Recruiting and engaging the next generation of members is vital to the strength of every association. It is especially important in the building industry, as family businesses pass from one generation to the next and new technologies influence building systems bringing the industry forward into the next century.
This toolkit contains useful resources to help your HBA recruit the next generation of young professionals as members of your association, as well as strategies for keeping them engaged and renewing their memberships.
We will continue to add resources to the toolkit and appreciate hearing your suggestions for additional items to add.
How to Start a Young Professionals Group
Every leader plays a paramount role in helping the community – whether local, regional or national – work toward common future goals. As a young professional, getting involved early on in your career means greater opportunity for generating positive impact. Download the Young Professionals Toolkit for Executive Officers and HBAs.
In Their Own Words Young Professionals Explain the Value of Membership
There are many great examples of successful YP groups across the country, including the HBA of Greater Tulsa’s 40 Below Committee, the Maryland Building Industry Association’s Future Industry Leaders, and Atlanta’s Elevate.
State and local HBAs with existing YP groups will often be the best resource to turn to when seeking specific insight on how to get things done successfully and make the group beneficial for all those involved and affected by it.
Read a small sampling of what some of these successfully YP leaders have said about the process and what it has done to change their lives.
Students and NAHB Student Chapters
Your local high school or college is a great resource for finding future members of your association, especially if the school has a Construction Management program or an affiliated NAHB Student Chapter. Students are eager to learn about careers and job opportunities in the trades, architecture and similar areas.
Meet with your Board to develop a plan and then visit the schools on your list with flyers and an HBA representative to engage the students in a fun, interactive discussion about the industry.
- Careers in the building industry
- Student Chapters information
- How to start a chapter at your association
- List of all schools with an NAHB Student Chapter
Transition from School to Membership
We all know that after finishing a program of study, the next step is looking for a job. Talk with your existing members about the importance of bringing in new younger members to your HBA. Work with your builders and associates to explore the possibility of setting up a job board (similar to simplyhired.com or monster.com) for opportunities that they may be willing to consider a new graduate for. Being able to advertise such an opportunity to potential new members will be a great asset in attracting millennials and other young professionals to join.
Another great resource is connecting with your local high school, trade school or university to form a relationship with the faculty advisor of their construction program. The advisor has first-hand knowledge of which students excelled, if they are planning to stay in the area, as well as contact information for the students after they graduate.
Consider creating a LinkedIn group for your association and invite the advisor, students and your existing members to all join. This will create a virtual networking group to stimulate conversation and maximize on opportunities when they arise.
Building Industry Awareness
A collaborative effort that reaches policymakers as well as local educators and high school students can be an effective way to address some of the issues that have contributed to chronic labor shortages and misperceptions of the industry. HBAs and members can help their communities grow and prosper, while educators can direct their students toward meaningful employment and career choices.
Access resources to help raise awareness about the labor shortage issue, to educate the public about job opportunities in the trades and to recruit the next generation of skilled labor in the housing industry.
Affiliate Member Category
Consider adding Affiliate memberships at your association, if you do not already do so. This is a great way to reach deeper into the ranks of your member companies and have younger professionals as part of your membership. Often, young professionals cannot afford a full membership on their own. But by starting as affiliate members and becoming involved in your HBA, they are primed to become full members in a few years.
Read more about the Affiliate member program here.
Young Professional Member Category
You may wish to work with your Board to consider adding a separate category of membership specifically for young professionals at your association. Knowing that there are others in the same age-range and with similar interests at your HBA may be helpful in attracting younger members. This category could also correspond to a young professionals group or committee that has particular responsibilities or oversight that your members designate.
When aiming to attract young professionals to your organization, stressing the educational opportunities that are available to members will go a long way toward securing their membership. Whether or not your HBA has an NAHB education license, there are a myriad of online courses available on topics ranging from accounting for builders to sales & marketing training.
Another great selling tool when looking to bring in the younger member is the access to classes that lead toward holding an NAHB designation.
There are several other education and training resources that will help you attract the next generation of members, including the NAHB 20 Clubs and business management resources.
Giving young professionals the chance to split their HBA membership dues into more than one payment is a great opportunity to get new people in the door who want to join and will contribute, but may not have the ability to pay the full dues all at once. Many associations already have very successful payment plans in place for their membership. Having this as an option could be an extremely important tool in attracting the next generation of federation members who are starting out in the early stages of their careers.
Getting Involved Quickly
Research has shown that today’s young professionals are looking for ways to be involved and to contribute in quick but meaningful ways. While the current time period between when a prospective member expresses interest in joining your association and becomes eligible to take advantage of all their state and national benefits can vary from 30 to 45 days, the new member can get involved with your association and feel a part of the membership right away. Sign them up and get them involved the same day.
Consider having an impromptu happy hour or ask a veteran member to have lunch with the new member during their first week of membership. This will make membership at your HBA more attractive for young professionals.
