Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ready or not, here comes Gen Y: Is your association ready or will they pass you by?

Ready or not, here comes Gen Y: Is your association ready or will they pass you by?Generation Y. Millenials. Digital Natives. No matter what you call them they are going to radically change your association in the next few years.

I love working with and nurturing Millennials. Before selling my AMC last August, more than half of my 28 employees were 33 years or younger. And, I love presenting and facilitating discussions about Millennials and other generations in the work force.

Who Are They?

Some call them Generation Y. Others call them Millenials because they came of age at the turn of the millennium. Some call them digital natives because they grew up with digital technology. (As opposed to older digital immigrants like me who had to learn the technology on the fly!)

There are 78 to 80 million Ys in the U.S. Depending on who you talk with, they were born between 1980 and 2000 so are in their mid-teens to early 30s. The leading edge of this huge population have been in the post-collegiate work force for about 10 years. By 2017 (just five years from now), millenials will have more spending power than any other generation in America.

What is Happening?
The 78+ million Baby Boomers will eventually retire ... really! And, many will depart as members and as volunteer leaders of associations and nonprofits.

Because Generation X (the sandwich generation between the Boomers and Ys) is about 30 million fewer people, Millenials will become the core driving force in society, commerce and associations.

While the Millenials are still maturing and entering the work force, we don’t really know how they will define themselves (in terms of leadership and volunteerism), we do know their involvement and communications styles will differ greatly from the Baby Boomers.

If you want a graphic illustration of a Millennial, please read Disassociation: Associations and the Reality of Irrelevance. Thanks to Maddie Grant for sharing this piece.

Why is Generational Knowledge Important to Associations?
Boomers have been the “bread and butter” for most associations and professional societies. There are 30 million fewer Xers so most associations are beginning to face a shortage of members, volunteers, leaders. While the nearly 80 million millenials could fill the void, they appear to have cultural differences (expect a specific value return for dues money; value time more; have a priority for family and friends; etc.) that challenge associations.

The slogan for Millennials might well be: MY WAY, RIGHT WAY, WHY PAY?
“Gen Ys live online or, more accurately, on text. Texting seems to be the preferred method of

Another Way to Look at the Generations
From a communications standpoint, you might define the generations in terms of the “native communications tools” around when they matured (see Eric Jackson's piece in Forbes).

  • Boomers - the typewriter generation
  • Xers – the laptop generation
  • Millennials – the i (as in iPod, iPhone & iPad) generation

Background on Generations
While I’ve been studying Gen Y for nearly 10 years, I’m still learning! If you are interested in learning more, here are four sources:

My Way, Right Away, Why Pay? By T. Scott Gross
Digital Natives: How they are changing the content marketing game. By Patricia Redsicker
Gen X Hits Another Bump in the Road By Tammy Erickson.
• Preparing for next-gen workers, with next-gen brainsBy 

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