Gen Z

NextGen: Ready Or Not, Here They Come!

June 30 @ 4:59 pm CDT

Are you a millennial? In my work as a generational researcher, I’ve found there are two ways people typically react when faced with this question. If they are a millennial, they tend to reluctantly admit it as if they are embarrassed. If they aren’t, they emphatically exclaim, “No, thank goodness!” Both negative responses fascinate me because they are indicative of society’s attitudes towards this demographic. So, what was your response? Whether you’re a millennial or not, your organization’s future depends upon younger generations, so it’s time to adapt! Millennials, or “Generation Y,” were born between 1981 and 1996. When they came of age, it was during an era of technological advancement and disruption. They are the largest generation in history (in addition to being the most researched), having been influenced by major economic and cultural events, including the 2008 financial crisis, the war on terror, and the dot com bubble – to name a few.  They grew up with unprecedented access to information – most of which was at their fingertips – and, as a result, are highly educated consumers and communicators. Their life experience is one that has been characterized by globalization, customization, and instant gratification. In short, Millennials are unique in many ways, and reaching them will require new and unique approaches that many associations have not yet mastered, let alone thought about. “Unique” is often synonymous with “misunderstood.” Millennials are often the most misunderstood and criticized generation in history because they have ushered in an era of broad-scale change and innovation. When you think about it, Generation Y is the personification of change.  Let’s face it – change is uncomfortable. It pushes us, stretches us, and as a society, we’ve never been good at welcoming new ideas from younger generations. As the saying goes, “Kids these days…” – you fill in the blank. It’s a sentiment we hear with each passing generation that usually ends with: “…they’re lazy!” “…they’re entitled!” “…they’re difficult to…

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It’s Time for Your Association to Leave the Past…in the Past!

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June 30 @ 4:59 pm CDT

I was going through family photos the other day and came across several pictures of my grandmother. She embodied glamour and never failed to attend social events (even baseball games!) without her pearls. I can remember her always looking put together and polished – the epitome of class. As I perused through the albums, I found more snapshots of her and my ancestors, all of whom were dressed in their finest ensembles for social outings. Times have changed, and today, my two daughters joke that I don’t truly understand what it means to be “casual.” Perhaps I’m more influenced by the previous generations of women in my family than I realized. Still, there is something I love about vintage finds and the era of glamour that my grandmother and her mother were raised in. For me, the past evokes a sense of nostalgia and curiosity about what it would be like to live during another time period.  I have an immense appreciation for trends. As a generational researcher and futurist, I am always looking at trends and how they impact societies’ attitudes and behaviors. It’s probably why I am also fascinated by fashion. Clothing provides a lens into what is happening at any given time, and I’ve found that people’s attire typically reflects current events. For example, the high fashion of the Gilded Age had its roots in both the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution. Society emerged from wartimes with a desire for consumption and luxury. Following WWI, clothes were designed to be less restrictive, formal, and more practical as gender roles shifted. Current events and fashion always went hand in hand. That being said, I’m not here to talk to you about the latest fashion movements! Trends play an essential role in our society, and your organization is no exception. It is vital that your association pay attention to trends because you are either ahead of the curve or behind it.  In my work as…

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Convincing NextGen Members to Binge on Your Organization

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June 30 @ 4:59 pm CDT

Take a moment to think about your favorite television show. What genre does it fall under? What is it about the show that keeps drawing you back for just one more episode? I’d like you to also consider how you watch the show. Perhaps you record it, or maybe you stream it through a virtual platform. Growing up, MTV was the thing to watch. Not only was it on 24/7, but it offered programming that aligned closely with my interests and was readily available for viewing, which kept me tuning in for more.  MTV came onto the scene in 1981, during a major social and cultural shift that would impact generations for decades to come. This channel was part of a much larger development: broadcast cable TV.  The launch of broadcast cable television in the early 1980s ushered in a new era of unprecedented customization and globalization. Suddenly, channels were tailored to a viewer’s interests, and network ratings dictated when and how often a show was aired. Live news coverage from across the world began to flood into the homes of anyone who owned a television set, exposing them to current events taking place on a global scale. It may sound unusual, but the dawn of cable television and your membership association share more in common than you may realize.  Research shows that brain development has evolved over the past several decades and it is no coincidence that television has played a role. Today’s younger generations are visual learners who have been conditioned to crave information that is easily accessible, on-demand, and instantaneous. I like to refer to it as an “edutainment” mentality. Your NextGen members want the same type of experience when it comes to their membership – one where opportunities and choices are readily available and at their fingertips. Over the course of my career, I’ve uncovered several misconceptions that pertain to membership organizations. One of the most shocking sentiments I’ve heard regularly is…

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To Make Gains, You Must Entertain!

