CEO Update LIVE: Executive Recruiting

Join CEO Update for a discussion with leading executive recruiters in the marketplace.

There is no doubt that the current economy, environment, pandemic and politics are reshaping everything, including associations and executives who lead them.

During this candid discussion, we will explore where associations are hiring and what kind of candidates are rising to the top. The panel will also explore how the demands on the c-suite are increasing and how the role is evolving to address a rapidly changing environment. And given the pressures on organizations’ revenue and compensation, we’ll discuss what tools and tactics are being used for retention and recruiting.


The panel includes veteran executive recruiters in the association community:  Julian Ha, partner at Heidrick & Struggles, Lorraine Lavet, association sector leaders for Korn Ferry; and James Zaniello, president of Vetted Solutions.

RSVP to attend

CEO Update LIVE: Compensation


Pay is up but people want flexibility

Job candidates for association C-suite seek more options to work away from office

Watch the Webcast recorded on November 17, 2021

By Walt Williams

Compensation levels for top association staff are rising, but so are expectations among job candidates to work remotely, two recruitment and compensation experts said during a CEO Update webinar on executive pay. 

Recruiter Leslie Hortum of Spencer Stuart and compensation expert Charlie Quatt of Quatt Associates joined CEO Update Managing Director Mark Graham on Nov. 3 for an hour-long discussion on the compensation and recruitment outlook for association C-suite positions. One common theme: The COVID-19 pandemic has left a deep mark on the association landscape, with job candidates demanding more flexibility on remote work and less emphasis on incentive pay.

 “We’re going to start seeing pressure for people to move incentive compensation to base salaries because they won’t trust any longer that the incentive compensation will be rewarded,” Quatt said.

That deemphasis on incentive pay comes after nearly two years of associations missing performance marks because of the economic headaches created by the pandemic. At the same time, the disaster had caused many workers to reevaluate their career priorities, leading to employee churn at organizations at all levels.

“People are leaving (their jobs) because this has been a time of making interesting choices about their lives: Where and how they spend their time, where they want to live, what kind of flexibility they want to have,” Hortum said. “There is an awful lot of churn. We’re turning work down all the time because we cannot keep up with demand for our services.”

Proven results

Executive compensation is rising because demand for talent is high and employees have a lot of leverage at the moment, Quatt said. At the same time, women and people of color are pushing to ensure they are not paid less than the executives who preceded them. The association C-suite has historically been very white and very male.

Organizations “are being asked to invest in two ways,” Quatt said. “They’re being asked to invest in keeping their talent and they’re also being asked to invest in making sure that people are accurately paid. And both of those can cost money.”

Many associations have boosted their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in recent years, especially since the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. That focus has carried over to CEO-level job searches, with search committees demanding a demonstrable history of action, according to Hortum.

“What search committees are asking candidates is not just how do you feel about it, but what have you done about it?” she said. “How have you shifted the makeup of your board to be more inclusive? How diverse is your senior leadership team? How about one level below that? They’re getting very granular and specific: not just do you think this is a good idea, but what have you done to impact the results?” 

Work away from work

Compensation is important to job candidates, but so is an organization’s culture and mission, according to Quatt. Still, the most in-demand job perk at the moment is the ability to work remotely.

“We’re finding that the No. 1 issue is flexibility,” Quatt said. “People will accept more readily that they be at work a full week if they’re able to balance it with the personal schedules they have.”

“When people know that there’s a certain amount of flexibility, and this goes into customization of the compensation plan, that can go a long way in letting people fit their personal lives and preferences into the fact that they’re being required to come to work,” he added. 

One example Quatt cited was a client that started paying its employees a monthly stipend to offset the cost of driving to work instead of using public transportation. “In other words, we may start seeing people actually getting money for coming to work on a regular basis and not getting it if they don’t,” he said.

One benefit of flexibility is associations can draw on a much larger pool of job candidates for top positions, according to Hortum. The downside, particularly for CEOs, is how do executives build a workplace culture if they rarely see their employees in person?

 “A lot of people who fail in their jobs don’t fail because they’re not smart, hardworking people. They fail because it’s a bad culture fit,” Hortum said. “And so driving a culture that that is about inclusion and engagement and people feeling that they were aligned in the mission is really important. So how do we do that if people aren’t in the office?”

