This post is authored by Paul Gruhn, president of ISA 2019.

ISA has both led and participated in a number of surveys over the last few years. One thing that really stood out for me is the significant differences between “active” versus “passive” (and non-) members. Their perceptions and desires from ISA differ.

Active members have a strong relationship with the Society; one driven by perceived value. They rate the Society’s products highly and perceive their membership to be a good value, and use many of our products and services. Their most preferred products are a) annual conferences, b) local meetings, and c) accreditation programs. ISA naturally offers all three, and much more.

Passive members (and non-members), on the other hand, have a weak relationship with the Society. They do not perceive membership to be a good value. They have low familiarity with our product range, do not see a benefit to it, and therefore have a low usage rate.

I find that intriguing; some in the automation industry do see the value of what we offer and use our products, yet others members of the very same industry don’t, with many not even being aware of what we actually offer.

But here’s the really interesting part: passive members state that they have unfulfilled needs. They seek a competitive advantage and want support in achieving both their and their employers’ objectives. That’s exactly what ISA offers, yet they don’t seem to realize that!!

Here’s another similar example. An Executive Board member recently posed a question on the LinkedIn ISA forum. (It’s interesting to note the group has 57,000 members, which is many more members than ISA actually has. So apparently non-members do want to be associated with the Society in some manner!) That board member asked what people “want” from ISA. The vast majority of responses were asking for what the Society already offers, and has for a long time! How is it that these people are either unaware of what we offer, or are aware of what we offer, but don’t perceive any benefit?

All the promotional material we’ve produced over the years lists what we offer (i.e., training, certifications, standards, publications, and conferences). Active members are able to connect the “what” to the “benefit” it offers both to them, as well as to their employer. They use our products and services as a result. Simply put, passive and non-members don’t make the connection, and therefore they don’t use our products and services. Yet our products and services are exactly what they’re asking for to make them and their employers more successful! We simply need to make the connection more obvious.

As an employee, are you looking to increase your technical knowledge and make yourself more valuable and competitive in the marketplace? Are you looking for a way to advance your career more quickly? Are you looking for ways to make your employer more successful? If so, ISA has just what you’re looking for!

As an employer, are you looking for a competitive advantage? Are you looking for a way to increase the competency of your employees, or a place to find competent prospects? Are you looking for a way to increase your operational excellence (e.g., safety, security, efficiency, profitability)? If so, ISA has just what you’re looking for!

And all this fits in perfectly with our new mission statement: Advance technical competence by connecting the automation community to achieve operational excellence. We’re advancing the technical competence of everyone in the industry (not just members) through publications, training, certifications, standards, and conferences. (We give our members extra benefits!) We do it to make people and their employers more successful. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that!?

Oh, and, like all my predecessors, I’m honored to be your new Society President. I’ve been an active volunteer for 30 years and have served in essentially every area of the Society. I naturally would like to see the Society achieve certain goals over the next year, but those goals will need to be discussed and approved by the Executive Board at our first meeting in January, so I won’t announce them yet. Stay tuned!

About the Author
Paul Gruhn is a global functional safety consultant at AE Solutions and a highly respected and awarded safety expert in the industrial automation and control field. Paul is an ISA Fellow, a member of the ISA84 standards committee (on safety instrumented systems), a developer and instructor of ISA courses on safety systems, and the primary author of the ISA book Safety Instrumented Systems: Design, Analysis, and Justification. He also has contributed to several automation industry book chapters and has written more than two dozen technical articles. He developed the first commercial safety system modeling software. Paul is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in Texas, a certified functional safety expert (CFSE), a member of the control system engineer PE exam team, and an ISA84 expert. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Paul is the 2018 ISA president-elect/secretary.

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