venture has another fate. Two such possibilities include:
- It may be evaluated, modified and launched in a new or different way; or
- It may be evaluated and discarded altogether.
Whatever the outcome, a fair and deliberate process is used to discern the correct “path” for any new program, product or service intended to draw down on staff time and association resources.
The same should be true when it comes to supporting and developing our staff, in particular our young/emerging professionals. It’s recently come to my attention that a certain distrust and discomfort among some association executives to train and develop their young people is doing more harm than good. I’m uncertain of the exact rationale, but I’ll take a stab at some possible perspectives here:
- If I spend time and money training and developing our young people, they’re going to jump ship for the next best opportunity that comes their way and our investment will be lost.
- Our limited resources are best spent exclusively on the executive staff at our association; they have the most seniority and, therefore, they have the most to offer our organization and our members.
- We don’t have a professional development budget, so none of our staff are permitted to attend training (local, state or national).
- With limited hours in the workday, allowing our staff to participate as members of industry committees or as thought leaders at industry conferences will only distract them from their primary work assignments.
- If our staff is going to learn anything new, I’d prefer to decide the information that is shared with them.
This is by no means an exhaustive list; I’m sure there are countless other concerns when it comes to professional development. What I do know is that these arguments (possibly disguised as excuses) are counterproductive to our tried and true question: What’s in it for me? If we simply ask the question, both from the perspective of the executive and the staff member, I’m certain each can find value in the answer.
So, my question to you is this: As an association executive, are you open and eager to the possibility of training and developing your staff? If so, what steps do you take to ensure maximum benefit from the resources dedicated to this purpose? As a staff member, how do you demonstrate value when expressing interest in serving on a new committee or attending a new conference? How can we further impact this paradigm to ensure the next generation of association professionals are poised and ready to take on future challenges affecting the association community?