Still, there is no denying the popularity of the perk in attracting talent, she noted.

“What I have heard anecdotally is that those who are mandating back-to-office full time, people don’t want it, they’re not ready for it,” Hortum said. “Will we all feel differently a year from now? I don’t know, but right now, the mandate idea is not playing very well.”

CEO Update LIVE: Future-Proofing


Can you ‘future-proof’ your association?

Three CEOs say they are still learning how to adjust to the many ways the pandemic has changed office work and events

Watch the Webcast recorded on June 29, 2021

Three association CEOs joined CEO Update on June 29 for an online discussion about the future of the association business model. Clockwise, from top left: CEO Update Editor-in-Chief Lynn McNutt, News Media Alliance CEO David Chavern, American Counseling Association CEO Richard Yep, and Association for Supply Chain Management CEO Abe Eshkenazi.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the nature of work, and as a result, association leaders are making potentially momentous decisions about the size of their physical offices, the location of their workforces and the nature of their events.

Three association CEOs joined CEO Update on June 29 for an online discussion about “future-proofing” organizations. Each of the panelists said the pandemic had an impact on their operations, ranging from moving into new, smaller offices to accelerated employee turnover. But those changes were not necessarily for the worse.

“When we say waterproofing, we don’t want the water to come in, but future-proofing doesn’t mean we don’t want the future,” said Richard Yep, CEO of the American Counseling Association. “It means we want to be enabled when things are challenging us.”

The pandemic proved to ACA that its employees didn’t necessarily need to be in its Washington, D.C., offices to be effective. The association dipped its toes into teleworking in early March 2020¬—before offices shut down nationwide¬—by having its roughly 60 staff work from home for two days, just to see if it could be done. They could, and ACA’s staff hasn’t been back in the office since.

ACA polled employees and found that roughly 70% want to continue working from home. Armed with that information, the association terminated its existing lease in Alexandria, Va., and is moving into a smaller space that will save it roughly $15,000 a month, Yep said. While there were financial penalties associated with ending a lease early, the CEO said the group “crunched the numbers” and worked with its new landlord to make things work out.

The savings “means we can direct our resources more into things that directly benefit our members,” Yep said.

Employee expectations

The Association for Supply Chain Management, based in Chicago, is still trying to figure out what its new office environment will look like, according to CEO Abe Eshkenazi. Each of the association’s departments has flexibility on who gets to work from home, but the group’s leadership isn’t pushing for a fast return.

“Our focus right now is either the office space is safe for all or is safe for none,” Eshkenazi said. “We are not going to go into a part-time office. We believe we can provide a safe environment, but it will be different than in the past and most likely it will be a shorter duration.”

Associations need to find different ways to attract and retain talent given the new office environment, he said. Some analysts have predicted a “tsunami” of employee turnover as workers seek out new job opportunities after hunkering down during the pandemic. The wave has already crashed over ASCM, which watched its normal annual turnover rate of 10% swell to 30%.

“We’ve been a great place to work for five years,” Eshkenazi said. “Our salaries are competitive, we do a market analysis on every position every three years. Even still, we’re still seeing a significant turnover. … Any organization right now that can find qualified talent is going to hire them, and they’re going to pay salaries that we just can’t compete with right now.”

One thing ASCM is struggling with is how to establish an organizational culture when a large percentage of new employees have not met their co-workers face to face. The group also is trying to figure what a telework policy looks like for different departments given some job functions more easily translate into remote work than others. The one certainty: New hires are expecting a telework policy.

“A lot of employees won’t consider a job unless it is remote right now,” Eshkenazi said. “We’re now seeing a very different requirement from the employee base in terms of what an attractive offer is to them.”

Virtual vs in-person events

Association events are also shifting. Arlington, Va.-based News Media Alliance got out of the business of in-person conferences a while back, but CEO David Chavern said he is considering resurrecting them in digital form now that the past year has shown this is a viable option.

“One of the things we found with the online world is content delivery is often better,” Chavern said.

Still, the CEO noted the downside of the all-digital experience was the lack of opportunities for networking, which is a “high-value component” of meetings. The question his association and others face is how do you deliver both components in a satisfactory way.

