On March 18, 2022, Ewald Consulting hosted the second Associations Trends Talk of the year. CEO David Ewald sat down with Dean West, President of Association Laboratory, Inc., where West discusses research his firm conducted and how it applies to associations in 2022.
West worked as an association executive before founding Association Laboratory Inc. He uses his research and expertise to help guide associations forward. In this webinar, he used his research as a basis to suggest ways in which associations can move into the future.
What is impacting the future of associations?
West identified four main factors that should be focused on as associations consider what actions to take.
- COVID recovery. No value can come from looking back to before the pandemic. Everything changed drastically for associations, and it will never be the same. West encourages associations to consider what a post-pandemic world might look like. How might your association adapt to a post-pandemic world? Consider your potential member pool. Are they different now than they were? Are there different needs from members? Think about what changes you have encountered and move forward.
- Boundary removal. Previously, your association may have been confined by boundaries of industry or geography. Those boundaries are likely softer or gone altogether. You now have a wider potential audience base with different wants and needs. Your association has the opportunity to shift and appeal to more people than ever before. Further, West described the phenomenon of the “internet of everything,” which illustrates the idea that we are all interconnected via the internet. This was happening before the pandemic, but in the past two years this connectedness grew exponentially.
- Workforce realignment. In his research, West examined the focus on employee retention and recruitment in the past two years. 2022 survey results showed that 80 percent of associations cited retaining and recruiting as a focus, a large difference from 2021, when the number stood at 63 percent. Organizations are also seeking talent with different competencies than they were before. These changes signal a change in the way our organizations are planning for the future.
- The “Hunger Games.” West used this term to describe the dramatic increase in competition caused by the explosion of virtual events and learning in the past few years. While this undoubtedly opens many more opportunities for your organization, it opens it up for others as well. Now, you and your competitors are less restricted. Audiences are now able to be more selective, and you should listen carefully to what they need.
Focusing on the Future
After a thoughtful discussion about what is impacting organizations post-pandemic through thorough research and analysis, West shared some thoughts on how we can steer our organizations forward. This can be done by focusing your board. West put heavy emphasis on making sure your board spends as much as half the meeting time discussing the future. West encouraged leaders to have their boards consider what their organization would look like if you are successful in their mission. Asking and discussing questions like these with your board help keep your focus forward and not backward.