JANUARY, named after the Roman god Janus, is the time for beginnings and transitions. It is the first month of the year when you start planning and set new goals. The pandemic, however, has added a new dimension in the way organizations now plan and operate.
So when I read “What matters most? Six Priorities for CEOs in Turbulent Times” by Homayoun Hatami and Liz Hilton Segel on the website of McKinsey & Co., I thought their findings would resonate to associations as well.
1. Resilience: The capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from adversity. The pandemic has made businesses move much faster and for their leaders to deploy speed across six dimensions of resilience: finance, operations, technology organization, business model, and reputation. In the context of associations, these areas of resilience are in governance, member engagement, communications, branding and marketing, new service offerings, revenue diversification, and digital transformation.
2. Courage: The strength to venture, persevere, and cope with danger, fear or difficulty. The pandemic has caused some businesses to pull back, postpone initiatives, and scale down on growth plans. The best leaders, however, spurred their organizations to seek for new opportunities and reset their strategies in light of the current volatility. Association leaders that have followed this same tact of bravely pursuing the upside (e.g., active collaboration, people care and upskilling, hybrid work) rather than the downside of the crisis, have survived and even thrived.
3. Entrepreneurial Spirit: The desire to take risks and the confidence to start a business. More than half of top executives in the study considered business-building a top-three priority. They began by setting the bar very high and protected the new business from “business as usual.” In the same vein, many associations have invested in new member offerings during the pandemic, e.g., setting up online communities, enhancing educational and certification programs, and mentoring.
4. Tech-savviness: The ability or depth of knowledge and ease of working with technologies. Building a new business means having up-to-date and better technology. This is true for all the companies seeking to get maximum value from their digital transformation. But technology is always evolving and so keeping an eye constantly at the top tech trends is essential. This is the same for associations which believe there is no way to grow but to go digital.
5. Sustainability-focused: A business approach to creating long-term value by taking into consideration how an organization operates in the ecological, social, and economic environments. At COP26, business leaders pledged to reduce nearly 90% of CO2 emissions. It is clear that the net-zero transition is taking off. Associations are following suit by undertaking, among others, climate action advocacy, as well as legacy programs based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals when organizing meetings, conferences, and exhibitions.
6. Employee-reengaged: Organizing a workplace experience for employees that creates an emotional connection with the workplace and their colleagues. Getting the hybrid work model right is only one dimension. CEOs need to think hard about the office of the future, a place where workers want to be: to see friends, generate new ideas, and find meaning in their work.
Octavio Peralta is currently the executive director of the UN Global Compact Network Philippines and founder and volunteer CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives, the “association of associations.” E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.