Get Your Training Courses Ready for Generation Z

For the past several years, a common theme around the strategy planning table is how to attract and retain younger members. With each passing year, this conversation is less about the long sought-after Millennials, however. The oldest of this generation is now in their mid-30’s. Many associations now have their sights set on the up-and-comers known as Generation Z. And what everyone is starting to realize is how different they appear to be from their predecessors.

Who is Generation Z?

Although there are some reported variances in the dates that define Generation Z, the general consensus is they were born between the mid-to-late 1990’s (roughly 1995) through the 2000’s (roughly 2010).

The eldest are in the process of graduating college and hitting the workforce, while the youngest are busy creating Google presentations, blogging and creating iMovies as part of their elementary school curriculum.

They are a very multi-cultural generation that is even larger than Boomers and Millennials. Today they represent over 25% of the U.S. population. And in just 5 years, they will represent approximately 20% of the workforce.

And, their overall outlook on life—their ambitions, goals, and the way they plan to achieve them—is the product of events and innovations that have completely changed even the world that Millennials knew. This is (potentially) a very different generation.

Turmoil and Technology Has Made Them Pragmatic, Entrepreneurial

A Non-Standard Path to Success

Generation Z felt the fallout from the Great Recession and has never known a world without terrorism. Unlike the so-called “entitled” Millennials, they understand that success isn’t guaranteed. They are prepared to work for it, and to make it their own.

  • They actively seek out opportunities to learn, develop and grow
  • They aren’t necessarily set on taking a linear path to success
  • They have a greater entrepreneurial drive than their predecessors, and have grown up in a world where they’ve seen (via social media) even their youngest peers have success with self-derived ventures
  • They are also more financially conservative than their predecessors

Beyond Tech Savvy

For Millennials, technology was very much present in their lives, but as a parallel activity, something to “play with” in their free time. Contrast this with Generation Z, where technology is fully integrated into everything they do. It has changed the model for how they interact with the world around them, how they learn and, most importantly, how they process information.

  • Where Millennials are the generation that shares content, Gen Z is the generation that creates it
  • In the classroom, a Gen Z student uses multiple platforms (including both print and digital) simultaneously to learn and reinforce a single concept, and often has the opportunity to choose how they want to learn
  • Thanks to DVRs, media streaming and 24/7 connectivity anywhere, the concept of appointment-based anything is fading fast

Social Media Maturity

For Gen Z, social media is no longer a new fad. It’s an established reality. And while it is the basis of a majority of their social connections, Gen Z is much more “mature” in their use of it than Millennials are.

  • Social connections matter even more to Gen Z more than to Millennials. They want to be culturally connected, and have a tremendous fear of missing out (a.k.a. “FOMO”)
  • At the same time, they are more conscientious of social media privacy, and tend to be drawn to more private forms of social interaction such as Snapchat, Secret and Whisper

How Gen Z Might Shape Your Association’s Educational Programs

Today many associations grapple with how to remain relevant at a time when access to free knowledge is just a click away. But there’s good news. Gen Z will find tremendous value in the growth opportunities that associations provide by increasing knowledge and facilitating connections. As long as you can adapt to their needs and meet them on their terms.

Here are 5 things to consider in your next program development and planning session:
1. Is there an opportunity to re-define the classroom setting, using unique and non-traditional locations as a means to help apply learning?

2. Is there an opportunity to develop sessions that allow attendees to co-create content as a means to facilitate learning and professional development?

3. How might you combine instructor-led training and self-guided learning as part of a single learning strategy (versus an either-or approach)?

4. How can you more effectively tie print and digital materials together in a complementary way? For instance, does it make sense to use print to introduce a complex topic, with digital tools such as video, interactive platforms, virtual and 4D technology to facilitate hands-on application of the concept?

5. In looking at your printed materials, how might you re-develop and re-design them to provide shorter pieces of content with more visual cues that support the text?

Although Millennials are still extremely relevant to associations, it won’t be long before all eyes are on Generation Z. How accurately can we predict future preferences based this current profile of a very young generation? It’s too soon to tell for sure. What is certain, however, is that, just as with Millennials, it won’t be long before we’re reevaluating and reconsidering today’s best practices. And it’s never too early to start planning ahead.

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!

How One Association Is Recruiting Younger Members

In our 2018 State of the Conference Industry report, we asked association professionals if their organizations have developed strategies to meet the needs of Millennials and Generation Z. Only 14% of the respondents indicated that they have a plan in place to attract, engage and retain Millennials. Even fewer (9%) indicated they have a plan for Gen Z. As Millennials take the workforce by storm, associations are seeing their member demographics shift. This means that successfully connecting with these younger members is crucial to an association’s success.

Not sure where to start recruiting younger members? We spoke with Nicole Lourette, Event Coordinator for The Society for Protective Coatings (SSPC) to learn more about the steps they’re currently taking to attract younger talent to their industry and the lessons they’re learning along the way.

