Kevin Helm began his job as executive director of ASET – The Neurodiagnostic Society on April 10th — smack dab at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. That first day, he went into an empty office, desks abandoned by stay-at-home orders, and began the process of learning the job.
“I am going through piles and piles of paper to figure out what is what,” he said in a recent phone interview.
Helm is most accustomed to working in a digital environment, not an office, having worked for a virtual organization and co-founding a virtual association network. Prior to joining ASET, Helm was the associate executive director with the Society for Simulation in Healthcare, based in Washington, D.C. While there he helped drive membership and revenue growth and helped boost national and international affiliate programs.
Located in the heart of Kansas City, ASET is, by contrast, very much a brick-and-mortar organization. During the hiring process, Helm says he advocated for remote working.
“The [hiring] committee told me, ‘Well, get in and get a good feel for what it’s like before you decide to move them to remote.’”
That was before the pandemic hit and the group was forced to move operations online, an oddly auspicious beginning for an executive director with Helm’s background. He hopes the association can “springboard” off the experience.
“I have inherited a phenomenal staff,” he says. “They are superb. They just need to be let loose and given the freedom to run with their areas.”
Helm says his three main priorities as the new executive director are to ensure ASET staff and operations are aligned with the organization’s mission and three-year strategic plan (in place through 2021), enhancing member value, and strengthening partner relationships to positively impact the neurodiagnostic industry.
A more virtual environment will help with those and other tasks by saving time and increasing autonomy.
“There is less micromanaging and the work environment is more focused on outcomes,” Helm says. “You have staff who are more motivated, more engaged, and you’re building this culture of responsibility and enthusiasm.”
The benefits will pass directly to ASET members: “If someone says, ‘I’ve had an idea for three years. It’s going to take a little bit of investment, but we could really do something special for members’ — I think this type of culture will allow more of that.”
Helm acknowledges there are social and collaborative advantages to working in person. ASET’s annual conference is one place Helm sees tremendous value with in-person meeting. As of this writing, ASET’s annual conference is still scheduled for August 20-22 in San Diego, California. The organization is also scouting virtual programs that will aid in moving the event online.