“When you’re doing a conference, first of all, the expectation is everything is going to be online,” he said. “Secondly, you’re going to have a bunch of people sitting in their hotel rooms watching the conference on their laptops then going down to the cocktail party afterward. These are really two different values and you got to think, ‘How am I going to deliver on the best experience for the audience?'”

A hybrid event model is touted as a possible solution, but it is not one ACA plans to pursue, according to Yep. His association has been able to reach larger audiences with virtual events, so it is instead looking at holding separate in-person and virtual events.

“There will be a virtual one where they can do continuing education (and) renew their license to practice, and another one where they can come together for hugs and networking and all the other stuff,” he said.

“That’s the direction I think we’ll go. It will be different for every association, of course.”

CEO Update LIVE: Advocacy


Data, stories vital for advocacy in hyperpartisan era

Clark, Timmons and Neely share strategies for targeting supporters, leveraging digital tools and when to take a stand on societal issues.

Watch the Webcast recorded on May 25, 2021

National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons (top right) joined American Council of Life Insurers CEO Susan Neely (bottom left) and U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark (bottom right) to discuss association advocacy in today’s politically polarized environment. The panel was moderated by CEO Update Managing Director Mark Graham (top left).

Intense political polarization isn’t making association advocacy easy, but knowing where to focus your efforts, picking which cultural battles to avoid and having a solid communications strategy can help cut through the partisan clutter, according to the leaders of three of the nation’s largest business groups.

The CEOs of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and American Council of Life Insurers joined CEO Update on May 25 for an online panel discussion on advocacy in the current political environment. The CEOs generally agreed that on broad policy issues like infrastructure there was room to find consensus—at least in theory.

“Therein lies the challenge we all have because it is not fashionable to operate in a bipartisan manner,” ACLI CEO Susan Neely said.

Political gridlock resulting from a lack of bipartisanship is only one challenge facing today’s association advocates. The business community is increasingly speaking out—or being pressured to take a stand on—hot-button cultural issues like voting rights and systemic racism. Then there is the COVID-19 pandemic, which accelerated many business and political trends already underway and helped usher in an age of digital advocacy.

The interplay between state, federal and international policy has intensified as well, Neely said. Chamber CEO Suzanne Clark agreed, adding that as a result, “the breadth of the work has really expanded in quite a remarkable way.” The good news is associations have more data than ever before to work with, and that allows them to “hyperfocus” their efforts.

“This past year we were able to do a lot of targeting around, ‘Where did a pro-business, free-enterprise jobs message really work?’ and, ‘Were there voters that we could really turn on to those messages in a big way?’” Clark said.

Clark pointed to the recent special elections in Georgia. The Chamber reached out to about a million people in Georgia suburbs “that really care about free enterprise and jobs” through phone messages and tele-town halls rather than advertising.  In a crowded media landscape and highly polarized environment, data is your ally.

“I think the opportunities to lean in to use data to find new tools and to really identify the audiences who care most about your message, and will be there for you, are probably higher and more accessible than ever,” she said.

Virtual lobbying

Data can be a two-edged sword. NAM CEO Jay Timmons said the “weaponization” of public discourse and data has been used to turn association allies into adversaries. He believes the best response lies in having a good story to tell about the real-life impacts of policy decisions. He pointed to the tax reforms passed by Congress in 2017 as an example.

“We can use real examples of investment and job creation and wage growth to be able to make our point when we have to be on the field, defensively or offensively,” Timmons said.

The pandemic has helped associations tell those kinds of stories. The panelists noted that the increased use of teleconferencing has made it easier to reach members of Congress and other decision-makers, given it takes less time to hop on Zoom than to meet in-person. Neely said that when ACLI has a “hot-button” issue before lawmakers, it may bring in 10 to 20 CEOs of member companies “on a moment’s notice.”

“They’ll jump on their planes and they’ll come in and they’ll meet, but it was oddly more powerful on Zoom to be really relevant and timely and not juggling lots of different schedules, and to have the senators’ undivided attention,” Neely said. ACLI will likely continue to use Zoom well into the future, although she added some members still prefer in-person visits.

The Chamber used the pandemic to boost its communications efforts, throwing resources into an interview series featuring guests such as Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates. The “Path Forward” series currently has more than 25 million views.

