The role of Professional Bodies in a post-covid world

Conversations with professional body CEOs on the challenges they face as the world emerges from the pandemic

Research carried out by The Modern Professional Body with the chief executives of a number of leading professions has highlighted how covid-19 has forced an acceleration in digital transformation and prompted a rethink in how professional bodies can best deliver on their strategic objectives and better serve their members. 

Key observations emerging from the research include:

“The one lesson I take from the last 12 months is that we can be bolder about the way we accelerate change - it should not have taken a crisis to enable us to come to that conclusion” 

CEOs were rightfully proud of the progress that had been made during the pandemic. But there was also concern “that we do not slip back to the old way of doing things” once the external pressure for change was removed.

As one CEO put it: “We are going to have continuously adapt if we are to serve the professions, and the professionals they represent in what is going to be a very different world”. Another commented: “We have just delivered two years of planned digital transformation in 3 months”.

“We’ve had to show members we’re really there for them: sometimes as a support, sometimes as a guiding force”

There has been a significant increase in the need for direct pastoral care of members struggling with the impact of the pandemic on their working lives. The last 12 months have also forced professional bodies to step into often uncomfortable leadership positions on behalf of their members. The experience has led professional bodies to be bolder and less risk averse.

“We have to be much better at focusing on the right things” 

The need for focus was a reoccurring theme. That this focus has often been on initiatives thought inconceivable prior to the crisis has been liberating.  

“I’m working to a policy now of bringing in people with no previous experience of this type of organisation” 

The need for diversity of thinking and perspective has forced a number of professional bodies to upend their recruitment processes. This has also been liberating. As one CEO put it: “We have started to think much more in terms of how we put the roles where the talent is, rather than the other way round. Last month, we've recruited someone in the Netherlands and somebody in Denmark for jobs that used to be in London”. 

“I think we’ve had a long overdue re-appraisal of our relationships with our members” 

The pandemic has clarified what is valuable to members and how professional bodies are able to deliver more mutually supportive ways of working.  

“It’s just made us realise that we...can” 

A key theme emerging from our conversations with the leaders of professional bodies are how critical empowerment, experimentation and engagement have been in driving change and breaking through old cultural conventions. The need to make quick decisions at the start of the pandemic showed what is possible when the executive level is able to ‘let go’ and empower their teams to get on with delivering. The ingenuity and resilience of employees at every level has demonstrated how much untapped capability exists and what becomes possible if this is fully utilised and empowered. 

Copies of the research report ‘The role of Professional Bodies in a post-covid world’ are available on request from The Modern Professional Body from Tuesday 23 March 2021 onwards by emailing


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