Is Your Association’s Content Stale?

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By: Aaron Udler, President, OfficePro, Inc., CTS, CEM

There comes a point in every person’s career in which they don’t recertify. Reasons vary from not caring about the certification, to forgetting to renew it (same as not caring), to even career growth. But wait – why would somebody not want to recertify in favor of career growth? Aren’t certifications supposed to promote career growth? How does this make sense?
Outside of the medical industries, most association’s certification holders are right out of college and typically renew their certification 3 to 4 times over the next 10 to 12 years. The #1 reasons their employers have them get certified is to learn the ins and outs of their industry. During these 10-12 years, these certification holders form their own industry networks and partnerships, have a social life in the industry, etc. Sound familiar?

But what happens after 12 years? Industry professionals are now into their 30’s and on a career path. At this point, they are either at the managerial or director level (some are also VP’s) and these professionals need business skills to increase their productivity in the office – skills which include manipulating an Excel spreadsheet with precision and efficiency, leadership skills, how to manage employees, etc, etc, etc. The list of topics go on and on. So instead of renewing their industry certification, the career growth continues outside of the association. This equates to lost revenue for the association, and often times, this is forever.
How much does it cost for your association to acquire a new member? How much does it cost to keep a current member happy? Now which of these two options cost less? If you said option 2, you are right! It takes more time, energy, and expense to acquire a new member than it does to keep a current member. So why aren’t more associations expanding their educational curriculum and targeting this demographic of future leaders?

Last month at Expo Expo, IAEE decided to expand its current education program by adding 2 hands-on computer training classes. One was titled “How to Create an Effective PowerPoint Presentation without Using Bullets” and the other was “Data & List Management using Excel”. Each session was 3 hours long and each student sat at their computer station. Not only was each session sold out at 15 students, but each session had a waiting list and proved that there is an industry demand for these types of courses.

Now there is an argument that the cost to create new content and classes is quite expensive, both monetary and in man-hours. Let me pick on the audio-video (AV) industry for a minute (I used to work for an AV association). What has changed in microphone technology over the past 50 years? How about speakers or mixers? Not much. How about your association? What has changed in your training curriculum? Do you think your members really want to hear about the same things year after year? So now you are going to ask “what’s the easiest, least expensive way to get around this and create new business training content”? Partnerships, sub-contracting, white-labeling, revenue sharing, etc. There are plenty of solutions out there to help your association’s educational curriculum grow. You just need to decide what works best for your group and get creative.

One final thought – If your association expanded their curriculum by offering business related classes, whether software or soft-skills, and attached Continuing Education Credits, do you think your association could keep members engaged into their 40’s? How about their 50’s? Do you think your certification base would grow? How about membership growth?
Another final-final thought – Training improves the organizations competitive edge: according to Nobel Laureate Gary Becker, a professor of economics and sociology at the University of Chicago, “Any company has to recognize that not only is a human capital of their employees a major asset, it is also a depreciating asset that needs continuing investment.”