Professional associations are critical for any economic sector—providing members and organizations with networking, recruiting, sourcing, and education opportunities uniquely suited for the industry. But retaining membership and recruiting new members can be a challenge, especially in an age of information overload when getting through to prospective members is no easy feat.
New professionals—particularly Millennials and Gen Zs—are less likely than previous generations to join an association, often citing a lack of value of the membership and preferring to connect online rather than at annual conferences.
This lack of enthusiasm for association membership among Millennial and Gen Z workers isn’t surprising. According to Association Advisor Magazine’s Benchmarking Report, many associations say they struggle to articulate their membership value proposition, and one in eight respondents say they have no process for engaging with NextGen members.
It’s clear that progress can be made to make association membership more appealing to this growing segment of the workforce.
What Do Millennials and Gen Z Expect From a Professional Association Membership?
More than any other generation before them, Millennials and Gen Z employees are seeking continual learning in their career paths. In fact, these two groups ranked “opportunity to learn and grow” as an extremely important factor in applying for a job, according to a Gallup survey.
At the same time, organizations are looking to provide upskilling and reskilling opportunities to address the growing skills gap. Professional associations, with their long history of advocating for professional development and continuing education, have an opportunity to bridge these two needs, play a pivotal role in the changing workforce landscape, and meet the expectations of younger employees.
By providing professional development programs that directly address the specific needs of industries, associations can partner with employers to train the next generation of workers—all while growing membership and increasing engagement.
How Professional Associations Can Build Successful Learning & Development Programs
It’s clear that today’s talent—particularly Millennial and Gen Z employees—crave continuous learning. With the rapid pace of change, however, it’s important that training and certification providers offer programs that develop the skills that are in demand both today and in the future.
In the tech industry specifically, the most in-demand tech skills evolve quickly, and skills development must help technical workers keep up to date with the latest innovations, coding languages, and development platforms. Associations can provide an accessible, low-risk yet relevant learning path for professionals in rapidly transforming industries—so long as they commit to continuously evolving their offerings as well.
In order to improve and modernize training and certification programs (and increase association membership along the way), associations must consistently measure the engagement and success of their current programs. Traditionally, this has been a pain point, and many associations haven’t fully leveraged technology to measure member engagement. This is where utilizing digital credentials can be a game changer for associations.
Digital credentials not only allow associations to easily analyze membership engagement and tweak future programs based on sound data—they also greatly enhance marketing performance, as members share the credentials they’ve earned with their networks.
Issuing digital badges modernizes an association, increasing the appeal to Millennial and Gen Z members, and making the association and the certifications they provide more marketable, shareable, and ultimately powerful.
3 Ways to Drive Millennial and Gen Z Association Membership Using Digital Credentials
Digital credentials can help your association stand out in the crowd and successfully attract new members—especially hard-to-reach younger professionals. Here are three ways to put the power of digital credentials to work:
1. Drive decisions through data
Many association leaders understand the importance of leveraging member data to better tailor their offerings and improve membership and engagement levels—especially with younger audiences. Despite this knowing, it’s common for associations to continue to use legacy tactics and strategies. In fact, one third of respondents in Association Advisor Magazine’s Benchmarking Report stated they need to improve their ability to “collect and use member data effectively.”
Associations must continuously analyze metrics around the success of their programs, as well as the opportunity areas that exist in order to develop new programs and stay relevant with their current and prospective members.
With digital credentials, your association can easily access analytics including number of badge shares, clicks to your website, member engagement, and how well your program is performing against industry benchmarks.
2. Modernize your marketing
It’s not enough to simply make development opportunities available to your members. Like you, they’re busy, and third-party learning and development programs must be marketed to them in order to increase uptake. It’s important for associations to upgrade dated communications channels such as printed magazines and newsletters and rely more on digital engagements that are measurable and meet younger audiences where they are.
Digital credentials that are backed by rich metadata not only provide members with proof of learning, they also provide details of the certification for prospective association members to learn about. Once a member earns a digital credential from your association, they can easily share it on professional networks, online job banks, resumes, and email signatures—organically fueling your association’s marketing efforts.
And by connecting your targeted membership marketing initiatives with digital credentials, you’ll be able to analyze the number of digital badges earned—giving you insight into how successful a specific marketing campaign has been.
3. Strengthen your social media presence
Millennial and Gen Z employees have largely grown up on the internet and have high expectations about the content they consume. Personalized and relevant experiences that give them the necessary information they want without wasting their time is critical.
Social media networks are the perfect medium for communicating the value association membership can provide, although many associations lack a defined social media strategy or the bandwidth to execute on one.
Deploying digital credentials is a resource-efficient way to amplify an association’s presence on social media and leverage members as brand advocates. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) partnered with Credly and found that the average earner in their organization shared their digital badge on more than one social network, while nearly half of earners reported they received positive feedback from a digital credential they shared.
Most professionals—including Millennials and Gen Zs, are eager to share the skills they’ve honed and the certifications they’ve earned. Digital credentials make that sharing incredibly simple, and can in turn bolster your association’s social media efforts.
Drive Association Membership with Digital Credentials
While Millennial and Gen Z professionals may not have the same “joiner” tendencies of previous generations, they value the learning and networking that being part of an association can provide. Associations must meet young professionals where they are, and offer a more modern and digital experience in order to drive association membership and long-term engagement.
Ready to learn more about joining Credly Acclaim, the world’s most connected and trusted digital credentialing platform? Schedule a demo today to discover how digital credentials can help your association recruit, engage, and retain members.