Associations Also Need Competencies (Not Just Businesses)
Written by Alex Fredkin
September 25, 2018
Many professionals are required to participate in continuing education programs (often called CEUs) for a certain number of hours per year to keep their certifications, credentials, and licenses to practice. And many others participate in optional programs to further their careers.
These occupations include:
- Real Estate Agents
- Financial Advisers
- and more
Over time certain associations have emerged that not only provide an organization for career advancement and education, but that define, set standards, and control requirements for its industry.
Some of these associations have over 100,000 members, and with this comes an administrative challenge to track member activities including:
- Who has the necessary requirements for membership
- When do they need to renew
- Where are certifications and credentials stored
- Where can members earn additional required credits
While most associations put this responsibility on the members themselves, often people don’t organize their credentials and certifications properly which can lead to problems and inefficiencies. But with easy access to certification and credentialing information using software, the association and/or the members themselves can easily prove they are competent in their profession and have the necessary requirements for membership.
Any association that can implement a self-contained ecosystem for membership management will not only be more attractive to potential members, but can operate more efficiently and cut down on administrative costs of existing members.
Examples of Associations that Require Certifications
There are hundreds of associations that not only educate its members but offer trainings and certifications that have significance or even requirements in its respective industries. Examples include:
- American Medical Association (AMA)
- American Nurses Association (ANA)
- The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
- Association for Talent Development (ATD)
- National Safety Council (NSC)
- American Society for Quality (ASQ)
But Why Core Competencies?
While some people join an association because it is required, most do so with the intention of learning additional skills and knowledge, networking, and overall advancing their professional and personal careers. Associations can be a partner in this journey by thinking like a business and creating what the organization determines are the core competencies of a successful career in that industry, in addition to any and all requirements of membership.
For example, in 2015 health professionals worked together to determine core competencies of the industry. A report resulting from the collective efforts of several health associations was published by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), entitled Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice.
The report stressed that an “institutional curricular development of learning” was needed for enhanced productivity, continued learning, and to meet the ever-changing demands of the profession. The report also offered information to accreditors so they can set common standards for interprofessional education, and offered insight on how to create testing content.
The largest healthcare profession is nursing. And with membership based of over 1 million members in some cases and reports like the one above, it is clear that associations in all industries need formalized software to carry out their membership and competency programs globally.
Competency Management Outlines Pathways for Career Advancement
Another major benefit for a member is the ability to view career pathways of previous members and define goals for him or herself. If the association allows, users can view courses that individuals who have been members for years have taken, and the skills and certifications they have earned.
Software of this kind can create a network and communication ecosystem to encourage mentorship and relationship building for members at various skill levels and stages in their career. If the association so chooses, members can view what classes the more senior members have taken and what courses they should take to grow professionally, similar to creating career pathways in a business field. The could highlight aspirational career pathways that a new member can follow to envision themselves in 5, 10, or even more than 20 years as a member of the association and professional in that field.
Forward thinking associations can aid this process by providing not only the required competencies and courses for membership, but optional courses as well in a public library within software, so members can learn additional skills on his or her own time. Associations can better contribute to its members’ learning and development in a much more involved and effective way than just by giving requirements for membership and stopping there.
LMS’ Are Not Enough for Total Workforce Management
There is a growing awareness within the world of associations that Learning Management Systems (LMS) may not be enough to keep up-to-date with all the training needs of association members. In her paper on “Instructional Designers need Flexibility” for the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Mimi Banta spoke on challenges in using LMS’s for trainings, saying, “[Instructional Designers] want to deploy the most current solutions, like social and informal learning, to best meet a need. Yet, the organization’s infrastructure may not be able to document and track that type of learning. Let’s look at the best way to do things. We can figure out how the systems need to adapt to us, versus the other way around.”
While these tools are often guiding the learning, they should not dictate how the learning is carried out. In order to be flexible and best serve members the most effective trainings, competency management software can help. Another article of ours, we talk in-depth about how to implement competency models into your organization.
Another aspect of competency management software is that it can be used to track leadership development in associations. For example, The National Educational Association of teachers, has developed a leadership competencies and skills intended for all current and upcoming teachers, regardless of experience. The skills, the NEA says, “are designed to prepared NEA members to lead relevant and thriving educational associations and become world-class education leaders.”
NEA states, “These competencies define for our association what leaders should know and be able to do in the areas of professional practice, organizing, advocacy, communications, business, as well as governance and leadership.” Associations that take the time and effort to create these competencies should have software that allows them to distribute them effectively and easily to their membership base.
Make Members’ Lives Easier with Software
Storing the membership credentials and competencies of individuals within software not only benefits the association or trade group, but the members themselves. Some benefits for the associations are:
- An easier way to disseminate learning information
- Clearer way to track attendance at member events
- Track members’ uploaded certifications
Individuals often do a poor job of keeping track of their certifications. An engineer might believe that they are in a filing cabinet at home, but when annual renewal time comes, he has misplaced the papers. This is just one example.
An association that can promise a closed, self-sustaining system of managing certifications helps members with one less thing to worry about: keeping track of relevant data.
Competency management systems and credentialing software systems will help associations keep track of individual membership requirements, disseminate training content globally, and track other milestones. Associations that choose to build competency models and adopt a competency-based approach to membership and credential management will find they operate more efficiently and have more satisfied members. We have developed software for this purpose, to learn more request a demo.