It’s not unusual to hear about staff members who’ve worked at the same association for 15, 20, or even 30 years. Eventually, however, even associations that employ long-time staffers must hire new members of the team. As veteran staff members leave, the association loses their institutional memory, their collection of membership facts, and the relationships they’ve cultivated for years. Newly hired staffers, on the other hand, often arrive with few association connections, facing a steep learning curve.
The sooner newly hired employees understand the association and its members, the sooner you will have the most effective staff members. How can you help your new employees learn as much as they can about the association, the industry you serve, and the members who rely on you?
1. Share recent communications
Make sure your new employees have access to publications from the past several years, especially if they highlight key members or companies. These publications can help identify leaders, award winners, industry leaders, speakers, and others who guide and propel the association.
2. Schedule interviews with veteran staffers
Use your veteran staff members to help get new staffers up to speed. Schedule time for new staffers to chat with veterans about programs, members, and how things have changed over time. Veterans can help new staffers avoid pitfalls and capitalize on opportunities.
3. Conduct site visits
Arrange for new hires to visit member workplaces. This will allow the new hires to get a feel for the atmosphere and the type of work your members do. Medical associations, for example, will often schedule time for new staffers to shadow a medical professional in a clinical setting – always with patient consent. Construction companies might host association staff members in the office or at their job sites. These visits are fun for the staffers and allow your members to show off the work they do.
4. Answer member calls or emails
You might not have a huge call center, but someone on your staff responds to member questions. Answering member questions by phone or email is a great way for anyone on your staff to understand why your members contact your association. Some association executive directors and CEOs regularly schedule time to answer member queries to stay connected to member concerns. This technique can help your new hires “meet” members and start to understand their concerns.
5. Add social elements to committee meetings
You always have an agenda for committee meetings. Try including a social element in those meetings to allow everyone to strengthen relationships. For in-person meetings, you might add an extra 30 meetings dedicated to networking. For virtual meetings, try using polls, quizzes, or other competitions to help committee members interact.
6. Use your communications to introduce new staff members
When you hire new employees, introduce them in your regular communication channels. Be creative in your approach. Include their professional credentials, certainly, but think about adding touches that reflect their interests and personality. Be visual with photos or videos about the new hire. And encourage members to contact new hires directly to introduce themselves.
Getting to know members helps build strong relationships and is fundamental to effective association management. It fosters trust and open communication, enabling association professionals to better understand the needs, concerns, and aspirations of their members. By actively engaging with members, association managers can tailor their services, events, and initiatives to align more closely with the industry's demands, ultimately enhancing member satisfaction and retention.
Additionally, forging personal connections within the industry can lead to valuable collaborations and partnerships. New association staff who take the time to get to know their members on a deeper level can identify opportunities for joint ventures, knowledge sharing, and mutually beneficial projects. These collaborations can not only benefit individual members but also bolster the association's reputation and influence within the industry.
Emma is the Marketing Manager at Rhythm. When she's not thinking about all things content-related, you can find her traveling or shooting 35 mm film.