Each year, Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers puts together a fascinating compilation of Internet trends. She released this year’s report last week and it contains some important insights for associations and their learning efforts.
Perhaps the loudest message from Meeker’s report is that global digital change is real and it’s causing significant changes in search, e-retail, media, and transportation. Her core message? The times they are a changin’. What’s worked in the past won’t necessarily work in the future.
For example, the primary drivers for global growth over the past two decades are in decline.
But where there is change there is also opportunity! More specifically, there is opportunity for companies and organizations that are willing to think innovatively, particularly when it comes to leveraging the networked capabilities of the Web.
Digging further into the details from Meeker’s report, three specific areas of opportunities emerge that intersect with the associations market: 1) Millennials, 2) Media and Personalization, and 3) Communication and Messaging.
In this first part of our series, I want to examine the opportunities afforded associations by the millennial population.
For starters, Meeker points out that millennials – those born between 1981-1996 – show a unique set of customer preferences and values when compared to previous generations. In particular, millennials are more digitally inclined than previous generations. Technology devices and Web applications are an integral part of their professional and social environments. In addition, they have emerged into adulthood during an era of rapidly evolving globalization, one in which global networks and communication are now the norm. Finally, these millennials tend to have a more fluid sense of work and life, and are particularly interested in self-development beyond the workplace – even though the personal development may be related to some professional goal. This generation has learned that there is free information and training for almost everything.
This information is even more notable when we remember that millennials are the largest generation by population in the U.S. For associations, this group represents the biggest opportunity for new membership and revenue growth.
Three Important Questions to Ask About Association Learning
Given this context, here are three important questions associations should be asking with regards to millennials:
1. What are you doing to help millennials in their search for strategic, personal growth? Traditionally, association workshops, webinars, and certification programs have been created as one-size-fits-all opportunities driven by the needs of each association and the industry it represents. This may have been a reasonable approach to association learning for earlier generations, but it assumes that everyone needs and wants the same thing. Millennials, however, do not generally conform to that thinking. While they are interested in advancement within their current professions, they are also keenly interested in community service, non-professional applications of domain expertise, and global exchange opportunities. Associations must broaden the packaging and marketing of their services if they want to be successful appealing to this generation.
2. How are you creating and delivering learning opportunities so they can be personalized by millennials? Millennials are children of YouTube, Wikipedia, blogs, and social networks. There are few topics for which they cannot stitch together quickly a playlist of videos and websites – for free. They are accustomed to the freedom and intense personalization of media types and information styles, and they can achieve by creating their own learning paths. Unfortunately, this runs counter to the constrained, mostly linear learning content offered by associations. Webinars, which are digital extensions of workshop lectures with slides, hold little appeal for this generation. Instead, associations need to be thinking about flexible, asynchronous e-learning offerings delivered in smaller chunks and that can be customized by members.
3. How are you modifying your services and NDR offerings to incorporate millennial preferences for greater socialization and different communication styles? Millennials are more persuaded by web-based recommendations than previous generations. They’re also more likely to leverage existing social networks for needed information, and they’re driving the explosion of messaging apps and new communication technologies. Associations need to consider these tendencies and find ways to adapt their services and communication channels accordingly. Specifically, associations should think about how to modify current education programs to address connected learning strategies.
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss evolving trends in video and other media, and how associations can take advantage of these.