The internet is filled with stories of organizations instituting radical changes to make employees more invested, happier, and thus more productive. There's the company in Seattle that raised its minimum wage to $70,000, there's WL Gore & Associates that eliminated a managerial hierarchy, and Whole Foods that publishes all of its employees' salaries, which are based on work and abilities (the more able the employee, the higher the pay).
All of these companies recognized opportunities and roadblocks to creating a structure that brought out the best in their stakeholders, making them feel like a vested part of the organization's success.
While it's probably not possible for you to raise your minimum salary to $70,000, there are things your association can do to make employees, members, and volunteers happier.
Your association's committee members are a good place to start. While committees have traditionally met in person, increasingly associations are leveraging technology to spur more engage and productive committee involvement. The most common approach to creating more happy and productive committees relies on your association's private member community software.
First, you must do as these companies did for their employees - give some thought as to what will make your committee members feel appreciated and heard - and what is standing in the way of this being the case today. While this is a personal exercise based on the people you have leading your committees and acting as members, below are some of the most common problems associations face with their committees and how they can be remedied through online community interaction.
Committee members are generously giving you their time, and while it's a volunteer position, it still requires feedback. It's easy for association professionals to get caught up in their daily responsibilities, and unintentionally overlook or forget the feedback that committee members need. They ask someone to be on a committee, or the person volunteers, and that's the end of the interaction.
Solution: Establishing Feedback Channels
Creating committees in an online community allows the association staff to â€œpop in virtuallyâ€ and see what's going on inside the committee. Since committees can have private pages, calendars, and discussions, feedback can be given easily around the clock. It's fast, easy, and convenient for busy association executives that have a lot on their plates.
With full schedules and possible geographic barriers, it's often difficult for committee members to meet in person. You need to make it easy for your committee volunteers to overcome these challenges, so they have the ability to meet when they need to, at times that are convenient for them.
Solution: Easy Online Collaboration
Private online communities allow for virtual meetings and collaboration that is not only easy, but can occur around everyone's busy schedule. Create a private community or page in your online community that's reserved specifically for committees, so volunteer members can schedule meetings and collaboration at their convenience.
With multiple committees, limits on in-person meetings, and busy schedules, it's easy to lose track of what is going on in each committee. Reports that catch everyone up take time to create, and time is a commodity few people have these days.
Solution: Greater Transparency and Documentation
Your association's online community platform provides a virtual space for committees. Privacy and permissions can be controlled by the community manager. Since everything is done online, these interactions provide a high degree of transparency for everyone involved. Everything can also documented online as it happens, through shared documents, email discussions, or recorded meetings, so there is less need to spend time writing up meeting minutes.
Often, committees are created to address an issue or identify ways to improve something. The committees work hard, and yet their work is not always shared and promoted the way it should be. Usually, this problem is caused by of a lack of time. Once the question is answered, why bother taking more time to publish the details of the work?
Sometimes committee members don't even know where their work went or what it affected. Their contribution is complete, but there's no insight into how it was used or how the association benefited.
Solution: Easy Access to Results
Publishing the results of the committee's work goes a long way into making those committee members feel appreciated as contributors to the organization. Your online community software helps bring the hard work and results to light for the larger community. Use the natural documentation included in online collaboration and recorded meeting to make publishing results and meeting information easier.
You can also personally follow up through community discussions or emails to let committee members know how their work is helping the association as a whole.
As mentioned above, committees sometimes go without the recognition they deserve. Too often, schedules, goals, and other higher priorities trump the recognition a volunteer group should receive.
Solution: Association-Wide Recognition
In a private online member community, the committee's work can be shared with the larger association by publishing it in public sections. Their work gains more visibility, and the committee members receive the appreciation they've earned. Even if you decide not to open up committee documents and decisions to the entire association, staff can still have access to them and provide recognition to the greater group.
Often running on a bare-bones staff, associations almost always have areas where they could use some extra help, but those opportunities aren't always clearly defined. How will volunteers know you need administrative help if you don't advertise it? They don't know that opportunity exists.
When you have a standout member who is eager to volunteer, you don't want to frustrate them with a lack of opportunity, especially if they are willing to be in an ongoing role.
Solution: Ability to Increase and Define Opportunities
Leading an online community committee or group gives you a fast, easy way to promote current opportunities to volunteers. Write up notices or create a volunteer opportunities page where you can list the help you're looking for, as well as the requirements for the role.
To provide even more flexibility, create online volunteer and committee participation opportunities as well. Since the work is virtual, an online leadership opportunity and virtual volunteer positions fit in with more schedules than traditional meeting-oriented roles.
Volunteering on a committee is a big responsibility, and your association should do everything possible to improve the experience for volunteers. Creating online communities are one way to ease common frustrations and problems, ensuring that committee members feel valued.
Give your committees a dedicated space in your online community to help improve morale and productivity by providing flexibility and documentation of everything they're accomplishing. Use the community to get more involved yourself, checking in and recognizing your top committees and their volunteers. By providing the tools they need and showing committee volunteers that they are valued, you'll help secure their continued support and engagement.