How many members are in your association?
For years, this question has been the guide to determining the value of an association, and members have been satisfied with the privilege of "belonging to the club." Today, however, people can join (or start) a group online at the click of a button. Organizations no longer have a monopoly over their constituents, and a membership alone is not enough to warrant someone's time or money.
The changing landscape of social networks is causing associations and other professional organizations to search for a new value prop, as the standard question of "How many members do you have?" is quickly followed by "What are your engagement levels?" If your members are spending much of their time in silos and not engaging with one another, they are literally missing out on a world of potential networking, learning and opportunity.
Leaders are realizing they need to offer members community, or "engaged action" as Seth Kahan wrote in Fast Company, in order to provide true value. In many ways, this is leading associations back to their original mission: to serve as a primary forum for like-minded individuals to share ideas, learn from one another and network with peers.
But it also presents an interesting challenge: How can leaders (who are used to quoting a straightforward membership number) evaluate the seemingly intangible value of "community"? The answer lies in the "network effect."
The Network Effect
The network effect is the idea that a service or product becomes more valuable as more people use it. For example, when the internet began it only had a few types of users, and presented little value to anyone outside of those groups. Today, the internet is used by more than 2 billion people and offers exponential value — from global commerce to online education and, yes, even to that cat video you just shared with a coworker.
For associations, the network effect means that your organization's value is actually exponentially greater than the number of individual members, since your members are making connections with each other. Metcalfe's Law was one of the first attempts to quantify the network effect, and proposes that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of users (n^2).
So, if your association has 10 users, the value the network provides is: 10^2 = 100. In other words, your association can facilitate 100 distinct inter-member connections. Pretty impressive, right?
However, some experts contend that the law only accounts for one-to-one connections, and doesn't full appreciate the group-forming ability of networks (think of interest groups on Facebook or subreddits on reddit). A more recent mathematical assertion comes in the form of Reed's law – which suggests a more encompassing manner to evaluate the network effect. Reed contends that the value of your network is how many unique "group connections" your members can form, represented by the power of two (2^n).
So, if your association has 10 users, that same group of people has the power to form 1024 unique subgroup connections (2^10=1024) – any which one that may become the genesis for a lifelong connection, a new business opportunity, or a brainstorm session that led to "the next big thing."
The Dual Value of Connectedness
Of course, in order to live up to the network effect, an association must offer ways for its members to truly engage with one another.
While it sounds intimidating, enabling connectedness actually takes fewer resources than recruiting new members and exponentially increases the value for current members. It's a lot easier to invest in connectivity tools —and thus (hypothetically) facilitate 1,024 connection opportunities for your association of 10 — than try to recruit 1,014 additional members.
A well-connected association also carries the added benefit of "If you build it, they will come." If you can show that your members actively communicate and interact with one another, it will be a lot easier to recruit new faces (and grow your network effect in the process!). In experiencing the tremendous networking value and source of knowledge that your association provides, new "joiners" quickly become "life-longers".
How to Foster Community
So, where do you start? The first steps are to evaluate your existing communication and collaboration strategies. If your main platform for communication with members is sending a monthly newsletter, or hosting an annual conference, it's time to rethink your strategy.
Instead of relying on association-only facilitated communication, look for ways to allow your members to speak to each other: start a blog where they can contribute posts, ask questions and offer comments. Even better, set up an online communities people can share ideas, offer feedback and organize virtual or real-life meet ups. Harness internal knowledge and empower members themselves to drive the conversation forward and spur new opportunities – especially helpful to associations handcuffed by staff resources. Evolve beyond basic e-learning where users only interact with a screen and embrace collaborative learning – where members can share comments in real-time, participate in communities and learn alongside with their friends or cohort. Most importantly, make sure your features are mobile-friendly, so people can log-in anytime and anywhere to engage with their fellow members.
As the workforce continues to change and technology enables more opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals, it's ever more important to help your members make meaningful connections. By investing in connectedness, you're also investing in the full potential of your association.
If you're interested in more ways to facilitate connectedness in your association, check out our new page for associations and their leaders.
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Introducing an exclusive partnership with WaitWhat's Masters of Scale for an entirely new learning experience
You asked for popular podcast modalities and we delivered through a partnership with WaitWhat’s Masters of Scale. Check out lessons about building teams, developing products and scaling companies from the world's top leaders, now available in multiple Cornerstone Content Anytime subscriptions.
