During his inaugural address in 1961, John Kennedy famously said:

“…Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans…”

Now, more than 50 years later, Kennedy’s sentiments seem relevant again as Millennials come of age and become a driving force in the marketplace and grows into a leadership role that is defining the American landscape and marketplace.

This transition creates an opportunity for member-based associations and organizations to market to a new audience and position themselves as leaders in an industry, as they’ve done for several generations.

However, it’s not as easy as cut and paste.  What worked for Baby Boomers won’t necessarily resonate with Generation X and Y– They like communication and are constantly connected, always engaged (often doing multiple things at the same time), and hungry for information now.

We’ve all heard about them- the younger generation entering the workforce with a very different attitude and ethic than the previous generations. Perhaps you’ve even been required to take training on how to communicate with them or understand their motives. Whatever your level of experience with this hot topic, you’ll need to consider how this “Generation X and Y” affects your membership association.

First, let’s define:
Generation X: born 1965-1981
Generation Y: born 1982-1995

Second, let’s examine some of the traits that are common to this generation:
• Gen XY learns fast, easily bored, able to multitask
• First generation to not know job security in the same sense as prior generations. This group will not work the same job for 10 years before moving on to the next one.
• Salary/prestige takes a backseat to work/life balance
• Seeking recognition for resume building
• Leadership training for young professionals interested in board service or career leadership
• Offer these members short jobs with a defined start and end. Calling it a “Task Force” instead of a “Committee” may increase interest as they will know there is an end to the job in sight.
• All members, but particularly Gen XY, need to feel like they belong: secure relationship and ownership in something. Trust +respect = belonging
• Gen XY trusts slowly, less forgiving in lapses (product of divorce, lack of job security, failure to deliver on promises)

Third, let’s look at Ways to Engage:
1. Listen to their point of view- get ready for a frank examination of strengths and
weaknesses. Empathize. Ask for specific examples.
2. Create solutions- be part of the solution, don’t argue over arbitrary rules/ procedures.
Conflict = lost productivity and revenue. Solve it and move on.
3. Encourage feedback- listen via online chat, over coffee, online forum, include Board,
Staff and Members. Have the ability to respond to the feedback, both publicly and
privately if necessary. If you say you’ll do it, then do it. Don’t break your promise or you
lose trust and respect.
4. Be inclusive- leadership roles no such thing as a lack of experience, be tech savvy.
If you want more members, give Gen XY a reason to join.
#1 reason people join is to solve a problem in their lives
#1 problem in lives- financial, worried about the future, job security. Help solve a problemprograms and services related to helping find jobs, make more money, feel
#1 reason people renew- solved the problem: advanced career, got referral, cut costs

As I mentioned in the Strategic Plan post, an association must consider how it is involving and appealing to Generation XY in order to pass the membership baton from the Baby Boomers. I heard a statistic on television yesterday saying that 10,000 Boomers are retiring every day. Oh boy! If your association is primarily comprised of Baby Boomers who are renewing their memberships because they think its the right thing to do, then your association may be in trouble.