What Fraunhofer alumni really want
In a survey, Fraunhofer alumni were asked what expectations they have of the Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. These results serve as a basis to make the membership of the association even more attractive for present and future members.
Objective and approach
The Fraunhofer-Alumni e.V. has set itself the goal of making membership in the association as well as its offers – such as the Fraunhofer Alumni Summit – as attractive as possible for current and future members. The 2016 Fraunhofer Alumni Survey should provide guidance for further orientation so that, on this basis, areas of action for the specific design of the association and the improved membership growth can be derived.
The questionnaire developed for this purpose contained approximately 40 questions (mostly closed but also some open questions), depending on the target group (association member yes/no; participation in the 2016 Summit yes/no). A total of 505 people were invited (265 association members and 240 non-members) who were registered for the 2016 Fraunhofer Alumni Summit. The survey took place online during the period from October 12th to 31st.
In total, 150 of the people invited participated. The accomplished participation rate of 30% (members of the association 32%, non-members 27%) is a relatively good response rate for such a survey. The participants completed the questionnaire very carefully (answer rate per question, 98%), and, on average, required approximately 8 minutes to fill out the survey.
The extent of the collected demographic characteristics corresponds somewhat to expectations, so it can be assumed that the results are representative of the population as a whole. Differences between members of the association and non-members tend to be found among the older ages (in the case of members, more older ones) as well as the current area of activity (members tend to be active in science).
Motivation for becoming a member of the association and evaluation of the association
Approximately 75% of respondents have the following expectations from the Fraunhofer Alumni Association (see table): (a) high-level content sharing and networking; (b) remaining involved with Fraunhofer, the institute and colleagues, and (c) being part of an exclusive network of top experts/decision-makers. Advice and support by mentors was the least common (24%).
In the statistical analysis, the possible expectations presented in the questionnaire are grouped into three main areas: content-related exchange, career network, Fraunhofer community. Overall, non-members are more likely to view a possible joining of the association from the point of view of a career network, while the topic "Fraunhofer community" seems to be more important to members as a reason to join.
As a specific example, "finding appropriate cooperation partners" and "opportunities for one's own career and professional development" ranked at 6th and 8th place respectively for non-members, while these topics ranked lower for members (11th and 12th place respectively).
Furthermore, approval for issues related to identification with Fraunhofer was clearly higher for members (20% on average) than for non-members. This can also be seen in the assessment of the association (which is addressed later in the questionnaire), in that 88% of the members of the association (compared to 72% of non-members) continue to identify with the goals and values of Fraunhofer. Moreover, 75% (members 79%, non-members 70%) would recommend the association.
Possible specific offers
Furthermore, about 75% of the respondents would like: a) access to exclusive information about Fraunhofer's national and international topics and activities; b) access to experts for very specific topics, and (c) contacts to top-level enterprises, followed by approximately 2/3 who found regional activities (such as company visits, regional meetings, etc.) to be attractive. In the case of "access to contact persons in foreign institutes," "support in the mediation of mentors" or "support in the mediation of mentees", approval is only about 1/3.
In analogy to the findings concerning reasons for joining the association, a somewhat stronger career or development-related emphasis by non-members was evident concerning the specific offering, in that they would like more frequent access to exclusive job vacancies and selected offers for professional/private development than would members (percent of difference for Yes: 19 and 17 respectively).
Evaluation of the 2016 Fraunhofer Alumni Summit
The Fraunhofer Alumni Summit was rated as "good" to "very good" (71 of the survey participants took part in the summit). There was a 75-96% approval rate concerning aspects related to organization, atmosphere and content. As many as 86% say participation was worth it. Potential for improvement can be seen in the possibilities for contact management and in terms of inspiration and impulses through the summit. The open comments may provide specific stimuli here.
When asked about whether they planned to be present at the next 2017 Summit, 57% of all respondents clearly agree, 38% are still undecided and only 5% rejected the possibility. The motivation to participate is the highest, at 81% among the survey participants who are members of the association and who had taken part in the summit (26 persons). Here, the Summit seems to excellently fulfill its function as the "embodiment" of the community concept, which is of major importance for the members of the association.
The most frequently mentioned reasons for not participating in 2016 and/or 2017 are: time and place, venue, and aspects which are independent of the Fraunhofer Alumni Summit. Indcidentally, more than a third of the sugesstions on how to ensure that registered participants actually attend future Summits referred to the topic "registration fee."
Portal of the Fraunhofer Alumni Association
The majority of those who, according to their own statements, have visited the portal at least once (about 2/3 of the members of the association) are able to navigate the portal well (75%) and find its design to be appealing (71%). Compared to the positive evaluation of these technical aspects, the assessment of the content is still subdued (e.g., 27% of the respondents would prefer more interesting information and links), although this does not seem to be surprising given the fact that portal is still rather new.
The analysis of the correlations shows that respondents would tend to recommend the association: a) the more they feel connected to Fraunhofer and would like to stay in touch with Fraunhofer, b) the more highly the content of the portal is evaluated, c) the more positively the summit has been evaluated, and d) the sooner access to experts/topics, contacts with companies and regional activities are expected.
Generally speaking, differences according to demographics show to that effect that under-40-year-olds compared to over-40-year-olds as well as employees compared to executives and self-employed individuals expect more offers in terms of career development and job advertisements. At the same time, under-40-year-olds identify less strongly with the aims and values of Fraunhofer.
Respondents from the field of economics are more interested in obtaining impulses for their own field of activity as well as receiving support in comparison to respondents from the field of science. They are also more interested in offers concerning further development and the presentation of their own company, while the Fraunhofer Spirit at the summit is less noticeable for them than for those from science.
Women, who comprise 20% of the respondents, expect more in the direction of career and further development and support from mentors as well as corresponding specific offers than do men. For the small group of women present at the summit (n = 13), the content there was less interesting than it was for men (54% vs. 84% agreement). Finally, the women surveyed are less likely to identify with the goals and values of Fraunhofer and were less likely to recommend the association.
On the basis of the findings so far, the association's greatest chances seem to be to (continue to) clarify the profile during an initial development stage in the direction of the Fraunhofer topics and community and to focus on the relevant activities that make these topics, the spirit and the community tangible and perceptible. Both the portal as well as the Fraunhofer Summit play an important role in this process. The Fraunhofer Summit in particular seems to be on its way to becoming a very exclusive event.
Activities in the context of the category of "Career network" may not yet be among the first priority, but they should not be completely neglected in further stages, since a substantial number of the respondents agree with the corresponding issues.