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Beware of Termites!

By Jennifer Baker, Director Association CareerHQ

In her excellent piece on the implications for associations of the acquisition of by LinkedIn titled What Associations Should Know About LinkedIn’s Acquisition of lynda... Carrie McIntyre, Senior Director of Business Development at Boxwood Career Solutions, makes the point, “If you think of these sites as just social networking platforms where your members participate in discussion forums, then you aren’t looking closely enough.”

I would argue that it’s not mere shortsightedness, but actually hubris for any association to think these days that they can’t be disrupted. As Sekou Andrews, the world’s leading poetic voice and an amazing keynoter, said in the address/performance/call to action he did at ASAE’s 2015 Membership, Marketing, and Communications Conference, “Disruption is not a storm you can watch roll in; it's termites that you ignore at your own peril.”

I love the analogy of disruption to termites because it highlights that, like termites, disruption often isn’t noticed until it is too late and the damage is done. So how do we avoid that outcome? As association job board operators, I think we have a unique lens on potentially disruptive forces that others in our organizations might not possess. Specifically:

• We’re on the front line of employment activity in the industries and professions our associations represent. We’re hearing about the desires, needs, and challenges of two key audiences – job seekers and employers. If we’re listening, we’re getting an inside track on 1) sources and resources in the wide world beyond our association that are meeting those desires, needs, and challenges and 2) gaps that our associations might successfully fill.

• We’re also likely to be among the first to receive articles like Carrie’s that provide an important take on news and trends that might not yet be on the radar screens of our organization’s executive team and board – the two groups in associations typically tasked with scanning for disruption.

What we need to do is not wait for an invitation, but find a way to share the perspective, data, and insights we have. For example, how about forwarding the link to Carrie’s article to your CEO with a note that the article contains information he/she may find valuable for strategic planning purposes.

In a webinar I did with Carrie in late August on the topic of the acquisition, the idea of bringing together association resources into industry/professional-specific hubs for career management resonated with participants. The issue was, as it always is, how to get there if you are a small staff or are in the situation where the job board is considered just a feature versus an important benefit. In many cases, the best answer to this perennial challenge is to just begin. Pick a concrete activity that can help you move towards realizing the larger goal. Here are a few examples that were highlighted during the webinar:

• Do a survey and/or focus groups to find out where members rank career development resources. If you find that this is a top priority for members, you will have more support for raising the question to management – is this area getting top attention from your association.

• Acknowledge the difference between professional development and career management. Professional development is a component of career management, it’s not the sum total of career management. Your colleagues in the education/professional development/certification departments will appreciate that you are making the distinction and you will be able to better carve out what you want to actually deliver within the career center.

• Conduct a content audit to uncover what you have. It can be as simple as identifying your key audiences (e.g. new to the profession/industry, Young professionals, mid-level professionals, senior leaders, etc.), doing a review of your association’s website to see what resources are available for those audiences, recording the information in an Excel spreadsheet, then doing some analysis to what you have and where the gaps are.

• Shift your pitch from a purely transaction focus, i.e. “Find your next job with us” and ‘Post your jobs with us’ to a more full-service orientated approach, i.e. ‘Let us help you manage your career’ and ‘Let us help you manage your workforce – recruiting new employees and developing existing employees’.

These are just a few ideas. If you need more inspiration, check out the excellent post by guest blogger Amy Goble, Vice President of Health Career Center (thanks again Amy – you rock!) to learn about the steps the American Hospital Association took in its career site’s transformation journey.

Bottom line; don’t be caught unawares. Consider today what actions you can take to avoid being derailed by the disruption that’s a defining feature of the times we’re living in. Already in “pest control mode”? Take a moment and share your experience in the comments.

Jennifer Baker joined ASAE Business Services, Inc. (ABSI) – ASAE’s for profit subsidiary, in June 2012. She directs ABSI’s ASAE-Endorsed Business Solutions and (soon to be Association CareerHQ) business lines and works with the president on business development and governance-related activities. Prior to joining ASAE, Jennifer worked at the American Physical Therapy Association engaged in association management activities ranging from membership to governance to non-dues revenue management and business development. A native of Virginia, she received her BA degree from the University of Virginia, and her Masters in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University. She earned her Certified Association Executive (CAE) Credential in 2005.

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