Alice Dartnell: Membership Expertise at PARN’s Spring Conference

Alice headshot“… we need to excel in how we share information and communicate”

Speaking at PARN’s annual conference this year in June was an honour, and I was pleased to see so many people keen to hear about membership engagement as well. As a membership professional specialising in engagement, I truly believe that we have so much to offer our members!

Alice Dartnell, Head of Membership Engagement at the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA), gives answers to questions asked during her talk at PARN’s Spring Conference

Q: You said your membership team were in a finance directorate who moved over to an engagement team – did they need further training to understand the new role?

Any change or upheaval can be disruptive, especially one that requires the individual to upskill, perform new tasks or to take on responsibilities that they have never had before. Don’t underestimate too the physiological links to physically moving (for example from one floor to another, or to another directorate). It is for these reasons, my approach was one that was soft, inclusive and to create a sense of team early on, even before the team physically transferred from finance.

My top tips would be to ensure the team and those being affected understand the big picture (aka the ‘why’) as well as have input into the changes and feel that the environment/culture is safe enough to express concerns or ideas. Even small items such as input into where they will be sitting in the future helps manage the change.

I believe that with any change or upskill, it is vital to equip your team to do the job. After all, you wouldn’t ask a builder to build you a wall without the right tools would you? The training doesn’t have to be formal (in fact a little informality might be better at times), and it doesn’t have to be all at once at the start. Training can come in the form of external face-to-face training, books, sharing ideas/best practice, mentoring, attending conferences etc. Support should be given along the journey and not just at the start. Do not get blindsided by just doing training however. You can’t expect to just train someone and expect that to be that! Follow up with one-to-ones, asking how they have implemented the training or new processes, check what works and doesn’t etc, and make sure the team are clear on how their role is important and how it fits in with the wider work of the organisation.

Q: You mentioned your member engagement panel* – are you happy for as many members to opt into that as possible? 

Absolutely! Why would you want to turn away members that actively want to give you their feedback and ideas? The Panel has been a very successful initiative that the College started in 2017, and to date, the Panel have supported the College in its work with Perioperative Medicine, the launch of our new medical student and foundation year categories, work on dementia and the 2018 all membership survey.

We invite our membership to join the Panel through a variety of ways regularly, including in the membership application forms, newsletters and the bi-annual all membership survey.

*the Panel is our members who have actively opted in to support the College by providing feedback through regular survey and focus groups

Q: What are the challenges of getting baby boomers on board to engage with millennials and younger?

I think that the some of the main challenges of getting baby boomers on board to engage with millennials (or even the upcoming Gen Z) is around the difference in expectations and working life. For example, a lot of younger generations are looking for portfolio careers, accepting that sticking to one job for life and working your way up the corporate ladder is becoming less and less of a reality for a lot of professionals. Another challenge is the difference in wants and needs. For example, many younger generations are yearning for a sense of community, connection or common cause, and want to be communicated to in a way that offers a degree of familiarity and personalisation. It is vital though that you engage with millennials though, because they are the future of any profession!

Having said that, it seems that a lot of organisations are concerned at the moment about their millennials and how to engage with them, but as a millennial myself, I think it is fair to say that organisations should be looking at all their membership categories and age bands, not just millennials.

Connect with Alice on Twitter @alice_dartnell

Alice has been working within the membership sector for over six years and is always seeking ways to improve engagement and value. Alice is currently the Head of Membership Engagement at the Royal College of Anaesthetists where she is responsible for improving the strategic aim of broadening their inclusivity and engagement with members.


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