The people you need to attract as both members and employees—and the people your industry will need to engage if it is to continue to thrive—are more diverse than ever across every demographic category. At the same time, how people connect and support each other is also shifting. The drivers of change below explore how these shifts will affect the workforce and association membership in the years ahead.
Most of the world’s societies are aging, with the shares of elderly poised to rise steeply in both the advanced economies and most emerging economies. This could reshape political, financial, and social priorities as countries grapple with issues related to aging populations, such as rising dependency ratios, retirement and the workforce, and costs of caring for older citizens. These issues will play out for associations in areas such as workforce and benefits.
In many countries, changing workplace needs, women’s educational advances, and the reduction of discrimination could enable women to dominate more professions. Associations have a unique and important role to play in promoting women in the workplace and making their presence visible. Gender equity discussions are important considerations in policy decisions and external communication.
Empowering the New Workforce
New structures are emerging to support workers' rights and protections in the face of economic change. Workers are confronting challenges from two directions: deep structural changes—automation, the gig economy, and broader economic trends—that are shifting the balance of power in favor of employers, and the decline of unions and other traditional protections. Now, driven by innovative startups, a handful of political initiatives, and workers themselves, new solutions are emerging—including from associations, which can both contribute to and benefit from this movement.
Immigration has become the central driver of American population growth—and will reshape not only demographics but also values and attitudes in the decades ahead. For associations, this will result in a more diverse membership with new ideas, expectations, and needs.
The Next-Gen Professionals
Millennials are now the largest generational cohort in the workforce, and generation Z is right behind them. These next-gen professionals are the future of associations and, contrary to some conventional wisdom, they are willing to both join and stay with organizations that meet their career development needs. Organizations will need to provide the kinds of training, mentoring, content, and other services that next-gen professionals value most, encouraging engagement that leads to loyalty.
Social media, telecommuting, digital entertainment, and shifting social norms are reshaping patterns of socializing, both online and in person. A growing percentage of social interaction is now digitally mediated. Work life and social life are increasingly occurring in the context of online social tribes and communities. The need to change one’s physical location to socialize and work with others is declining.
Cultural, demographic, and technological changes are altering volunteer expectations and experiences in an increasingly dynamic and digital organizational environment. Associations and nonprofits are experimenting with more flexible roles and structures to support collaboration and contribution.