Alexander Mann Solutions wins Cornerstone OnDemands sponsored categories at the TIARA 2020 Talent Solutions Awards
Here at Cornerstone, we absolutely love to hear inspiring stories and share them far and wide, especially when they are about talent management! We were recently headline sponsors of the TIARA 2020 Talent Solutions Awards. These annual awards, hosted by TALiNT International, celebrate excellence across the RPO, MSP and Talent Solutions marketplace, and recognise the wonderful ways companies are demonstrating exemplary growth, innovation and leadership. For 2020, it was the usual great awards with a bit of a difference. As we know, everything has now moved online – even this year’s Convergence! But this didn’t seem to impact the TIARA Talent Solution Awards at all. Despite not being able to celebrate face-to-face, the event was filled with laughter, engagement, and most of all, lots of fun! This year, we also supported the Best Use of Technology Award as well as the Overall Winner. The winner – triumphing in both categories – could not be more deserving, and so we duly wanted to pass on our huge congratulations to Alexander Mann Solutions! Alexander Mann was awarded the Cornerstone OnDemand Best Use of Technology Award for their brilliant ‘Find Your Fit’ technology solution. The platform offers users personal preferences and assisted future growth through interactive videos, personalised one-to-one calls, and a dedicated platform to match skills with current roles within the organisation. The solution had 1,200 employees enrolling within just six months of implementation and is continuing to improve every day. Find Your Fit helps employees to understand how their organisation functions better, including the areas that are growing the most rapidly. In turn, this helps employees to develop the skills they need in order to take advantage of these developments to enhance not only their personal career progression, but overall business performance. After all, businesses don’t innovate, people do! The judges commended this entry for “the clear way in which an innovative technology solution clearly delivered in results”. The judges also applauded Alexander Mann for demonstrating customer care by really listening to client’s individual challenges and using inventive technology solutions to help design a custom built solution that helps to support the overall internal career options and pathways available to each organisation. The award was accepted virtually by Stephen Gordon, Recruitment Tech Lead at Talent Collective/AMS. In addition to being awarded Best Use of Technology, Alexander Mann was also recognised as this year’s overall winner of the Talent Solutions Awards. Chair of Judges, Jim Richardson highlighted that “the overall winner is based on the organisation that consistently demonstrates excellence and innovation across all of its activities”. Both Peoplescout and Guidant Global were highly commended by the judges for their brilliant work, but ultimately, Alexander Mann took home the award for demonstrating consistently high standards across all areas. Jim Richardson added that although Alexander Mann has the resources to support many initiatives, it has still managed to deliver consistently on large scale and complex global projects. This is a phenomenally impressive achievement that all of us at Cornerstone also wish to say a huge congratulations for! The other winners and nominees from this year’s TIARA Talent Solutions Awards have highlighted more excellent work and brilliant stories across the recruiting sector and HR community. For the full list of winners, check out the TALiNT International’s September/October 2020 edition here.
Blog: Why HR need to lead the agile change journey
It's been going on for a while now - the shift towards more agile and flexible companies that quickly can adapt to the fast-changing times of today. Organisations that are unable to make this move are gradually losing competitiveness and finding it more difficult to prove themselves against smaller and faster players. Those who recognise the need and are able to create new conditions for the business, in the form of new structures, will survive and flourish in tomorrow's economic reality. Agile HR can be viewed from two different angles; How HR should work together within the HR team and what / how HR should deliver value to the business for which they exist. All HR processes that are part of Talent and People Management will be different when you start working agile, and each of the processes have their specific tools and working methods. Here we will look at HR from a more general perspective, to get an overall understanding of how the HR role, and the corresponding deliverables, change in a company that wants to increase its business agility. The goal is to focus on creating better workplaces through the development of teams and individuals, throughout the whole organisation. Small and medium-sized companies are easier to change, as they have less hierarchical structures, and often a more decentralised business, where everyone has an ability to make the decisions that need to be made, locally rather than centrally. The larger and more complex a company is, the more systems, processes, and structures there are that cannot be easily and quickly changed. Although it is possible to change a department in the organisation, some issues might remain that forces the department back into the central structures. This happens because it is not possible to isolate a specific part of the business. You can compare it to an attempt to change a rubber ball. It changes when it is being squeezed, but when you let go, it quickly returns to its old shape. However, there is one functional department in most large organisations that can influence all the other parts at once – HR. In many large companies, HR controls; ● Leadership programs and development ● Change management ● Organisational development ● Employee engagement ● Employee training and skills development ● Rewards and bonuses ● Recruitment ● Goal setting and performance reviews ● Long term mix of employees All these processes or areas flow through the entire organisation. These are the structures that can support, or prevent, a more radical change towards a more agile company. It all depends on HOW we work with processes and programs. They can be developed in a way that, paradoxically, prevents performance and commitment. Or they can optimise performance and employee satisfaction. HR struggles with criticisms, it is accused of being some kind of "organisational police", which hinders performance and commitment by implementing Talent management processes in a way that was intended to increase the same. This needs to change. HR has been in the back seat for too long and now it is time to take responsibility for a change in how to support the organisation. Because it is about people, and relationships between people, this is the key to how the company performs as a whole. It is the system that fundamentally needs to change, not the people. We do not need to do more things or implement complicated frameworks and methods. Instead, we need to understand how we can make it easier for people to make their best contribution to the company, by providing supportive structures, instead of hindering structures. It is through more experiments and by trying different working methods, that one can find the best path for each organisation, and each team/individual. Here, the agile principles and the agile mindset serve as a guide. Agile tools and frameworks work sometimes, but not always. The only way to continually improve is through constant learning, which also means that we sometimes fail. Companies that learn faster than others, and turn that knowledge into new ways of working for employees, but also new products and services for external customers, gain a competitive advantage and will be the winner of the future. HR has the power and the ability to design the structures that aim to either support or make it harder for employees to contribute in creative and innovative ways. If HR sticks to the old, traditional ways of working, the consequence will be rigid and non-agile organisations that use inefficient systems and processes. HR can either hinder or support the change, so HR must show the way. By providing opportunities for alternative and more agile working methods, and by focusing on value creation and value flows for the internal and by extension also external customers, HR can lead companies through changes that no other department is capable of. The next blog chapter will dive into HR's changing role.