About SSPC

SSPC is a non-profit association that provides information such as coating selection, environmental regulations and health and safety concerns that affect the protective coatings industry. The association also provides training and certification for both individuals and corporate entities.

Historically, SSPC’s membership consisted of an older demographic, with most members being men between 40 and 60 years old. But in recent years, that appears to be changing. According to Nicole, “[There has been a] noticeable change in conference this year; we have seen an uptick in Millennial attendees in the past 2-3 years, but this past year, 20-30% of the conference were young professionals under the age of 40.”

The Start of a New Strategy

Nicole told us that their plan to more strategically target a younger member group began when they started seeing changes in their own staff—recently, SSPC has hired more young individuals. They then realized that the industry professionals they serve have hiring needs, too: “SSPC is there to help build an interest in careers in the industry.” With more and more Millennials—and Gen Z coming up soon after—SSPC realized that catering to the needs of younger members will help generate more interest for the industry. They also acknowledged that things hadn’t changed much in the past few years. As Nicole noted, “[We were hosting] the same event, offering the same content and giving members the same resources and opportunities.” They decided it was time to change it up.

About a year ago, SSPC began an initiative to formalize a plan for younger members. They created task forces for different projects with a mixture of older and younger staff members. Nicole explained that they started by listening. They polled veteran industry members, university and trade school partners and students to learn what they needed as it compares to what SSPC currently offers. They also asked their young staff members what motivated them to attend an event or become a member of an organization or service, from AAA to Amazon Prime.

Plan in Action

Since beginning the initiative, SSPC has activated its first programs for recruiting younger members. They’ve begun an outreach program with high schools, trade schools and universities to educate students about the industry and its opportunities and have started scholarship programs for students. A new mentorship program with industry veterans is underway; the list of mentors and the curriculum for the program was recently finalized.

Training isn’t the only thing SSPC is changing, though. Nicole told us that they’re also making changes to their annual conference to keep it fresh and new, including more interactivity and technology. They recently experimented with a young professionals happy hour event, which yielded positive feedback. More events like this will make their way into the annual conference and outside of it to keep Millennials and Generation Z engaged and interested.

Nicole explained that veteran members of the association have responded positively to the changes, as well: “[They’ve said the] changes have been refreshing, but we do have to find a balance. They have a need for consistency, a mix of doing the tried-and-true with the new.”

Words of Wisdom for Recruiting Younger Members

We asked Nicole for any words of wisdom she could share with fellow association professionals who are looking to expand their reach to Millennials and Generation Z. Nicole expressed the importance of listening to the younger generation. “Let them tell you what they want and work with it to retain them.” She also suggested looking at what other mainstream (non-association) organizations are doing to get ideas.

“Keep an open mind and try things, even if you’re not sure what the success rate will be.” However, not everything can be done right away. Her advice was to take one thing at a time and try to keep a balance between staff and member needs.

Ultimately, associations should be thinking about their plans to address the needs of Millennial and Gen Z members as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but make sure you’re listening to your new and existing members. Veteran members will likely appreciate some fresh ideas, too! Don’t get stuck delivering the same content or value year over year. Planning for younger members can help you bring beneficial change to your association and keep your new (and old) members happy.

Best of the Blog 2016: Using Conference Content Effectively

If there is one topic you can expect to learn about by reading the Omnipress blog, it’s how important content is to a successful conference. Articles this year focused on effectively using conference content before, during and after your event. Whether you are looking for information on planning for a future conference—or a future generation—these seven articles will point you in the right direction to offer the most worthwhile materials to your attendees.

 


Millennials & Print: Voice of an Association Millennial

All the data we’ve seen paints a nice high-level synopsis of how and when Millennials want their educational content; but, if a Millennial were to read the results, could they reaffirm our findings? To answer that question, we contacted a Millennial that is very active in the association industry.

 

Read her interview


iStock_000061878734_SmallIs Your Annual Conference Ready for Generation Z?

Just when you thought you had figured out Millennials, here comes Gen Z! Gen Z (children born from the mid-90s through 2010) will soon begin joining the workforce. Associations that provide education and networking will be of tremendous value to this generation—as long as you can adapt to their needs and meet them on their terms.

 

Learn about Gen Z


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Use content in new ways

 


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Test your USB knowledge

 


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Are you constantly looking for ways to provide more value at your next conference? Here are 3 basic ways to ensure you’re engaging your attendees.

 

Get inspired

 


 

Is Your Annual Conference Ready for Generation Z?

Generation Z? What Happened to the Millennials? Those game-changing Gen Y youth who have been the subject of so much research and speculation have now hit the ripe old age of 30-ish. They have begun to settle into careers and families, and although they are the first true digital natives, they have proven to be a lesser disruptor than initially anticipated. (Case in point: read the Millennials and Print whitepaper.) That torch has been passed along to the next generation—Generation Z.