“Those were numbers that were unheard of for us before,” Clark said. “Some of that was because of the pandemic and virtual (engagement), but some of that was creating that actual franchise.”

‘Woke’ advocacy?

Battles over tax policy and regulation are the norm for associations, but increasingly businesses and their advocacy groups are taking stands on cultural issues, sometimes prompting political backlash. The most recent example came when some businesses spoke out against Republican-led voting laws in Georgia and other states that critics labeled race-based voter suppression. As a result, GOP lawmakers threatened to legislatively retaliate against “woke” corporations.

Voting rights is largely an issue business groups have avoided. “The Chamber is not the voting rights expert, and so asking us to go state by state and look at these bills and decide what was good and what was bad … was the wrong answer,” Clark said.

But the Chamber and other associations have weighed in on other cultural touchpoints, throwing support behind diversity initiatives after last year’s Black Lives Matter protests and condemning the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Sometimes the CEOs themselves have spoken out ahead of the industries they represent. Timmons said he follows the advice of former Vinyl Institute CEO Dick Doyle, who told him, “You should always be one step ahead of your board but not two.”

“You have to understand what their principles and what their values are, but I also think that every single one of us … is blessed to have the platform we have been given,” Timmons said.

“It becomes difficult to try to figure out what you want to speak out on but frankly it’s a gut check. It’s a gut call,” he added. “It’s a good conversation to have with your board chair and with your executive committee. Find out what they want you to stand for, or in some cases stand against, and when your voice will be welcome in the debate.”

CEO Update LIVE: Expanding Membership


Groups try new ways to reach members

CompTIA targets career changers, AAAE serves “blue shirts;” Online discussion groups and one-click advocacy campaigns can work

Watch the Webcast recorded on March 9, 2021

A visit to a nearby airport served as a lightbulb moment for the American Association of Airport Executives.

“We got this great insight back from some of the folks at the airport, who said … ‘We didn’t know you did all of this stuff. We thought AAAE … was really for the white shirts in our organization, the professionals, the executives, not necessarily the blue shirts in our organization, the maintenance folks, the technicians,’” AAAE CEO Todd Hauptli said.

As a result, the Alexandria, Va.-based association “started looking more broadly at the kinds of products and services that we could offer, and that helped us grow the membership base,” Hauptli said.

Associations are rethinking the pool of potential members and are revamping old ways of reaching them, especially since the pandemic upended the old ways of doing things one year ago.

Three CEOs shared approaches that have worked for them during the March 9 CEO Update LIVE webcast on expanding membership during the pandemic and into the future.

In addition to Hauptli, panelists included Ann Battrell, CEO of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, and Todd Thibodeaux, CEO of CompTIA (Computer Technology Industry Association). CEO Update Editor-in-Chief Lynn McNutt moderated the webinar.

When dental hygienists were furloughed or laid off early in the pandemic, “they were coming to us for clear and direct information,” Battrell said. “We saw very quickly we had to give them an opportunity to have a voice.”

Chicago-based ADHA conducted advocacy campaigns in which people could “communicate with their governors in one simple click,” Battrell said. At the same time, the association offered some discounts on dues. ADHA brought in 2,200 new members in a three-month period.

“What we found was that that discount had to be tied to an advocacy campaign,” Battrell said. “And it was a … two-for-one kind of thing, so they joined immediately on the spot when they found value.”

Before COVID-19, the individuals who came to CompTIA for education and certification were mostly those who were certain about pursuing a tech career, Thibodeaux said.

But pandemic-related job losses have caused more people from other fields to consider careers in technology, which has created a new category of potential consumers of CompTIA’s offerings.

“We want to make sure we’re reaching them where they are with the messaging that they need. We have to educate them,” Thibodeaux said. “We need to understand them better. And we need to make sure that we’re using the right platforms, tools and technologies and approaches to find these people.”

CompTIA, which is based outside Chicago, did a “total review” of its digital marketing strategy, including paid searches.

“When we (used) the phrase ‘I hate my job,’ we actually found a pretty big influx of people,” Thibodeaux said.

After Zoom fatigue quickly se<>t in a year ago, CompTIA decided to give people places to discuss the “things that were most interesting to them,” Thibodeaux said.

