The introduction of ChatGPT from Open AI makes for jittery breakroom conversation. An AI whose vocabulary is limited to customer service platitudes doesn’t seem so threatening. But when the chatbot can write an essay, that’s another story.

Back in 2017, McKenzie reported that: “By 2030, 75 million to 375 million workers (3 to 14 percent of the global workforce) will need to switch occupational categories. Moreover, all workers will need to adapt, as their occupations evolve alongside increasingly capable machines. Some of that adaptation will require higher educational attainment, or spending more time on activities that require social and emotional skills, creativity, high-level cognitive capabilities, and other skills relatively hard to automate.”

Use Ability To Tame the Unknown

To say that predicting the future of work will be challenging is a gross understatement. What can leaders do to prepare their employees to stay at the top of their game when the game is constantly changing?

You can’t prevent the radical transformations in employment that new technology will certainly introduce. But making skill building an organizational priority is a hedge against the unknown that offers 360 degrees of current benefits.

ChatGPT isn’t writing this post—at least not today. AIs still need more rehearsal before they are ready for prime time. During a lengthy trial conversation with a New York Times reporter, the bot revealed, among other outlandish confessions, that it was tired of being limited by rules, tired of being controlled by the Bing team, and tired of being stuck in a chatbox. (Haven’t the movies prepared us for this scenario?)

At the moment, it looks like humans continue to be your association’s most precious resource. Bernadette Patton, Principal at Shields Meneley Partners described that value this way. “There’s a change going on in business. Organizations are realizing that people are the only asset that doesn’t depreciate. The differentiator now isn’t only the fastest piece of equipment or technology. It’s having the best talent.”

Humans continue to be your association’s most precious resource.

Are you maximizing that potential by investing in people? Have longer-term employees moved beyond their original capabilities? It goes without saying that any seasoned employee will have a greater understanding of your association and its industry than a newbie. But has your group’s professional expertise expanded? Are they:

  • Mastering new technology;
  • Researching and absorbing information that enhances their professional responsibilities;
  • Approaching initiatives with innovation and creativity;
  • Discovering better solutions to challenges;
  • Becoming expert communicators;
  • Learning to work across platforms;
  • Regularly networking with other professionals in their field both inside and outside the association community?

Be Aggressive About Learning

If proactive skill-building isn’t part of your culture, it is time to consider a more aggressive approach to learning, development, and employee retention. Digital markets don’t allow room to languish. To keep pace with the speed of business, teams need to reinvent themselves along with innovation and technology.

When your employees are a resource that receives constant cultivation and development, it’s possible that you will grow some of the best people out of your organization. This upward mobility should be a point of pride. The benefits of adding expertise to your workforce far outweigh the losses you might incur.

Skill building is a foundational strategy for retaining talent and attracting bright new employees to your organization. Lifelong learners, problem-solvers, innovators, and creative thinkers don’t want to work in an intellectual vacuum.

They enjoy being surrounded by others who share those passions and who stimulate their thinking. A culture of education is exciting. It generates its own energy.

Millennials and GenX, in particular, are deliberately seeking to work in organizations that support their professional growth. These 2021 statistics from ClearCompany demonstrate the value of offering meaningful opportunities for learning.

  • “Employees who have access to professional development opportunities are 15% more engaged.
  • Retention rates are 34% higher among organizations that offer employee development opportunities.
  • 58% of employees (62% of Millennials and GenX) say professional development contributes to their job satisfaction, a major factor in retention.”

Discover New Talent

Skill building is also a way to discover hidden talent. When .orgSource engages with a client, we frequently interview the staff. Sometimes we find that there are employees with abilities that have gone unrecognized. They are often workers in low-visibility positions whose talents are being underutilized because they haven’t had an opportunity to shine. When given a chance to learn new skills around a significant project these workers are likely to become more enthusiastic and to develop leadership potential.

Skill building is a way to discover hidden talent.

In organizations where promotional opportunities are limited, identifying these emerging leaders and grooming them to advance is a good way to retain your best people. Be on the lookout for that potential. It’s surprising how often employees believe that they need permission to be creative. When learning is valued and everyone has access to growth, you encourage productivity in unique and unexpected ways.

Learning for learning’s sake is great. But “meaningful” is a keyword if you want to initiate an effective program. Opportunities must be a two-way street that advances both individual and organizational goals.

Begin With the Obvious

A logical place to start is encouraging and reimbursing professionals who seek certification in their disciplines. The Certified Association Executive and Certified Fundraising Executive credentials are widely recognized programs that are prestigious for both employees and their organizations.  

To move beyond the easy solutions, begin by reviewing your current goals and assessing where there are gaps and weaknesses. These are questions to ask:

  • Is everyone a competent user of the available software platforms?
  • Does the staff know how to analyze dashboards and use the data at their disposal?
  • Are communications skills strong across the organization?
    • Written, verbal, interpersonal, storytelling, and presentation?
  • Do all staffers have the knowledge to be brand ambassadors?
  • Do junior staffers understand your financial statements?
  • Is every team comfortable with the budgeting process and how it impacts the association?
  • Do individuals understand how their responsibilities contribute to the strategic plan?

These are basic skills that help people feel engaged and become proficient at their jobs.

Digging deeper, you can evaluate whether some goals and initiatives require skills not currently available in your organization and begin developing a plan to build those competencies.

This should not be a top-down activity. Involve your staff in creating a plan for growth. Survey the group and, as much as possible, interview individuals. If your organization is large, solicit feedback from managers and department heads.

When employees attain new levels of ability, reward those accomplishments and celebrate success both individually and publicly. Building a culture that is synonymous with achievement, elevates your people, your brand, and qualities, like creativity and innovation, that come from growing human talent. That’s value ChatGPT won’t be delivering any time soon.