Who is Generation Z?

Although there are some reported variances in the dates that define Generation Z (also known in some circles as iGen—thank you, Steve Jobs), generally they are the children of Gen Xers—born between the mid-to-late 1990’s (roughly 1995) through the 2000’s (roughly 2010).

The eldest (around 20) are soon to be graduating college and hitting the workforce, while the youngest (around 6) are busy creating Google presentations, blogging and documenting prairie burns via iMovie as part of their first grade curriculum.

They are the largest generation—larger than the Boomers and larger than the Millennials. Today they represent over 25% of the U.S. population. And, in just 5 years, they will represent approximately 20% of the workforce.

They are also the most multi-cultural generation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there has been a 50% increase in the multi-racial youth population since 2000.

They are the product of events and innovations that have completely changed even the world that Millennials knew. This is (potentially) a very different generation.

A Pragmatic, Entrepreneurial, Connected Group Defined by Turmoil and Technology

Generation Z has never known a world without terrorism. They witnessed the fallout from the Great Recession. Unlike the so-called “entitled” Millennials, they understand that success isn’t guaranteed. They are prepared to work for it and to make it their own.

  • They are looking for stability and growth in their careers and actively seek out opportunities to learn, develop and grow.
  • Because their lives were terribly disrupted early on, they aren’t necessarily set on taking a linear path to success.
  • They have a greater entrepreneurial drive than their predecessors, and have grown up in a world where they’ve seen (via social media) even their youngest peers have success with self-derived ventures.
  • They are also more financially conservative than their predecessors.

Beyond Tech Savvy

While Millennials were considered to be the first digital natives, Gen Z are mobile-natives. Technology isn’t just present in their lives, it is fully integrated into everything they do. It has changed the model for how they interact with the world around them, how they learn and, most importantly, how they process information.

  • Where Gen Y is the generation that shares content, Gen Z is the generation that creates it.
  • In the classroom, a Gen Z student uses multiple platforms (including both print and digital) simultaneously to learn and reinforce a single concept and often has the opportunity to choose how they want to learn.
  • Thanks to DVRs, media streaming and 24/7 connectivity anywhere, the concept of appointment-based anything is fading fast.
  • While it appears that their attention spans are getting shorter, early research suggests it may be reflection of the fact that they have developed the ability to process more information at faster speeds.

Social Media Maturity

For Gen Z, social media is no longer a new fad. It’s an established reality. And while it is the basis of a majority of their social connections, Gen Z is much more “mature” in their use of it than Millennials are.

  • Social connections matter even more to Gen Z than to Millennials. They want to be culturally connected and have a tremendous fear of missing out.
  • At the same time, they are more conscientious of social media privacy and tend to be drawn to more private forms of social interaction such as Snapchat, Secret and Whisper.

How Gen Z Might Shape Your Association’s Conference

Today, many associations grapple with how to remain relevant at a time when access to free knowledge is just a click away. But there’s good news. Gen Z will find tremendous value in the growth opportunities that associations provide by increasing knowledge and facilitating connections… as long as you can adapt to their needs and meet them on their terms.

Here are 5 things to consider in your next conference strategy session:

  1. Would it make sense to unbundle your conference or develop a completely unorthodox structure to allow attendees to pick and choose (and pay for) the sessions, content and formats that they feel are most valuable and useful?
  1. Is there an opportunity to develop sessions that allow attendees to co-create content at the conference (rather than having all content pre-developed and pre-packaged ahead of time) as a means to facilitate learning and professional development? Could you use your conference app to help support this?
  1. Is there an opportunity to offer content in more formats including video, interactive platforms, virtual and 4D technology? Could you break it down into shorter segments and allow attendees to perform a self-directed deeper dive into the content as appropriate? With this, should you offer even more control and preference settings for that content?
  1. How can you more effectively tie print and online together in a complementary way, using a printed piece to facilitate deeper interaction with content online? In looking at your printed materials, how might you re-develop and re-design them to provide shorter pieces of content with more visual cues that support the text?
  1. How could your association both acknowledge the importance of connectivity while recognizing the need to purposefully disconnect? Today, session breaks are for networking, but they are also a time when attendees actively “plug back in.” As technology continues to become more tightly integrated with even the most basic daily activities, there could be a creative and innovative opportunity to provide a “digital break”—a chance for attendees to truly unplug, detox from their technology and connect with peers the old fashioned way. Within the next five years, this could very well be a novelty!

Although Millennials are still extremely relevant to associations, and soon will make up a large majority of the workforce, it won’t be long before all eyes are on Generation Z. How accurately can we predict future preferences based on this current profile of a very young generation? It’s too soon to tell for sure. What is certain, however, is that, just as with Millennials, it won’t be long before we’re reevaluating and reconsidering today’s best practices. It’s never too early to start planning ahead.

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