The association launched “technology interest groups,” which are online forums centered on topics such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, drones, blockchain and advancing women in technology.

CompTIA has about 2,000 business members, as well as professional members and more than 200,000 registered users. The group’s existing communities and councils always drew executives and people in sales and marketing. But the interest groups allowed the association “to reach down to a different se<>t of people within the organizations,” including in engineering and product development, Thibodeaux said.

For such online forums to work, they need leaders with industry stature and a large network, he said.

“If you find the right person … then their credibility brings along some of the other people. Their energy brings along the excitement and discussion.”

CompTIA closely moderates each group and requires all participants to sign a code of conduct, which outlines good behavior and includes precautions against saying anything that might violate antitrust laws aimed at keeping the marketplace competitive.

Tips for planning in-person, virtual events

The hygienists’ group is planning an in-person annual conference for June in Phoenix, with a virtual conference 10 days later. Battrell emphasized that traveling to the venue to assess safety protocols was critical to making the decision.

“At the end of the meeting, they said to me, ‘Is there any one thing we could do to help your board feel safe in the city of Phoenix?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you need to do a video. You need to speak to my board. I can talk to them all day long, but they need a video to see what you have done in the city, in the convention center and in the hotels,’” Battrell said.

The video showing health and safety measures “made all the difference for the board to say, ‘We are ready to go,’” she said.

Hauptli is hoping about 1,000 people will attend AAAE’s annual conference and exposition in July in Las Vegas, although he said it may be fall before face-to-face meetings really make a comeback. AAAE is also offering a virtual attendance option for the conference.

Thibodeaux expects events will initially return in hybrid form, with small, regional, in-person components. CompTIA was holding virtual events before the pandemic. His tips for successful virtual meetings include:

—Spread events over several days. “It’s actually easier for them to schedule for that than trying to block out an entire day,” he said.

—Cap sessions at 30 to 45 minutes;

—Limit panelists to two or three panelists per session, and ask them to skip slideshow presentations and get right to the discussion with Q&A.

“I think that’s much more engaging and creates much more of a back and forth between the individuals,” Thibodeaux said;

—Designate an online place where people can pick up reports and other materials that panelists shared.

Battrell said one of the best things from ADHA’s virtual meeting was a corporate-sponsored lounge.

“People would leave a … session and go into the lounge and start engaging in conversations there. So we got immediate feedback on the whole virtual event in the lounge,” she said.

CEO Update LIVE: Executive Recruiting (2021)


Recruiters on landing a top executive job now

Be prepared to talk about how you responded to the pandemic and racial justice movement; don’t rely on notes in a video call

Watch the Webcast recorded on February 18, 2021

By Kathryn Walson

Boards are more comfortable with virtual interviews than they were six or nine months ago, but CEO candidates still face the challenge of forming a connection with people through a computer screen.

“You have to keep your energy up. You have to really lean in. You have to be crisp. You have to answer the questions. You have to figure out how to build rapport with people in this medium when you can’t sit across the table,” said Lorraine Lavet, association sector leader at executive search firm Korn Ferry.

Lavet participated in the CEO Update LIVE Feb. 18 webcast on executive recruiting. Also on the panel: Jim Zaniello, president and founder of Vetted Solutions, and Julian Ha, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles. CEO Update Managing Director Mark Graham moderated.

Graham noted that new vacancy announcements tracked by CEO Update are running about the same so far in 2021 as they were in the years before the pandemic.

Zaniello said boards of directors are seeing the need to operate under a new business model and are looking for innovative and entrepreneurial talent in their C-suite. At the same time, he said talented executives are more comfortable making a move—now that they’ve put a plan in place for their organizations—and more willing to be recruited for a new opportunity.

One particularly desirable skill? “I do think search committees light up when CEOs are talking about how they used last year to transform everything they do with the lens of technology, and technology at a level that’s never been seen before,” Zaniello said.

But the hiring process continues to be affected by the pandemic. Ha said that because he may not have met a candidate face to face before, he is doing even deeper vetting and more referencing than ever.

“We’ve really doubled, tripled down in some cases, in terms of both formal and quiet referencing,” he said.

