WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
BY JAMES G. TOSCAS
It’s the dreaded Post-Graduate Disappearance Syndrome — the dead zone after
student members of your association have
graduated, felt the instant overload of the
working world and lost motivation to continue membership. As student members,
they attended events and even tried their
hand at committee service — but now,
as employed professionals, they’ve disappeared. Yes, they might resurface in three
to six years, after they have achieved sufficient seniority to warrant being sent to
association events — or they might not.
One way to address this problem is to
identify early-career professionals and
jump-start their involvement. Ideally, the
program should: ( 1) provide participants
with valuable training, experience and
networking to enhance their professional
careers, ( 2) augment the stream of new
high-potential professionals who are
active in association activities and ( 3) foster continued growth and success of the
industry by identifying and developing its
next generation of leaders.
THE PCI ANSWER
On the occasion of its 50th anniversary in
2004, the Precast/Prestressed Concrete
Institute established “Leadership PCI,” a
program that has proven highly successful in achieving these three objectives.
We patterned it after a functional model
familiar to students: college. Using a
combination of structure, accountability,
camaraderie and leadership, we were able
to create a program that has valuable
benefits and staying power.
The program runs in an annual cycle,
beginning and ending in October at the
annual PCI convention. Any member
organization can nominate an employee
for Leadership PCI. As a condition of the
application, the sponsoring organization
agrees to support the candidate’s participation in all Leadership PCI activities for a
minimum of one year.
A selection committee appointed by
the PCI chairman reviews all application
profiles, looking for evidence of motivation to advance the industry, motivation
for personal growth and development, and
overall character and integrity. Approximately 25 outstanding individuals are
chosen; those not selected are eligible for
candidacy the following year.
The selected individuals form a Leadership PCI Class. The class is introduced at
the PCI convention, during which class
members take part in a structured program that includes initiation into the
program and an orientation to PCI. Class
members then visit various committee
meetings, where they are introduced to
members and participate in social and
During the next year, class members are
committed to a program of development
• Two “Leadership Boot Camp” retreats
designed for this program
• A special leadership track at the spring
PCI membership conference
• At least one educational seminar from a
list of PCI and outside programs
• Orientation of the following year’s class at
the next PCI annual convention.
Finally, class members take part in a
convocation program and ceremony, and
those who have accomplished all requirements receive certificates of completion.
There is no fee for application or participation. PCI covers costs for participants’
registration (and meals, if included) at PCI
events, as well as tuition fees and course
materials for all program activities. The
sponsoring organization is responsible
only for travel and lodging expenses.
Leadership PCI has performed well
beyond our expectations.
At the individual level, well after completing their basic one-year requirement,
most Leadership PCI alumni continue
to identify with the program, with more
than 80 percent of them continuing active
involvement in association activities.
Class members are engaged, committed
and educated about PCI, and become
evangelists for our association as well as
leaders for others in their profession.
The range of professionals attracted to
Leadership PCI has broadened over the
years. While the program was originally
designed for early-career professionals,
there was no set maximum experience
limit. Leadership PCI class members have
ranged in experience from the minimum
three years up to, in one case, 15 years.
This diversity has enriched the program
considerably, as the well-experienced
class members share their knowledge and
experience with their younger colleagues.
The reaction of sponsors has been outstanding. Leadership PCI offers them an
extraordinary opportunity to accelerate
the growth of high-potential employees,
contributing to their education and professional maturation. In addition, the
sponsoring organization gains an individual who has significant exposure to
current industry issues, a network of peers
and invaluable problem-solving ideas.
Each new class adds to an ever-growing
corps of well-developed future industry
leaders. What’s even more gratifying is
that people who were previously inactive
in, and in some cases unfamiliar with, PCI
are now chairing committees and taking
on other leadership roles. Most of all,
many of the professionals who had “
disappeared” have come roaring back into
James G. Toscas is president of the Precast/
Prestressed Concrete Institute. He may be reached
at email@example.com or (312) 786-0300.