June 30 @ 4:59 pm CDT

When we are in search of entertainment, much of it is right at our fingertips. Streaming services, on-demand programming, social media, and a laundry list of apps have made it easier than ever to achieve instant gratification in real-time. For many of you (including myself!), this hasn’t always been the case. You may have grown up with black and white television, where programming was limited by today’s standards. I arrived on the scene during the dawn of technicolor TV (MTV, anyone?) and the advent of remote controls and the worldwide web.   We also find ourselves in an era of customization where everything is moving faster and with more efficiency – and we can tailor it all to our liking. Technology has adapted to the changing needs of society to prepare for the future, and your organization isn’t different. Now is the time to plan ahead because a backward focus isn’t an option, we can only move forward.   Long before the pandemic, membership organizations were struggling with planning for the future and finding ways to connect with young professionals. There has been a major shift in the member engagement cycle, and continuing to utilize old membership tactics has triggered membership decline and disengagement.   It’s crucial for leaders like you to better understand the different values, traits, and membership demographics so you can accurately target young professionals and student members.   Membership, much like television, used to be a spectator sport. Historically, people would join organizations…and then sit back and wait for the board to engage them and entertain them. This no longer works. Similar to the changing trends in technology, younger generations of members expect to participate differently as members. They seek interactive experiences and are looking for opportunities to be more involved.  We have to understand that modern skillsets and values differ from those of previous generations. Instead of having one generation dominate your leadership, it’s time to transition to a variety of perspectives and collaborate…

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A Prescription for Your Mission

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June 30 @ 4:59 pm CDT

When you’re feeling unhealthy, oftentimes you will seek the advice of a physician or medical professional. You share your symptoms, receive a prognosis, and are given a prescription to remedy what is making you feel ill. This same process can be applied to your organization – and doesn’t require a trip to a doctor’s office!   How do you know if your organization is truly healthy?   To start your organizational health “checkup,” I recommend looking at your membership succession plan. If one doesn’t exist, now is the time to put one in place! An effective membership succession plan and a NextGen membership pipeline are integral to your organization’s survival.   I encourage you to think about where you would like to see your organization in five years (or even ten or twenty!). What services and experiences do you envision providing your members and how will you continue to engage younger generations?   We no longer live in an era where knowledge and wisdom are solely passed down from elders to young people.   Today, our society has more access to education, information, and technology. As a result, every generation now has a wealth of skill sets and experiences to share and absorb with one another. Never before has so much teaching and learning happened simultaneously, and it is important to identify whether that is taking place in your organization or not.  “Aging out” is a common condition that ultimately means younger generations of members are not being engaged and little to no membership succession planning has taken place. I have had firsthand experience with organizations that had to close their doors because they “aged out.” All too often, it is because they were unwilling to let go of traditions or accept and implement new ideas.   If you want a future for your organization, you must engage those who will carry you into the future. Regularly conducting temperature checks to gauge the average age of your members, board members, and overall community within your organization can help you identify how diverse your organization really is. A lack of diversity typically results in…

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How to Cultivate a Sense of Belonging

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June 30 @ 4:59 pm CDT

Early in my career, I was recruited to sit on a board of directors and asked to spearhead a priority initiative for the association. I was both humbled and ecstatic to take on such an influential role. Imagine my disappointment when I attended the first meeting and the initiative was tabled. During the next several meetings, I was informed the initiative would continue to be delayed. Suddenly, I felt like I was on the outside looking in. I felt like I didn’t belong. At some point, we all experience the feeling that we don’t belong. It’s a feeling we can all relate to, yet many organizations struggle to foster a sense of belonging among their members and employees. Belonging by definition means two things: ownership and a secure relationship: We feel ownership when we actively contribute and share our ideas and opinions; and We feel safe and secure when we’re listened to, respected, and encouraged. In the late 1990s, belonging began to dissipate. From workplaces to churches, service clubs to country clubs, associations, and non-profits, the same trend was observed: Young people were less likely to join/stay/engage/renew. In other words, young people were less likely to feel like they belonged. Why the sudden shift? And why have so many organizations struggled to re-engage young people? Society is hyper-aware and focused on inclusion right now, but simply including people is not enough.  I’ve spent a lot of time researching this trend in an effort to find the answers. The answer is quite complex, but here’s the condensed version: The shift in belonging is the direct result of significant social change. Young people are wary of forging connections and emotional ties. They seek positivity, security, and respect. They are careful about who and what they trust. Young people are less willing to wait for organizations to create a place for them to belong, and more likely to hold organizations accountable for their actions (or inaction). For far too…