Previously, recruiters had to get “all the stars to align” for seven or eight members of a search committee to meet in person, Ha said, but now they all just “jump on another Zoom” call. As a result, some searches are closing more quickly, but in other cases associations are interviewing more candidates or requesting more rounds of interviews.

The recruiters cautioned candidates to remember the basics—such as wearing pants even in a virtual interview—and how to project through a screen. Lavet said some people get stuck on reading notes, which they probably wouldn’t do in an in-person meeting.

“They sound very scripted. In debriefs, we hear that from the client that, ‘We want someone at a CEO level who is extemporaneous, who can just answer the question because it’s organic for them,’” Lavet said.

One issue that has come up more frequently during the pandemic has been relocating for a job. While some professional societies are flexible about where a CEO lives, trade groups often require a CEO to be based at the headquarters, Ha said.

Lavet said she has had a couple of situations where candidates were ready to move, but at the last minute spouses changed their minds because of a COVID-19 outbreak or the in-person versus virtual instruction situation at a new school.

“Really give some thought with your families. Is this really a good time for relocation? I would be upfront about that,” she said. “Some organizations are more patient in terms of the timing of the relocation. So you should ask about that. Do I have to relocate right away? Or can I be virtual, at least for a period of time, and relocate in six months?”


Candidates today must be ready to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion. Ha said clients have started bringing up DEI before he does.

Ha recommends reflecting on how you led your organization through 2020’s upheaval, including the pandemic and racial justice movement: “What did you do to address these issues and move the needle in the right direction?” he said.

DEI leadership must come from the top, Lavet said. Boards want to know how CEO candidates have incorporated DEI into how they approach the entire enterprise, including strategic planning, board succession, organizational culture and decision making at every level, she said.

Lavet responded to a question from the webcast audience about how a candidate, who is a person of color, can confirm that an organization is being genuine in its commitment to diversity. Lavet said it is very important to ask direct questions in an authentic and engaging way. She said the second round of interviews is probably the time to start having this conversation.

“Be really sure they’re going to support you. Because when you join the organization, you’re going to want to make some changes, and you don’t want to be going uphill,” Lavet said.


It’s more important than ever for organizations to be transparent about their finances with CEO candidates, Zaniello said. He recommends candidates ask for projections going out 12 to 18 months and sometimes two years beyond the current budget.

“If you want to recruit top talent, you’ve got to completely open the books,” Zaniello said. “If an organization is experiencing challenging financial times, so are a lot of other organizations, and I think you can still bring incredible top talent who might be excited about helping to turn that around, just so long as they understand the dynamics that they’re walking into.”

Candidates want to avoid a situation where they are told one thing about the group’s finances and find out something else once they start, Lavet said. Just because it’s a big, well-known organization doesn’t mean it has been run well.

Ha said some associations under financial pressure have gotten creative when making offers: “They say, ‘Look, we’ve opened our books. You know where we are. We can only afford X. But hopefully under your leadership … we’ll all share in the upside.’” 

CEO Update LIVE: Diversity In Association Hiring


Advice on achieving diversity

Panelists stressed the importance of cultivating pipeline of diverse candidates through ties with identity organizations and fostering welcoming atmosphere.

By William Ehart

The push for diversity in hiring—and inclusion in the workplace—has never been stronger. How can associations live up to the moment?

A panel of experts gathered for a CEO Update LIVE webcast Aug. 19 said there has been a sea change in attitudes among hiring organizations but that a pipeline of diverse talent must be built and a welcoming environment fostered. (Watch a recording of the webcast.)

Michelle Mason, CEO of the Chicago-based Association Forum, said diversity in hiring without an inclusive atmosphere for staff is futile.

“I can’t see one without the other, they’re both critical to be effective,” Mason said. “We know that now everyone wants to hire black and brown candidates. We must first ask how can we help them be successful.”

The other two panelists were recruiters Julian Ha, head of the association practice at Heidrick & Struggles, and Jim Zaniello, president of Vetted Solutions.

Ha said that proper onboarding can help create a sense of belonging. He drew the analogy of a party, where diversity means minority candidates get invited, inclusion means they are asked to join a table or to dance, and belonging means they can dance like no one is watching. 

