Does it feel like your Young Professional Organization (YPO) is losing its relevance? Do you feel like it’s lost the enthusiasm and effectiveness it once had? YPO’s were trending a few years ago and it seemed everywhere you turned an association or a chamber was forming one. Now, it seems as if the craze has wound down. When’s the last time you took time to strategically think about the relevance of your YPO?
Let’s examine programming. Are you conducting the same programs you were when the YPO was started? If so, perhaps it’s time to measure the programmatic effectiveness. Coast Young Professionals (CYP), an organization of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce is committed to connecting, engaging and empowering young professionals on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. When the organization began the leaders determined the need for a professional development series. The group created “Shine On” a half day seminar addressing professional development topics like mentoring and how to sell yourself. The event was a success and it continued on for a few years. Soon, a trend was noticed- the same groups of people were attending “Shine On” and the endurance of the program dwindled. One of the problems was topics and speakers were being recycled. Half the audience was eliminated from when the program was introduced because they had already sat through the offered programs. It also became apparent that asking young professionals to take a half day from work was no longer feasible in today’s competitive work force. The following year, keeping the need for professional development in “Shine On” became an hour and a half lunch series held quarterly. The new model was not a success. So what did CYP do? They killed it. Acknowledging the need for continued professional development the group went to the Chamber and asked if they could partner with them on their professional development program. Working with the Chamber would allow CYP to deliver a more current and dynamic pool of speakers and topics. The Chamber agreed and a happy partnership was born. The point of this story is that programs have to evolve as your organization does. It’s okay to try new formats and its okay if they fail, just don’t be afraid of change; change helps you remain relevant.
Speaking of professional development, YPOs typically do incorporate a degree of it in their programming, but are you offering the right seminars? If you don’t know your audience you can’t develop seminars and courses relevant to them. Knowing what your young professionals need and are looking for can ensure the success of your programs. For example, if you offer a professional series to YP’s on social media, your attendance might be slim because YP’s are familiar with and utilizes social media. They understand how it works and the importance of its incorporation into the workplace. You’ve heard the phrase “preaching to the choir?” When you’re implementing your professional development think bigger. Think about what might be hard to attend due to time constraints or financial commitments. Make sure your programming is relevant to your audience and strive to make it something unusually obtainable. This is the same for all programming, not just professional development.
Having a close, meaningful relationship with your association or chamber can enhance the relevance of an YPO. I remember hearing about an YPO’s Chamber board who allowed them a seat at the table, but not a vote. What are you saying to your YPO when you don’t allow it to have a voice? It is importance to have a close relationship with your “parent” organization. This allows for championing and illustrates a symbiotic relationship. When you are on difference pages, support is hard to come by.
Evolving your programming, ensuring your target market is identified and creating a meaningful relationship with your Chamber or Association are just three suggestions on how to keep your YPO relevant. You know your organization better than anyone else. Take time to strategically analyze your organization and ensure it evolves with the times and continues to be relevant.