Thoughts from a Think Tank: How the Work We Do Has Changed

December 6, 2021
Group of people collaborating around a laptop

Here we are at the end of the Think Tank series! How the Work We Do Has Changed was our third and final topic from the Think Tank event that I moderated for the Association Executives of North Carolina’s Young Professionals group, FUEL. This part of the conversation revolved around ways to move forward with our work after the turmoil and change we've experienced since March 2020. 

Catch up on what we’ve learned so far in our previous blog posts, Thoughts from a Think Tank: The Shifting Work Culture and Thoughts from a Think Tank: The Work We Do.

How the Work We Do Has Changed
How do you navigate the strong opinions of associates and clients related to vaccinations or masks without sharing your personal beliefs? How are you able to stay neutral during such a polarizing time?
  • Because these questions most often surround in-person interactions, our conversation centered around meetings, conferences, and hybrid events.
  • The best advice was to do your best to treat everyone equally. Put the same requirements in place for all event attendees, whether they are vaccinated or not:
    o Don’t create separate lines for vaccinated attendees vs. those with negative COVID tests.
    o Require masks for all attendees, regardless of vaccination status.
  • A few organizations have created pre-event resources, so attendees know of policies and procedures ahead of time if they choose to attend in person. One organization even developed a "what we expect from you, what you can expect from us" document.
  • Require a signed waiver to attend the event with reassuring introductory language such as: “We are a member association, and our highest priority is your safety…”
  • Try Red-Yellow-Green wristbands to help attendees signal comfort level to others.
    o Red = Hands off
    o Yellow = Handshake
    o Green = Hug
How are you handling changing policies and procedures during the pandemic? What policies are you implementing to help your organization move forward?
  • Refreshed policies and procedures are necessary and will need to adapt over time.
  • When it comes to policy changes, all involved should be patient and flexible. Adjustments may need to happen quickly—no need to make plans six months in advance. The world is still determining how to move forward.
  • Here’s an example of what an organization’s summarized event policy could look like:
    o Communicable Disease Policy for Events:
    - If you come down with an illness, you can cancel your registration and receive a full refund 30 days before the event or transfer your registration to someone else.
    - Within seven days, no refund will be given, but you may transfer your registration to someone else or receive credit for another event.
  • Make sure all policies—especially for events—are clear, concise, and readily available. Get the word out about your policy so that members and attendees are not surprised.
  • Create and share a team communication plan for when and if your staff is affected by COVID. What will your team do? Who will cover what? Outline a high-level plan so that no one is caught off guard if someone is unexpectedly out of the office.  
  • Should we go back into the office or not? This is a major discussion among association executives. Many suggested employee feedback, not just member preference, as a deciding factor.
  • Conduct employee surveys every few months, or even weeks, to gauge how everyone feels about being back in the office. If you do conduct a survey, make sure you are willing to act on, or address, the feedback. Don’t ask if you aren’t ready to make a change!
How do we continue to “move the ball forward” in this new world?
  • Focus some effort on generating creative new event ideas. Here are a few of the ideas mentioned during the conversation:
    o Provide entertainment during lunch and breaks that wouldn’t otherwise been there.
    o Give attendees opportunities to relax. How about setting up massage, meditation, or wellness-centered pop-ups during break times?
    o Send your virtual attendees a gift box with event-branded gifts from sponsors and include a game piece that leads them into a breakout room with an escape room-style activity.
What issues are you facing with the continued uncertainty surrounding COVID?
  • People certainly seemed to have their “seatbelts buckled” for the coming months to see if membership dues and education revenue has changed. There appeared to be a lot of concern in the room about the uncertainty of it all. Will we be hit as hard as we were in 2020? Or will people embrace the “new normal”?  
  • No real answers or “A-HA” moments were shared; however, there is so much power in knowing that you are not alone. I encourage you to lean into your community for help with navigating this constant state of flux.  

In summary, the world has undoubtedly changed. The way associations operate will forever be shifted by the experience of the pandemic. What we must do now is figure out if we are ready to flourish or not. Can we embrace this new normal? How do we stay agile? Has our ability to adapt set us up for long-term success? These are all the questions I asked myself as I reflected on our Think Tank discussion.   

I hope you’ve gleaned at least one piece of insight during this three-part blog series. Or perhaps reading this has enabled you to pause and reflect on where we are and how far we have come in the past few years. It’s been tough, but we associations and organizations will be stronger for it. My hope is that we will all move forward but be able to look back and share stories of how we survived and thrived post-pandemic.

About the Author

Amanda Davis, CMP is our Vice President of Client Experience and has nearly ten years of experience in the association world, strategically focused on learning products. With multiple association roles as Director of Learning & Development and Online Learning Manager, Amanda has a deep understanding of the adult learning landscape and what keeps association executives up at night. Amanda recognizes the importance of strong learning technologies for today’s nimble associations and hopes through her role with Blue Sky eLearn, she’ll be able to contribute to the success of our growing mix of association clients.

Amanda graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, with a degree in Communications Studies with a concentration in Interpersonal Communications. She and her husband are parents of a four-year old, Leo. Amanda enjoys playing competitive tennis, completing DIY projects for their very own “Fixer Upper”, and community outreach activities. Seemingly she stays very busy but is always sure to make time for family fun.

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