Why Associations Should Layer Their Members’ Continuing Education

 

Watch Dan Loomis and Janel Savich talk about “Learning In Layers,” a concept introduced in a recent issue of TD Magazine. In this video, Dan and Janel discuss how the concept of “layering” provides a useful framework for associations to find a balance in their online, in-person, and print training resources.

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:

https://becauseisaidiwould.com/

https://becauseisaidiwould.com/ted/

Infographic | Top 5 Reasons to Participate in the State of Continuing Education Content Survey

I’m excited to announce that we are conducting ‘The State of Continuing Education Content’ survey again this year. If you are responsible for training or continuing education programs for an association, we want to hear from you! Please take just a couple of minutes and complete the short survey.

This is the 4th year in a row that we will be using your survey responses to compile ‘The State of Continuing Education Content’ report, which will be released in January. The report provides a glimpse into how your colleagues are developing and implementing educational programs.

But before we can produce the report, we need your input! Take a look at the Top 5 Reasons to Participate in the State of Continuing Education Content survey graphic below if you’d like to see some more reasons to take the survey.

Top 5 Reasons To Participate graphic

 

Getting Started on your Association’s Big, Important Projects

 

That’s how going back to school always felt to me. It was exciting, but also something I would have preferred not to do.

The night before school started I was always a ball of nerves. So many unknowns to think about, “What would my teacher be like?”, “Who would I sit next to in class?”, “Is this the year we stop having recess???” There seemed to be so many questions it was hard to focus on any one of them for very long because another one would quickly pop into my head.

Young Dan LoomisFinally the sun would rise and it would be time for me to walk to school (not uphill both ways though, if you were wondering). As I got to school and found my class, I realized nothing stood between me and my future except a one-inch thick door. I had put it off for long enough, there was nothing left to do but open the door and see… all my friends from last year! “Maybe this won’t be so bad” I thought as I walked past my smiling teacher to sit at the desk next to my best friend. Turns out that the waiting and anticipating was the hardest part. Once I walked through that door, everything else just fell into place. (And sure enough, recess would be right after lunch.)

Where to start?

It doesn’t matter what the situation is, it can be natural for us to want to avoid trying new things. Having a defined start date like a new school year is one thing, but when the option to proceed is up to us, the result might be that we never start. This paralysis isn’t because we don’t think it’s important, though, just the opposite. It’s so important, and we have such an idealistic view of what the project should become, we aren’t sure where to start. The same voice that keeps us up worrying about the first day of school comes back, questioning “What if things don’t go as planned?”

Tackling your association’s big projects

While going back-to-school can be a time full of unknowns for a student, tackling big projects like refreshing your training materials, can be a time full of unknowns for your association. And, similar to any important event or project, getting started can be something that ends up being avoided. “Creating new training materials” is a great goal and sounds simple enough when you use it in a sentence, but once you sit down to work on it, you can feel that familiar excited/uncertain paralysis start to creep in.

So while your association has a laundry list of changes to make to your course materials, you don’t know where to start, and your to-do list grows longer.

The secret to handling a big, important project is to not think of it as a “big, important project”. Really, what you need to do is complete a lot of smaller tasks that come together to have a big impact for your members. So while “refreshing your course materials” may be your goal, you should think about the individual tasks that make up that goal. For example, your to-do list might include:

  • Update your course text to reflect any new industry developments
  • Re-format the page layout to make certain concepts clearer
  • Create eye-catching artwork to strengthen your association’s brand
  • Etc.

Now, instead of having an undefined project to be overwhelmed by, you have a series of tasks to tackle and will see real progress made.

It isn’t always the easiest choice, but completing the big nerve-wracking project is an important part of life, for you and your association. You can’t grow and learn without overcoming the fear of the first day of class, and you can’t help your association without overcoming the fear of tackling the big projects. Maybe what’s waiting on the other side of your to-do list is actually not that scary. Maybe you’ll find the familiar faces of your members on the other side, excited to see you and appreciate the value you provide.

Bringing Unintended Benefits to Your Association

Some of my favorite stories to tell are the ones about positive, unintended consequences. You know, those unexpected benefits that come about after making a decision based on a different, well-thought-out reason.

When I talk to associations about making a change to their training fulfillment workflow, the business case usually revolves around re-allocating resources and using in-house staff more efficiently. These are tangible effects of outsourcing and are easily quantifiable. On a recent customer visit, however, I learned about an unintended benefit to their members and staff that was a direct result of their action.

