Finding Inspiration in the Future of Work


If there’s anything more inspiring than thinking about a future full of success, I can’t name it. That was the feeling I took away from the recent ICE (Institute for Credentialing Excellence) Exchange Conference. The event always has a strong education component, and this year’s keynote lived up to their typically high standards.

As a father of two “Gen. Z” daughters about to enter the workforce, Anne Loehr’s keynote presentation on “The Future of Work” really sparked my interest. Anne identified four major trends that she predicts will lead to a workplace revolution (and there’s a good chance that some of these trends are already affecting your association today):

1. Baby Boomer Retirements

  • Every day, 10,000 people turn 65 in the U.S.
  • Millennials have become the largest population in the workforce

2. The Freelance Economy

  • Within a few years, 40% of the U.S. workforce will work on a freelance basis
  • The ease of finding help online and the expense of hiring traditional employees is fueling the growth

3. Women-Owned Businesses

  • Women own 31% of private businesses in the US
  • Ownership provides an alternative to traditional employment’s lack of flexibility and fair pay

4. Diversity on the Rise

  • Minorities—currently 40% of the workforce—will soon become the majority
  • Ethnic groups comprise 95% of the U.S. population growth

Preparing your association to meet the needs of a changing membership is a topic that gets a lot of attention; but, on the flipside, thinking about meeting the changing needs of your employees is another important issue to keep in mind.

Each of the trends mentioned above creates unique opportunities and challenges for organizations. Associations that can find the right answers to these issues will put themselves in a position to attract and retain the best talent going forward:

Going “All In” on Millennials

Organizations that focus on grooming a new generation of leaders will need a significant commitment to professional development. A solid “promote from within” culture will be an important part of seeing this investment pay off.

Utilizing Freelancers

Freelancers will undoubtedly result in a cost-savings compared to the expense of a full-time employee; but, will a freelancer that lives your organization’s mission just a few hours a week have the same value as an employee that understands the nuances of your industry?

Competitive Benefits Are Essential

In order to retain top talent, flexibility and a fair salary are two qualities your association needs to embrace. If not, your best employees will leave for more-friendly environments.

Prepare for a More Diverse Workplace

Groups that were once considered minorities will for the first time be part of the majority. Organizations that promote an inclusive, diverse workforce will have access to an expanding pool of talent.


Your association may have a plan to engage the next generation of members, but if you aren’t also thinking about how to recruit the next generation of employees, now is the time. As Anne pointed out in her keynote, Baby Boomers continue to retire in large numbers, so finding talent to fill their vacancies should be a top focus for your organization. After all, if you aren’t providing a workplace environment that offers the flexibility and benefits to match the Future of Work, someone else will!

My Promise to Customers


While I may have waited to get back to my desk to do the actual typing, this post was truly written while fighting back tears at the 2016 ICE Exchange Conference keynote session. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

The ICE (Institute for Credentialing Excellence) Exchange Conference is an important event for associations looking to apply best practices to their credentialing programs. This year’s conference in Colorado Springs, CO, had a record attendance of over 600 attendees (555 was the previous record). Not the largest show I attend each year, but it’s packed with good content and great conversations.

At ICE, the focus is on credentialing. So as an industry partner that provides print and fulfillment services for the continuing education department of associations, there is always an opportunity to learn something new. This year was no different. It was the keynote presentation delivered by Alex Sheen, co-founder of Because I said I would… a social movement and nonprofit dedicated to the betterment of humanity that really peaked my interest.

Alex’s thought provoking, and inspiring stories left me fighting back tears one minute and laughing out loud the next. Here’s Alex’s “long story short”:

Alex’s father died of lung cancer in September 2012. He describes his father as an ordinary man. An ordinary man who always kept his promise. At his father’s eulogy, Alex decided to honor his father for all of those kept promises by urging others to keep their own. To illustrate his point, Alex handed out promise cards with the simple words of “Because I said I would” printed on them. Alex later went online and promised to send out 10 free promise cards to anyone in the world. To date, Alex has sent out over 4 million cards to 153 different countries.

Despite the simplicity of the promise cards, they have changed hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. From those who felt their own life wasn’t worth the next breath, to others who promise to donate a kidney to a friend or family member.

Some stories so incredibly sad, yet so packed with inspiration and hope.

So why is Alex so passionate about a promise? Alex believes at some point it became easier for people to blame others—other people, other groups, situations, the economy, technology, etc.—instead of people holding themselves accountable. Growth and change begin by improving ourselves; from there we can improve our organizations, and each other. It starts with our promise…because I said I would.

Could your association benefit from using some promise cards?

  • What is the true passion and mission of your association?
  • What is your personal mission that can be carried out through your association?
  • What is your promise to your organization and its members?

Here’s my promise to the customers that I have the privilege of knowing, serving, and partnering with every day….I will do everything to the best of my ability.

I never heard of Alex Sheen before ICE but I’ll never forget his message.


If you would like your own set of free promise cards or hear more stories of hope and inspiration visit the various links below:

ICE 2016: Adding Another Chapter to the Story


It’s that time of year again… time to head to the annual Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) conference! This is one of the conferences I look forward to most each year.

I always tell new employees at Omnipress that if they think order fulfillment is just putting stuff in boxes and shipping it, they are working at the wrong company. What we are really doing in our warehouse is sending someone the materials they need to learn a skill. Delivering the workbook that will help them perform their job more accurately. These printed materials allow industry professionals to study for a test or certification, proving they have gained the knowledge to practice their skills safely and ethically.