Everyone knows that using social media is vitally important in today’s business environment. Leveraging these tools to attract and engage with young professionals is essential in growing your association.
Read more about the various platforms available, which ones are the best to use and tips on getting the most out of them without having to spend hours updating Facebook each day!
Ways to Engage Young Professionals at your Organization
Give them a meaningful seat at the table. Young leaders do not always come forward as volunteers. Organizations with successful young professional groups identify stand-out members and develop them to be peer opinion leaders within the association.
Young professionals are less established in their careers, and therefore are less likely to be seen as resources, such as volunteer leaders or subject matter experts, by other members of the association. Due to financial constraints or not having the time to be away from their jobs, they also aren’t likely to attend expensive conferences or meetings where many industry leaders go each year.
But that does not mean that they have nothing to offer and no interest in being part of a professional association. Younger members bring their own experiences and a fresh perspective to issues faced by all association members.
Create a space for younger leadership within the existing structure, then listen to what they have to say to sustain that engagement. Communicate frequently and quickly. Immediacy is a high priority for young professionals, and if holding the leadership position fails to have a clear and immediate benefit for them, they could drop out or develop a negative opinion.
Help develop mentor relationships.
Research shows that a successful mentorship program not only attracts young professional talent, but also develops it.
Mentoring programs are a common practice in associations, matching people by interest and relevance. The younger generation is looking for more experienced members to share and learn from. But this can benefit both sides of the mentorship. Veteran members can learn new techniques and strategies from the young professionals as well.
While young professionals value relationships with senior leaders, they are insecure about being accepted by senior professionals and less experienced with creating that type of one-on-one relationship. Create a traditional mentoring program to facilitate this important interaction.
Provide plenty of networking opportunities.
This is what young professionals, and all members, say they want most! According to “The Decision to Join,” published by ASAE and the Center for Association Leadership, networking and connecting with practitioners within their field is one of the top three reasons to join and one of the top benefits of being an association member. Give it to them!
Creating a young professionals group will benefit all of your members. They can gather together to address key issues and topics that pertain to their careers in the industry. This is also an immediate benefit — they can see the calendar of events that pertain specifically to young professionals, and that will provide them with ample networking opportunities.
Create virtual community space.
Give members a place online for discussion, sharing, and meeting with other professionals in the industry. This can be as simple as a LinkedIn Group or listserv. But it ensures your members have a place to meet others in a space that is just for them, on their own time. Help facilitate conversations by posting news about the industry, recent community events, awards or recognition your members may have received, or stimulating questions for discussion topics.
Communicate on their terms.
Create benefits-oriented messages through communication channels that young professionals use. Your communication strategy should consistently reinforce the value of engagement and emphasize positive experiences. In its 2015 report, Association Laboratory Inc. provides keys to a successful communication strategy:
- Focus on outcomes – Highlight the impact of involvement in your organization.
- Authenticity – Make your message concise, believable and authentic. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
- Peer-based – Highlight peer support and acceptance from other young professionals, through the use of testimonials, for example.
- Channel selection – Communicate to young professionals through the channels they are accustomed to using, whether it be social media (see above), email or text-based.
- Strategic digital presence – Create digital interaction and communication spaces consistent with young professionals’ needs and preferences, such as LinkedIn and Facebook. These channels are part of the normal personal and professional environment for young professionals, and the association needs to be proficient in these areas.
Emphasize the benefits of membership through relevant programming.
In general, young professionals lack awareness of associations, their role the industry and the benefits of belonging and engaging with one. Do you have a clear and relevant value proposition for your HBA? Can you generate interest in membership and share your success story within a few words? Your value proposition should describe what you provide in terms of tangible business results for your young members.
Young professionals have unique needs, and many have non-traditional work experiences that differ from those of other generations. These differences are evident when looking at an organization with members of various age groups — both to the younger members and to their more seasoned colleagues. Ask your millennial members what programming they want to see, and engage their help in providing it.
Use friendly scheduling.
Young professionals are often in a transitional period — both in their professional and personal lives. They face multiple decisions in their careers and in their family life, sometimes having to choose one over the other. Work/life balance is a growing priority for these members. Consider allowing spouses or families to attend certain meetings, and/or scheduling meetings at different times of day to learn which gets the best attendance.
Often, younger members work from outside the traditional office and during the hours that are most convenient for them. Make sure your organization is adaptable to flexible methods and styles of communication as well.
Other helpful tips from the “Engaging Young Association Members” strategic white paper by the Association Laboratory Inc.:
Organizations with successful young professional groups emphasize these factors for success:
- Identify and customize young professional engagement programs specific to their needs, including, but not limited to, membership categories.
- Develop outreach strategies that link young professionals with more senior industry and association leaders.
- Identify and develop young members as peer opinion leaders within the organization.
- Create sustainable paths to leadership, with distinct rewards or recognition for achieving milestones.
- Create benefits-oriented communication strategies that consistently reinforce the value of the association through multiple communication channels that are frequented by young professionals.