By Rick Rutherford
Industry Resource Director, YourMembership
Gibson has developed a new technology for their electric guitars. It is a big, blocky looking, battery-powered robot tuner that tunes your guitar in seconds. Seriously?
As a self-admitted old school kind of guy this just kind of rubs me the wrong way. Since I work for a technology company, I probably should embrace this great advancement that will benefit all guitar players, especially those who don’t know how to tune their instrument. But I don’t.
It’s an obstacle to what I think is one of the most important tenants every player should follow – know thy instrument. In fact, knowing how to tune your guitar is the most important thing you should learn when you start playing. It helps you connect with your instrument and also helps you develop your (musical) ear.
Associations have a similar obstacle when looking at the technology they use in their day-to-day business. Tools like member management systems, online job boards, learning management systems and online communities should help free you and your association’s staff from much of the tedious administrative work you are often consumed with, so you can do something very similar to the aforementioned guitar player – make real connections with your members and prospects by analyzing the data this amazing technology collects and putting it to work to help determine their current and future needs.
But is that happening? Are associations getting out of the weeds and using the technology available to them to become more strategic and less tactical? There is growing evidence that they need to be – much sooner than later.
While technology helps connect people in ways previously only dreamed of, there is also a growing deficit of personal interaction. We see this especially in young people who have gone from having actual face-to-face conversations to preferring to text or post their “conversations” on Facebook or Twitter. Relationships built on emoticons and 144 characters or less.
Is this really such a big deal? Well, let’s pause a moment and take a look at the current job market for a little insight. In a report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5 million job openings on the last business day of March, holding steady with February. The top reason for these unfilled positions remains lack of qualified candidates.
According to a survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College, more than 60% of employers state that many job applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills”. A survey by staffing company Addeco came away with similar results, with 44% of respondents reporting that the area with the biggest gap was soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration. Only 22% acknowledged a lack of technical skills as the major pain point.
One area appearing to make a difference for graduates is internships. In a Harris Interactive survey of more than 2,000 college students and 1,000 hiring managers, more than 80% of employers responded that they want the new grads they hire to have completed a formal internship. In contrast, only 8% of students found interning in a field related to their major as something they would commit time to doing.
However, among students who don’t intern, only 44% consider themselves ready for the workplace. That belief increased to 58% for students with unpaid internships; and for students who completed paid internships, that number significantly increased to 70%. And as one might expect, the Harris survey uncovered a huge gap between students’ perceptions of their abilities and hiring managers’ perceptions of those same skills.
This creates a number of interesting opportunities for associations willing to step up to the plate. Who better to provide professional development and mentoring to young people sorely in need of that assistance? Our experience with the association career centers tells us that associations often provide the most qualified candidates for open positions in the industries and professions they represent. The growth of those career centers brings that point home.
We have shared how social media giant LinkedIn is actively working on ways to help young people prepare for the jobs they seek. The question I would ask is who better than associations to more effectively fulfill those learning opportunities? And by doing so create the member loyalty and relevance that can help sustain their organizations.
The questions remains, is our technology freeing us to be more in tune with our members and future prospects? Making those connections has never been more important.
As YourMembership’s Industry Resource Director, Rick guides YM’s thought leadership initiatives, directing the company’s Resource Center, weekly blog and monthly webinar series, as well as coordinates YM’s Industry Alliance Program.
Rick has worked in the association industry for more than 29 years, serving as a vendor partner, staff member, and co-founder of a technology company focused on associations. Rick previously served as the Communications Director for the Texas Society of Association Executives, where he received a Gold Circle Award from ASAE.
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