“If (the organization) is not thoughtful about the inclusion and belonging pieces, then you’ll find that, unfortunately, the party will soon be devoid of black, brown and (Asian-American and Pacific Islander) participants because they’re just not being included in the opportunities or projects for advancement.”

Mentorship is an important way to help diverse staff succeed—but so is sponsorship, Ha said.

“Mentors can be folks in your current organization or they can be external. It’s really anyone you feel you have a good relationship with, whom you can confide in to get advice on career or how to handle a situation. But sponsors are equally important,” he said.

“I think organizations need to be thoughtful around how to create that culture for sponsors. Sponsors are folks who will go to bat for you, to get you that project, to get you staffed on something, to get you visible so that you’re prepared for that next level of advancement. They’re the ones who will be saying good things when you’re not in the room,” Ha said.

Questions for candidates

Minority job applicants should evaluate the environment at potential employers.

“It’s fair for candidates to ask whether the organization has a diversity and inclusion plan, to see that, and to have a conversation around it,” Zaniello said. “And to look at how broad it is. Is it a document that primarily addresses the internal organization versus the profession it serves? But candidates very much should engage prospective employers in conversations around culture and their D&I work.”

Mason said jobseekers can take advantage of resources such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor to gauge the work atmosphere of an employer.

“Network with current employees if you’re able to,” she said. “Understand what the culture is like. Hear firsthand.”

Hiring organizations—including those who hire recruitment firms—should be mindful that candidates will have these questions, Ha said.

“Clients should try to be thoughtful about the interview panel and the makeup of that panel,” he said. Because if (our firm is) presenting diverse candidates, and all they are meeting are nondiverse folks, what’s signal is that sending?”

Prioritizing metrics

Yardsticks are critical for employers to understand the progress they are making, Mason said.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” she said. “Diversity and inclusion are processes just like other HR processes, and there need to be accountable measures associated with them,” Mason said.

And associations seeking a diverse and inclusive workforce should make that a strategic imperative.

“It should be systematic and always linked to the strategic plan, and visible in the plan as a priority,” she said.

Zaniello said accountability should extend throughout the management team.

“If an organization does hire a diversity, equity and inclusion officer or staff person, those metrics shouldn’t just be theirs, they should be for the head of human resources, the CEO, and quite frankly, they should be part of the evaluation measures for anyone who leads a team within the organization,” Zaniello said.

The issue with achieving diversity is not a lack of diverse candidates, Mason said.

“We know that the talent exists; we need to be very intentional in our pursuit of the talent. There is no shortage,” she said.

“We’re focusing on hiring practices, (but) we have to start before we realize we have a position available,” Mason said. “That starts with culture, and that starts with attraction. So for associations it’s very important to build relationships with identity-based organizations and historically Black colleges.

“That can come in the form of participating in career fairs, internship programs, leadership development programs, as well as fellowship programs,” she said. “A great pipeline would be the ASAE (Diversity Executive Leadership Program).”

CEO Update LIVE: Designing office space for a new era


After months of working from home and strained budgets, associations are taking a critical eye to their real estate needs. Even after restrictions lift, most groups say they won’t go back to business as usual and many are considering reduced footprints and reappointed spaces with staff safety and cost savings in mind. 

Join CEO Update and thought leaders in real estate and office design as we discuss what spaces of the future will look like, how they will support a new era of work and how to transition your workspace.

Moderated by Lynn McNutt, Editor-in-Chief, CEO Update

CEO Update Live: Meetings


CEOs speak candidly on events

Two leaders ‘confident’ in-person shows are a go; health group keeps virtual option

Watch the Webcast recorded on June 24, 2021

By William Ehart

The Consumer Technology Association and the National Retail Federation are moving ahead with confidence as they plan for in-person trade shows next January. But the American College of Healthcare Executives is hedging bets for its March 2022 annual meeting, in case a virtual event is necessary.

Those were among the viewpoints shared by chief executives representing three diverse sectors with different types of meetings during the CEO Update LIVE webinar “Meetings: Return to Relevance (and Revenue)” on Aug. 26.

“The encouraging thing from our perspective is, we’re beyond talk about shutdowns and closures and stopping the economy,” said panelist Matthew Shay, NRF CEO. “Schools will reopen in person, businesses are reopened.