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Why They Quit: How To Retain Young Talent

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June 30 @ 4:59 pm CDT

As vaccines are being distributed, there is hope the worst of the pandemic is nearing an end. But if research is any indication, another kind of crisis may just be heating up. As SHRM defines it, a “turnover tsunami” is brewing, with more than half of employees surveyed planning to look for a new job this year. Employers were experiencing high rates of turnover prior to the pandemic. In fact, voluntary turnover had been steadily rising since 2010, and was cited as a chief global concern by both the UN and World Economic Forum. When the pandemic hit, quit rates reached their lowest level in nine years – and now they’re bouncing back. Just this week, I’ve heard from three executives lamenting the loss of young talent. The fact remains that professionals under the age of 39 account for more than half of all voluntary separations. Why? Increased employee turnover is the outcome of a shift in workforce needs and values, and it’s a shift that is here to stay. This is a topic I’ve researched a great detail and the answer is quite complex. In brief, here are two reasons why young professionals are three times more likely than other generations to quit: Inclusion We’re observing an ever-widening gap between twentieth century managed organizations and twenty-first century raised workers. Young professionals don’t understand the management processes and hierarchies common throughout the past century. These generations have only known a world powered by innovation, collaboration, globalization, instant gratification, knowledge, acceptance, and access. They struggle to comprehend why decisions can’t be made on the fly, why they can’t have a seat at the decision-making table, and why it’s always been done ‘that way.’ Stability Millennials came of age during the Great Recession-the worst economic decline our country had experienced in 70 years. Gen Z has come of age during the most disruptive         decade in history. These experiences have shaped the career trajectories of young professionals in more…

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impact of 2020

The Impact of 2020 on Gen Z

June 30 @ 4:59 pm CDT

Sarah Sladek authored this article for the DJS Direct Selling Journal. Pandemic. Racial tension. Riots. Fires. Political conflict. Yes, 2020 was unprecedented, and a defining, historic moment. It’s times like this that influence the behaviors, values, and attitudes of younger generations. No one could have predicted a year like 2020, yet there are clues into what the future will bring based on the events of the past year, as well as the changes of the past several years. It can easily be argued that… Read the complete article here.

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Generations

Should Your Association Consider a Gen Z Membership Tier?

June 30 @ 4:59 pm CDT

Sarah Sladek was interviewed for this article by Associations Now. With a recession, a pandemic, and a tough job market, some associations are looking to target Generation Z with new member offerings. It can work if you prioritize their engagement, one expert says. We’re starting to get past the point where millennials are at the center of the discussion around younger members. The focus is shifting to Gen Z—but how can you convince people born after 1996 to join your organization? Is a new membership tier worth discussing? Read the complete article here.

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image of the generation gap

Why the Generational Topic is More Controversial — and More Relevant — Than Ever

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June 30 @ 4:59 pm CDT

By Sarah Sladek  There’s been considerable debate on the topic of generations. In 2019, the ‘OK, Boomer’ campaign reached a fever pitch globally. The phenomenon started when an unidentified Boomer man posted a rant on TikTok against young people. Thousands of teens and 20-somethings on TikTok responded, posting videos and memes and even creating ‘Ok, Boomer’ merchandise. The campaign has been referred to as a “mass retaliation” by Gen Z to the political, economic, and environmental choices made by decision-makers which have negatively impacted this generation’s quality of life. On the other end of the spectrum, a guest author said in an Association Chat interview last month that a person’s generation “has no relevance” to how a person behaves or what influences them. He goes so far as to say the concept of generational data-mining is “broken” and “nuts”. It’s ironic, isn’t it? Gen Zs worldwide organized a campaign as a direct result of their shared, negative political, economic, and environmental experiences at the same time an author proclaims there is no relevance to shared generational experiences. What can we learn from these conflicting views? There are beneficial insights to glean from each. In his Association Chat interview, the author urged us to consider the values that drive behavior and to avoid making stereotypes, and I wholeheartedly agree. I don’t agree with his dismissal of generational research, but I do agree organizations need to avoid jumping to conclusions and making broad generalizations. Not every Millennial likes avocado toast, and it’s never a good idea to shift your entire marketing budget to Snapchat simply because you assume that’s where young people find their information and want to hear from your organization. Doing the research, seeking to really understand your audience and the unique drivers and values that exist within your organization is absolutely imperative. And as in-your-face the Ok Boomer campaign might be, it’s important we look beyond the sarcasm to the cause driving the campaign. It’s…

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