If your company’s absentee rate is sky high or you’re replacing departing workers on a regular basis, you might be concerned about employee engagement. You might try surveys, scorecards, or informal chats to get a handle on and change the level of dissatisfaction in your company. After all, research shows us that engaged employees are happier, less likely to resign, and more productive. Even if you can’t measure it formally, you can feel the tension in an unengaged workplace.
Similarly, you might track the engagement rate for your social media content. It’s smart to know what content elicits the greatest response. Do your targeted audiences respond to videos or blogs with greater enthusiasm? Does one topic resonate more than another? If you know what content generates the most shares, likes, comments, and conversions, you can devise campaigns to present the most attractive messages to your best audiences in the format they prefer.
Likewise, when associations see membership starting to decline or are considering eliminating programs, they start thinking about member engagement. They start wondering if their membership is engaged and how much engagement is enough engagement. If they start to research the question, they find no shortage of opinions. Discussions about member engagement are everywhere in the association world.
But what are we really talking about? Is member engagement merely something we can quantify, measure and use as a rationale for management decisions? Is it an effort to track lifetime value so we’ll know where to spend our resources? Or is it a way to uncover the value the association provides to its members?
Remember why we started associations in the first place. People discovered that by working together they could accomplish more than they could as individuals. They shared professional interests and challenges, and by uniting, could tackle obstacles faced by the entire profession. The value they derived from working together was clear. Members supported the association because the association’s work was important to everyone.
We think that’s the clarion call for member engagement. What keeps members engaged is the value they derive from concentrating their combined efforts to solve common problems. Everything else is fluff.
Are you losing members? It’s likely that the association is not providing what its members need.
We challenge you to test the theory. Ask your members what keeps them renewing their memberships year after year. Or ask lapsed members what kept them from renewing the last time around. You might find that the answer is some calculus of what they pay in relation to what they receive. In other words, the ratio of cost and value.
As an association executive, you need to know what your members need. Some of their needs can be met individually. Others, however, require a larger response, and that’s where your work as an association becomes valuable.
If your members need a printed directory to stay connected, then you should provide a printed directory. If they need a certification program to ensure high-level professional skills, you should provide a certification program. If influencing legislation is important, your advocacy efforts should be targeted there. The association’s work should focus on the things it takes an entire profession to solve.
On the other hand, counting the number of times a member attends a conference or buys a product, or volunteers their time will not necessarily show you how to engage your members. Take a hard look at anyone who says they have a plan to measure engagement that works for everyone. What attracts your members and keeps them loyal to your organization is specific to their situations and is rooted in how much your work improves their professional lives.
We think associations that hone in on what their members need today and plan for what the future might bring will be successful, whether or not they measure member engagement. Measuring engagement is a tool, not the answer to the question.
Associations must have a reason to exist outside of providing staff jobs and handing out awards. The good work they do should mirror the objectives of the profession they serve and meet the needs of its professionals. Today’s world is competitive and working together as an association may be one of the best ways to stay profitable and relevant.
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.