So when I think of ICE, I think about all the learners that have gone on to pass a certification exam after receiving the materials that were once on the shelves of our warehouse. When you tell the story that way, it’s easy to see that you are shipping more than ink and paper.

Learning From the Past

This will be my fifth year attending the ICE conference. Each year I’ve learned a little more about the impact our online and print materials have on the success of the attendees’ certification programs. I love knowing that having a well-formatted workbook will help a learner prepare for an exam. Or, that when we take over order fulfillment from continuing education staff, they will have more time to develop student-benefiting course content.

For example, one customer of ours that is a regular ICE attendee, is the National Retail Federation Foundation (NRFF). Before we started working with NRFF, their course materials were causing confusion between students and instructors. We worked with them to create a single workbook that enabled better communication in the classroom. What was really interesting to hear, though, is how this new workbook format gave NRFF the confidence to increase their program’s marketing and grow the certification program.

I could spend all day reminiscing about similar stories that help me understand the true impact of what we do here at Omnipress. But instead, I’ll finish up a few more office to-dos before I get ready to leave for the conference. Because waiting at that ICE Conference are dozens of more stories just waiting to be told.

How to Attract Millennials to Your Association with Credentialing


Which major issue facing the U.S. economy are associations well positioned to fix? The “skills gap.”

Employers are facing the “skills gap” as Baby Boomers retire faster than Millennials develop a similar skill set. This phenomenon—also known as “aging out”—is having a similar effect on associations. Older members are retiring at a faster pace than new members are replacing them. What some might see as a problem can actually be a great opportunity for associations. Establishing credentialing programs for young professionals can be a smart way to attract the next generation of members.

Earlier this year, Millennials passed Baby-Boomers as the largest age group in the workforce. Some associations have struggled to find ways to recruit this age group. As Associations Now points out, however, credentialing can be a way to attract Millennials. This seems like a natural fit for associations. In fact, most already include industry-specific training as part of their mission. Not only can training attract new members, it will also enhance your value to these new members. Establishing your association as the go-to resource for young members will have a positive impact on your organization for many years.

Credentialing programs for Millennials rely on many of the same traditional instructional design fundamentals that have been in place for years. But there are some things to keep in mind, especially when it comes to including technology in your courses. So, before you create your next program, here are five tips that will help your association’s courses become the go-to resource for Millennials.

Tip #1: Don’t just create courses for Millennials, create them for your industry

When helping to create the workforce of the future, the first challenge is to match the training program to the eventual needs of the industry. It may be tempting to ask your younger members for input on which courses they would like to take. The danger with this approach is you may end up teaching skills that are useful today but may not be what the industry actually needs over the long term.

A better approach to selecting course content is by talking with industry leaders about the skills they’ll need in the future. Asking for their input gives you a forward-looking perspective–one that someone new to the industry will not be able to provide.

Creating a training course based on the industry’s anticipated skills gap over the next five years will put your association in a position to be a long-term leader in providing skilled workers.

Tip #2 There is still room for in-person instruction

Technology enables learning opportunities that didn’t exist a decade ago. But that doesn’t mean traditional, in-person instruction is obsolete. Traditional classroom learning remains a valuable format for associations teaching members. In fact, there are some topics that just need the high-level interaction that only comes from instructors and learners being in the same physical location. One example of training that can’t be replicated online is a course in safe food-handling procedures. It’s important to let your content choose the right format for your class.

Tip #3: Use technology appropriately

Millennials have lived their entire lives using technology. So it’s a natural tendency to feel the need to use technology to appeal to them. Using technology just for technology’s sake is a recipe for disaster, though. Before you invest the time or money involved in taking your program materials online, for example, make sure they support your larger learning objectives. Providing a training manual online is a great way to distribute the most up-to-date materials to your learners. Just make sure that your site includes an option for note-taking similar to a traditional manual.

When used appropriately, incorporating technology to enhance course materials provides tremendous value for members.

Tip #4: Blended learning pairs tradition and technology

Earlier this year, Omnipress conducted a survey on the learning habits of Millennials. One of the surprising findings was that 59% of respondents indicated they found it easier to learn from print than digital materials. (You can read the entire survey results here.) While online courses provide opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist, traditional educational materials can increase Millennials’ learning retention. So, even if your geographically diverse membership prevents you from holding in-person training, offering physical course materials is still a good option.

Blended learning is a great way of taking advantage of both tradition and technology.

Tip #5: Digital credentials offer value to your association and learner

If your course provides a certificate or other form of recognition for completing the course, offering a digital credential can be a worthwhile use of technology. A “digital credential” is an online badge that allows your learners to easily share their accomplishments on social media sites like LinkedIn. These badges also serve as a great way of advertising your association within the learner’s network. This word-of-mouth advertising is effective in boosting your program’s visibility.


Associations are in a unique position to help create the next generation of workers, and at the same time, solidify their position as a valuable resource for members. This win-win situation will help forward-thinking associations that have the training programs in place to close the skills gap. Choosing the right skills for your courses is a crucial first step that should have input from industry leaders, not just students. Successful associations will be able to find a balance between traditional education and technology that reinforces their learning objectives. In the end, positioning your association as the go-to resource for the youngest members of your industry is a smart way to grow your membership.

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