“There’s too much momentum in the economy and there’s too much confidence to consider what would happen about canceling. We won’t cancel. Our show will happen. It will go on. We’re very confident about that.”

NRF’s large annual conference, The BIG Show, is scheduled Jan. 16-18 at the Javits Center in New York. Before the pandemic, the show had been on pace to attract 50,000 attendees last winter, Shay said.

For next January, “our exhibits are well sold, we’re well on the way to the budget number we established for ourselves this year,” he said. But Shay noted that there may be restrictions on attendees traveling from overseas.

The other panelists were CTA CEO Gary Shapiro and ACHE CEO Deborah Bowen. CEO Update Editor-in-Chief Lynn McNutt moderated the discussion.

Shapiro echoed Shay, saying “we intend to go forward” with its huge show, CES 2022, in Las Vegas Jan. 5-8.

“We already have over 1,100 companies signed up, we have 1.6 million square feet of exhibit space sold,” Shapiro said. “The reality is … human beings need each other. We need that contact, especially in the business world.”

CTA has announced it will require attendees to show proof of vaccination, though there’s a possibility it could allow proof of COVID-19 antibodies, Shapiro said. The state of Nevada has reimposed indoor mask mandates in several locations, including Las Vegas. Shapiro said CTA has received surprisingly little backlash over its mandate, apart from some online comments by “anti-vaxxers.” (In New York, site of NRF’s BIG Show, proof of vaccination is currently required for many indoor activities, including conventions.)

‘Full-court press’

ACHE’s much smaller 2022 Congress on Healthcare Leadership is scheduled March 28-31 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Prior to the pandemic, the event typically drew 4,000 attendees. (Its virtual event earlier this year drew 9,200 people.)

“Two weeks ago, we were in a full-court press to plan for a face-to-face event,” Bowen said. “Now, having seen all of the implications, the stress, the added work, the increase in cases that all of our members are facing, I obviously don’t know how things are going to emerge.

“We are in a situation where we have to really plan on parallel fronts,” she said.  “We’re going to move forward with all the optimism of holding a face-to-face and all the benefits that brings in terms of the intimacy of our interactions and the people we’ve missed, and the conversations we’ve missed.

“But again, we also have to be realistic that people may not be able to come,” Bowen said. “If the ICU is filled and people can’t leave their institutions, we’ve also got a plan for virtual.”

In response to an attendee question, Bowen said ACHE would likely refund registration fees in certain circumstances if the event is held virtually.

“We consider ourselves a trusted partner to our members,” she said. “We fully refunded when we canceled last time. We would probably refund, under certain policies now, if we had to make a decision that was not upholding the promise that we made upon purchase.

“You really want to make those decisions while you’re rolling out your pricing policies, and not be in a position after the fact where people have one impression and you’re changing the rules on them,” Bowen said.

Financial flexibility

Shay and Shapiro spoke about responding to the cancellation of their shows last winter. Both NRF and CTA are in a strong position financially to weather the storm, they said.

“The (board) leadership of the NRF determined that from a strategic perspective, this was the time the industry needed the support of the NRF more than ever,” Shay said.

“It was the 100-year flood and there is no point in having flood insurance then saying, ‘Oh, we’re not going to fulfill the policy.’ So, we didn’t have any staff reductions, we didn’t have any benefit adjustments for the team,” he said. “We kept the team intact, we kept people working for and serving the industry.”

Shapiro said CTA did make staff and other reductions.

“While we cut back, I actually insisted to my board—they objected, we negotiated, I started with a serious reduction and ended up with a modest one—I took a salary cut,” he said. “I felt like we were going to all of our vendors that we had used for years, we’re asking everyone to cut back, asking staff to cut back. …

“We acted quickly in April 2020 to make a whole bunch of financial cutbacks, because we simply didn’t have the income to justify what we were doing in the long term,” Shapiro said. “Our feeling was this is going to go on for a while, we have to start cutting now. …

“Sometimes cleansing of expenses and frankly even employees is healthy for the organization,” he said.

But CTA also invested in new things, including the digital show it held in January 2021, and in what Shapiro called “high growth” areas.

“We use the example of, ‘We save for a rainy day; we have to put our galoshes on and start spending,’” he said. “We’ve been very (financially) conservative over the years, and people wondered why.”