While we’re trying to find better ways to engage with Millennials, Generation Z is already thinking about their careers, joining communities and searching association websites for content to help with their assignments. Each individual member of this generation is also a potential member of your association. They are all experiencing your association now. The question is: are you ready to take them aboard?
My son is 14 years old. He doesn’t have a Facebook account, but he does follow fashion trends and actively gather information about his future career. While we constantly hear the message that membership is dying, my teenage son is an example of why it is not. He is already a member of a number of organisations – Swimming NSW, Scouts, Water Polo Australia and Spotify (paying from his pocket money). He’s already browsed a couple of professional association websites while considering his career choices, such as becoming an architect.
This statistic alone should be ringing some alarm bells. Generation Z is generally defined as those born from around the mid-1990s, meaning the first wave of this group are now aged in their early 20s and find themselves within that crucial ‘first five years’ period of their careers. In other words, they represent your membership both now and in the future.
iGen = your challenge
These young adults have literally grown up with a smartphone in hand and, according to the iGen Goes to School study, require information on-demand, expect personalised communications and find repetitive emails in their inboxes annoying.
Another recent study by Adshel, titled People Watch: The Zen of Generation Zed, explains the challenge we face trying to connect and engage with this generation: “It will be hard to get their [Gen Zed] data as they know how to use their privacy settings. They are also pretty hostile to interruptive advertising. Relationships, privacy, information sharing are done on their terms. It takes significant education and trust for a Gen Zed to provide personal data. Gen Zed are quitting Facebook for more secure social interaction like Snapchat and Whisper.”
Opportunities for associations
Going back to the Abila Member Engagement study, we know that the majority of associations are missing a serious opportunity to target communications by members’ age and career stage.
When talking to my clients, I often hear the words, “Student membership just doesn’t work! They join at a student fee, but when it’s time to upgrade, we lose them”. However, when I ask those same clients to tell me honestly what specific benefits they have offered to young members, they usually reply, “We don’t have the resources to target student members”. In reality the Student membership is not the problem; it’s the “one-size fits-all” approach that doesn’t work.
Let’s stop making excuses and start making a difference. The Abila report suggests that the top three reasons for young professionals to join an association are: job opportunities; socialising; and certifications.
So with that in mind, here are some tips for engaging Gen Z:
- Concentrate on mentoring programs, graduate job portals, career bootcamps and other activities that may help youngsters to settle down in your industry.
- Organise social nights for young professionals (fun nights!)
- Think about how you can help young professionals show their credibility e.g. develop special membership badges they can promote on their LinkedIn profile and resume, or run introductory courses.
You may say, “Wait, we already have an accreditation program for mature professionals!”. That’s great, but young members need your support here and now, so think about the tools that help them demonstrate their credibility to their first employers.
We’ve now pieced together some of the Gen Z puzzle, but the more information the better as we attempt to improve our communications with these potential members.
Here are some more interesting stats from the Adshel report that may help you:
- The average Gen Zed has an eight-second attention span – they’re not going to read your 12-page membership brochure, no matter what benefits you include. Speak their language by using images, video and infographics.
- 61 per cent would rather be an entrepreneur than an employee when they graduate and 72 per cent of high schoolers want to start a business someday – tailor your association offering for independent professionals.
- Gen Zed crave education: 1 in 2 will have a university degree (compared to 1 in 3 for Gen Y and 1 in 4 for Gen X); 33 per cent watch lessons online, 20 per cent read textbooks on tablets – great potential for associations in terms of CPD, however, you have to digitalise your training programs.
- This generation is driven by purpose and want to make a difference. Organisations, and associations in particular, need to clearly articulate their brand’s purpose, their role in society, and consistently act upon it.
Most of the time, dealing with younger generations is covered by activities such as young professional networks, young professional awards and mentoring programs. However, in some cases a more creative approach has been taken. For example, Engineers Australia interacts with kids from four years of age, along with their parents, developing engaging games and resources for school teachers.
It’s clear that we can’t afford to fall asleep at the wheel while driving our Gen Z engagement strategies. Your future membership numbers depend on your ability to talk to young members right now.
Talk to MemberBoat today about how we can help you attract young professionals to your association.