Association Management

Why Having Top Talent On Staff (Or With Your Partners) Matters To Your Association

By waltphillips • September 8, 2022

No matter what industry you’re in, attracting and retaining top-quality staff is a crucial piece of the puzzle that leads to your association’s success.

Without top talent, your different departments won’t function smoothly, effective strategies won’t be put in place, and your team may start to lack the kind of motivation it takes to excel and propel your association forward.

According to the 2022 Association Benchmarking Report, 51% of associations feel understaffed, meaning it’s essential for the team members you have in place to be high performers who are invested in your long-term success.

What are the characteristics of top talent?

The definition of top talent may look different depending on your association and the department or position for which you’re hiring. Because of this, the best way to determine what “top talent” means to a role is to conduct a thorough analysis of that role before embarking on your recruitment or selection process.

In this analysis, you should cover what’s unique about the job you’re hiring for and how the goals of your association and the potential employee can align, as well as the type of manager to whom they will be reporting.

The analysis will give you a clear understanding of what excellence will look like in the role and the skills, talents and experience necessary for success.

Remember, you should always hire according to the following:

  1. Talent: An applicant’s natural ability.
  2. Skills: What applicants have learned to do well.
  3. Experience: How applicants have developed their skills to reach their talent potential.

For me, I always look for candidates who are ambitious, resourceful, personal, competitive, have a track record of measured success, will fit within my organizational and team culture, and have the potential to raise the level of my team.

How do you attract and recruit top talent?

Recruiting should always be an intentional, ongoing process if you’re looking to get the best people for the job. You should focus on building a talent bank of potential applicants, even when you’re not actively hiring for a specific role as you never know when you’re going to need to call upon this list.

I find that LinkedIn, connections within my personal “board of directors”, competitors’ staff, internal referral programs and incentives, and everyday interactions with people I meet can sometimes be the best ways of finding top talent.

Ideally, building talent should be a habit you follow every single day rather than a check-box exercise you do as and when you need it.

What qualifications should associations look for when recruiting?

The qualifications you look for in an applicant should be closely aligned with the skills needed for a particular role. (This is the information that will come from the job analysis mentioned earlier.)

However, as a general guide, top talent will typically be strong in self-awareness, purpose, people acumen, relationships, business acumen, resourcefulness, positivity and confidence. 

These are the basic foundational talents needed to be successful in any business environment, but there are undoubtedly more specific job-related qualifications they will need to perform well in their specific role.

How to ensure that applicants are right for your association

Every association has its own unique culture, and every role has specific characteristics that the right candidate needs to perform well. To make sure that the applicant is going to be the right fit, you should have some questions lined up that are designed by role but also include some general association-focussed questions.

For example, if you’re hiring someone for a sales role, you could ask some of the following questions:

  • How competitive are you? Who do you compete against most? The applicants that are high achievers will normally say that they compete against themselves most.
  • What does winning look like to you? Listen for answers that include hitting budgets, goals or year-on-year performance.
  • When have you been satisfied with your level of achievement? If you’re looking for someone who is a high achiever, they’ll probably respond with “never.”

How to boost productivity levels of employees

Boosting the productivity levels of employees is something all managers will struggle with at some point – no matter how talented their team may be.

In any association, motivation should always start with making sure you have clearly defined and communicated what success actually looks like.

You can do this by outlining the performance expectations of your employees and any KPIs you want them to hit. Within this, you should include behavior expectations that can include working in CRM, calling clients back, hybrid office times and set meetings, for example. 

The next layer of improving motivation is having a clearly defined reward and recognition strategy in place that compliments performance expectations. This gives your employees something to work towards and an incentive that makes them want to hit targets.

Finally, make sure that your team has the ability to track their own performance – this is really key and will act as a motivator once your employees start to see their own improvement. If the role allows, providing team members access to dashboards with real-time data is extremely helpful in gauging their successes and opportunities. 

If you need help designing a strategy for talent recruitment, selection and retention for your association, please reach out to Walt Phillips, Chief Revenue Officer at Naylor Association Solutions, at [email protected]

About The Author

Walt Phillips is chief revenue officer for Naylor Association Solutions. Reach him at [email protected].