The State Bar of Wisconsin recently made the decision to outsource their longstanding inventory warehouse and fulfillment service. The business case for their decision revolved around the cost savings and staff resource efficiencies as usual. But what they found once they no longer needed to store all of their materials in-house, was that they had a large portion of their building that was now freed up for another use. This unintended result led them to question how this space could be used to benefit their employees and members.

To date, The State Bar of Wisconsin has remodeled a portion of their now-unused warehouse and mailroom to serve two new roles: a multi-purpose conference room and an employee lounge. Dubbed “The War Room” and “The Peace Room”, respectively, these areas are available to staff to use throughout the day. In addition, the multi-purpose conference room is available for members to reserve for neutral-site meetings and to use as a location for videotaping interviews. The association continues to explore innovative ways to use the additional remaining warehouse space in the future.

“But Dan,” you may be saying, “my members are from all over the country. How does this story apply to me?” Good question! The goal of sharing this story with you is to spark a thought. To create one of those “I never thought about it in that way” moments.

As your association begins to make budgeting decisions for next year, keep in mind that not every decision’s impact is strictly dollars and cents. Perhaps your current space limitations are prohibiting your goal for next year of adding extra staff. Or, maybe you are looking for ways to move your staff to a smaller building and need to reduce your square footage needs. Including some of these unintended benefits into your planning process can provide you with the results you need to make your organization operate more effectively.

If you’ve outsourced your warehouse or fulfillment services in the past, what did your organization do with the extra space? Did you find any other unexpected benefits of moving those services out-of-house? Please share your experiences in the comments!

No Such Thing as Free Coffee

 

This month marks my 28th-year working at Omnipress. We have a board in the break room that tracks everyone’s tenure, and a co-worker was congratulating me as we filled our coffee mugs. “How many free cups of coffee do you think you’ve drunk in all that time?” she asked. Surprisingly, she does not work in accounting.

But her question got me thinking. First, I wondered “How many times has this coffee maker been cleaned in all that time?” But my second question was about associations. Associations have been around much longer than I have been working here. What are the things that they look back on and say, “Wow, I can’t believe we have done _____ for so long”?

Every morning for the past 28 years, a cup of coffee sounded pretty good in the moment. But when I look back, I start to think, “Hmmm, maybe I should have tried to fill my mug with water a little more from time to time.”

Today’s decisions shape tomorrow’s outcomes

I think associations are a lot like that, too. A new challenge enters their world and they make “in the moment” decisions, which then become “our process”. The process makes sense for that particular moment, but looking back, the picture can be a little different.

When you first start developing continuing ed. courses, for example, it probably made sense to have Judy from marketing handle the printing, packing and shipping of your program materials. But as your list of available titles grow, that “in the moment” decision starts to take up a larger amount of her time every week. Pretty soon, before you know it, you’ve got several staff members trying to solve complex issues like international shipping. Not exactly sticking to their job description which ties their duties to member development.

If you have staff members working on tasks that keep them from your organization’s main goal an hour or two every day, what else does that keep them from working on? Because, after a while, those hours begin to add up. Keeping this practice up over the long-term means that after 10-years you have sacrificed 5,000 hours of your staff’s time to a non-core duty. (And if you want to think about the very long-term, the tasks in this scenario would have accounted for 14,000-hours in my 28-years here at Omnipress!) There are only so many working hours in a year, which strategic initiatives are you not doing during this time?

The accounts payable and receivable in budgeting are important, don’t get me wrong. But to be an effective manager, you have to be aware of the opportunity cost of the projects you decide to pursue. In the earlier example, yes, you are saving money by not having a dedicated staff member or outside vendor handle the shipping of your course materials. But at what price? What is the cost of the time that Judy was not able to actively engage in her role of member outreach? How much of that new member revenue would have offset the cost of outsourcing the shipping of those materials in the first place? And importantly, is your association better positioned for the future with her printing address labels?

Decision time

So, as I look back at the beverage choices I’ve made over the years, I challenge you to do the same. What are the things that your organization is doing today that are the result of strategic thinking that builds upon your long-term plan? Which things are a result of “in the moment” decisions?

It’s not uncommon to realize that many of the things we do today are a result of decisions that were made “in the moment”, based on what felt right at the time. If you could look back 28-years, knowing what you know now, would you make the same decision? Or, instead, how many of your daily duties are a result of “in the moment thinking”, because, hey, the coffee is free?

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