Getting strategic planning right is challenging in the best of times. This season of disruption adds additional complexity and brings significant shifts in perspective that are important to recognize as associations prepare for the years ahead.
I’ve been advising .orgSource clients to integrate strategy across organizational activities since long before the pandemic. If I ever doubted that approach—last year would have convinced me that technology, resources, and culture are equally important in the planning process. And, when the board are visionaries and staff executes, there is flexibility and the opportunity to make adjustments over time.
An integrated plan is buoyant. It stays in step with change, uses data to make decisions, and assigns specific responsibilities for oversight. These qualities allow you to float on the waves instead of being towed under by changing circumstances.
In addition to being a 360-degree process, effective planning should reflect the current social and economic drivers. Although the pandemic year made technology the hero of the day, the human side of business and work have also come into sharper focus. Organizations across the marketplace are demonstrating an increasing willingness to consider values, ethics, and culture as carefully as ROI and their bottom lines.
Filtering goals through the lens of these overarching market trends can add purpose and depth to new initiatives. Current events and ideas empower strategy by putting it in sync with influences that are shaping the marketplace today.
Younger generations are increasing the pressure on companies to be more than providers of popular products and services. They expect both their employers and their preferred businesses to be stewards to their communities and the planet.
A 2021 Deloitte survey reveals that 44% of millennials and 49% of Gen Xers choose their work based on personal ethics. Climate change and protecting the environment are high priorities, and younger workers believe in the power of their commitment to create change.
New employees want to take a hands-on approach. They are looking to integrate earth-friendly ideas and activities like green technology, localization, recycling, clean emissions, and volunteerism into their daily work life. Organizations that include social purpose in their strategy will discover a path to recruiting enthusiastic new talent at every level.
In addition to the expectation that business will reach out to the community, members and employees also want internal transparency. A culture that condones hidden agendas and secretive initiatives is out of step with the times.
Take your members on the journey with you. Disseminate your plan broadly and provide insight into how the committee or the board arrived at the final goals and objectives. Letting your constituents be insiders builds affiliation. Share financial data, meeting minutes, and other operational information, whenever possible.
People want to see what you are doing, but they also want you to prove why it matters. The pandemic has been an object lesson in the value of accurate information and scientific truth. Up-to-date easily accessible data is the key to demonstrating your worth. Numbers and statistics are the evidence that membership dues or a contribution make a real difference.
If you don’t already have systems in place that allow for analytics and reporting, include goals for how to get there in your future strategic planning sessions.
If you already are using effective systems, be sure you are collecting data to support your progress toward the benchmarks and KPIs in your plan.
Having confidence in your ability to use data to answer complex questions is an antidote to fears about a volatile business environment. It’s also a tool that helps leaders to guide staff and volunteers away from politics and toward objective assessments and sound decisions.
I discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion in a recent post. Diversity is socially responsible and demonstrates accountability by serving a larger community and overarching goals. It is also imperative for success in the current environment.
The digital marketplace has no room for uniformity. Innovation and creativity are skills that define the fittest and assure their survival. Those qualities feed on a rich diet of experiences, perspectives, and ideas. In addition, equity in hiring and pay enhance recruiting and build outstanding teams.
Membership, sponsorship, and employment strategies for 2021 and beyond should include deliberate and consistent outreach. If there are groups that are underrepresented in your organization, strategize to win their participation. Include the most senior-level staff and volunteers in those initiatives. By engaging the broadest spectrum of racial, ethnic, and gender populations, your association will reflect the reality of both the current moment and the future.
Invest in Talent
From Forbes to the Harvard Business Review, articles on current trends frequently cite the talent shortage that is predicted as Baby Boomers retire. Working from home, economic instability caused by the pandemic, and the gig economy have only increased volatility in the labor market.
In response, Gen Xers and millennials are becoming ambassadors of their own brands. They are laser-focused on developing marketable skills that will expand employment options. Gallup reports that fifty-nine percent say that career development is extremely important in their job search. Yet, in the same survey, only 39% strongly agreed that they learned something that would improve their on-the-job performance in the last 30 days.
The idea that training employees to move on to a better job is a waste of resources is short-sighted, tradition-bound thinking. The brightest people want to be surrounded by others who can help them grow. Organizations that make professional growth a priority attract top talent
When you strategize, consider where professional development fits into your goals. Do you have the right teams and talent to execute future initiatives? Identify the gaps and consider how you can incent current employees to grow their skills and attract new people who will enrich your teams’ expertise.
Younger members are also experiencing employment insecurity. Ask yourself whether the education you are offering fits their lifestyle and goals. Tracy King, Chief Learning Strategist of InspirED, offers this advice: “Producing a program for everyone is the same as producing a program for no one. If learners cannot identify themselves and their needs in your content, they will find a more compatible option. . . “
Associations tend to be insular. Immersion in their culture and traditions provides affiliation and stability. But it can also narrow thinking. Viewing strategic planning through the lens of current social, economic, and cultural trends helps leaders empower strategy and brings a timely global perspective to their work.