Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 3 2004, page 45-62.
The percentage of professionals who chose to be members of professional associations or trade unions is decreasing in Denmark. At the same time the professionals who chose to organize focus on ‘value for money’ and ‘return on investment’ of their membership fee. In order to deal with these issues the professional associations have considered various retention and recruitment strategies. The prevailing strategy chosen by most professional associations is the competence strategy: Continuing education, life long learning, etc. has been identified as a prerequisite for development and improvement of individual employability and career development - and therefore indirectly for the possibility to obtain better salaries and working conditions. The competence strategy has been identified as core business for the professional association.
The crucial question for the professional associations is, however: Is the competence strategy a feasible way to satisfy the members’ demands for ‘value for money’? The paper discusses the challenges to the professional associations and their strategic responses. The main argument of the paper claims that this strategy will remain fruitless if it is construed along the lines of either a purely service and market driven ideology (Skylla) or, alternatively, a strict policy driven effort that seeks to influence general working conditions (Charybdis). The strategy will not suffice if it is construed via a service and market driven ideology. Private insurance companies will be able to provide individual member services to a lover cost than the professional associations. Alternatively, the policy driven strategy will not be able to satisfy the individual members’ demands for ‘return on investment’ of their membership fee.
The author points, however, to another route in order to make the competence strategy a success. This route focuses on the human resources among the members themselves. The professional associations have an important role to play in establishing professional networks and communities among the members. Through the participation in professional communities of practice and interest the individual member will be able to stay up to date in his field of specialization and thereby be able to reproduce his employability. The paper describes a possible model for the realization of this strategy and a new vision for the professional associations.