5 Ways Your Trade Association Can Help With Hiring And Retention

Giles Sutton, Senior Vice President of Success & Sales, CEDIA

Finding and keeping talent has never been more challenging. Quit rates are the highest they’ve ever been, and McKinsey reports that 40% of workers are considering leaving their current job in the next three to six months. Across industries, job roles and education levels, everyone is looking for greener pastures. In turn, many business owners are fearing—or already facing—a staffing crisis.

Companies frequently rely on trade associations for help with workforce development. They want to see training programs in schools, flyers in career counselling offices and youth outreach programs. These are crucial activities, but they’re long-term plays. Business owners need help hiring and keeping people now—and their trade association is one of their best resources for immediate relief.

Finders-Keepers

There are two sides to workforce development: attracting talent and keeping people once they’ve joined. The latter is arguably even more important than the former: Replacing lost workers is expensive, and the more experienced and productive an employee is, the more it hurts to see them go.

You can’t buy employee loyalty. According to Gallup, the intention to search for a new job is better predicted by engagement than pay. Trade associations are designed to help companies build relational benefits, such as a sense of belonging and opportunities for mindshare, in addition to transactional benefits like pay and bonuses. It turns out, employees value those a lot more than most employers think. Here are five ways businesses can leverage their industry’s trade associations to find new talent and keep the people they have.

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1. Raise the bar and lower costs with association training.

Most small and medium business owners don’t have sufficient resources and bandwidth to develop documented training programs. Employees are expected to “learn on the job.” That’s valid, but it’s not particularly scalable, replicable or consistent.

Your industry association is a shortcut to consistent, vetted training. Association programs work as a complement to in-house and other industry training. While they won’t cover individual company policies or brand-specific processes, they do have a few unique advantages:

• Availability: Your association almost certainly has globally accessible online training opportunities and may offer regional in-person training from chapters or members, as well.

• Validity: Associations gather input from hundreds of industry experts and professional curriculum designers to process that raw information into effective training.

• Value: Your association membership likely includes deep discounts on training. If you leverage these resources well enough, they often pay for the cost of association membership all on their own.

• Cultural Capital: Enrolling your employees in third-party training demonstrates your investment in their success.

That last point is essential. How your employees perceive the professional development opportunities you offer is a big factor in whether or not they’ll stick around.

2. Make professional advancement personally meaningful.

In-house training and product training primarily benefit the business—the things the employee learns make them better at their job but wouldn’t necessarily translate elsewhere. Association training benefits the individual by giving the employee skills that apply anywhere in the industry. Ironically, this increased mobility makes workers more likely to stay where they are.

Training that centers on personal development increases employee engagement significantly more than training that centers on the specific needs of the business, resulting in longer tenure. Workers also value training that they choose over mandated courses—another advantage for associations’ comparatively large course catalogs.

3. Crowdsource your job design.

Workforce development also requires businesses to evolve the roles they’re hiring for to meet the demands of a changing industry. How you define your job roles plays a bigger part in workforce development than most people realize. It’s difficult to attract and keep quality candidates for jobs that are unsatisfying and have no clear path for advancement.

If your association offers certifications, they may have conducted a “job task analysis” (JTA) for your industry that you can use as a crib sheet to develop job descriptions. Better yet, if those certifications are accredited under the ANSI/ISO standards, the JTA will be updated every three years, so it can help you assess what new skills or roles you may need to hire.

4. Give workers opportunities to connect.

Encourage employees to participate in volunteer opportunities and other association events. These face-to-face events help workers deepen their connection to the industry and to your company. As they gain confidence and experience, there may be opportunities for your employees to offer training under the association’s banner, raising your company’s profile—and, not incidentally, making it easier for you to recruit.

5. Show top recruits what they’re missing.

Many associations have an annual event—a conference, tradeshow or member meeting—that represents the industry’s most valued opportunity to connect. While coveted for current employees, these events can also be powerful recruitment tools.

Your association’s annual meeting showcases the full breadth of your industry. If you have a hot prospect you’re eager to reel in, bringing them to this event can seal the deal. With the entire industry arrayed before them, they may find that a career at your company looks very attractive, indeed.

Bonus Benefit: Build A Bigger Tent

Building the best possible workforce means making your company and industry attractive to every qualified candidate. Using your association’s training and certifications as benchmarks in the promotion process can help. Third-party training allows employees to develop in an environment of psychological safety, where success is always rewarded but there’s no threat of being judged for not already knowing everything.

A well-trained, highly engaged workforce benefits the entire industry. Partnering with your association to invest in your own workforce gives you a leg up in recruitment and retention. When your association thinks globally, you win locally.


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