You Can’t Spell ‘Communication’ Without T-R-U-S-T

November/December 2018

NSPE Today: Outlook
You Can’t Spell ‘Communication’ Without T-R-U-S-T


MICHAEL AITKEN, P.E., F.NSPE, 2018–19 PRESIDENTAs I completed my first three months as president of this great Society, I asked myself what aspect of trust—the theme of my July/August column—I wished to expand on. While I was considering the question, I had the opportunity to visit Boston, a city so full of history it’s effectively impossible to ignore all the stories. In this city embedded within revolutionary history, one figure stood out for me: Paul Revere. Revere’s contribution, at least the one that most people remember, is not one of force, diplomacy, or invention, but rather his near legendary ride to warn the revolutionaries. His actions, which became the stuff of legend as it was passed through the generations, highlights the crucial nature of communication.

Though I cannot advise our members to spy on the British or take midnight horse rides through downtown Boston, I can gladly receive the idea of effective communication as a goal. During discussions with our members, as well as in my speech delivered at NSPE’s Professional Engineers Conference in Las Vegas, I’ve talked about communication as a subset of trust: How could we ever hope to trust someone we’ve never interacted with? It is with this in mind that I’d like to point out the ways we have begun to increase our effective communications between all members and levels of NSPE.

Over the past two years, NSPE has been working with McKinley Advisors to review the needs of the Society and our members. During this process, our members participated in surveys, evaluations, conference calls, and study groups. At the beginning of this process, McKinley Advisors generated a Net Promotor Score for NSPE. The Net Promoter Score measures the likelihood that you would recommend NSPE to a friend or colleague. According to McKinley, building a strong Net Promoter Score depends on word-of-mouth referrals from “ambassadors,” those current members who share their membership experiences with peers and colleagues who can become new members. Keeping track of this metric is an effective way to monitor program satisfaction.

In 2016, NSPE’s Net Promoter Score was determined to be -16. This indicated that our members were not ambassadors for our Society. Members were not telling their colleagues why they were NSPE members, but instead were asking the question, “What is NSPE doing for me?” To me, this indicated an inadequate level of communication.

In the following two years, under the extraordinary leadership of President Kodi Verhalen and President Tom Roberts, our Society began communicating more effectively. Task forces were developed to review the needs and desires of our members. Volunteer leaders made numerous visits to state and local chapter meetings to participate in face-to-face meetings. The Communities platform on the NSPE website was developed to allow our members to have open dialog on important issues within the engineering community. All of these communication methods have made NSPE a new, exciting organization.

After two years of hard work by our local, state, and national volunteers as well as NSPE-devoted staff, our work is paying off. Our Net Promoter Score rose to +6, a 22-point increase. Our members are the voice of NSPE. The Net Promoter Score indicates that our members are now willing to say, “This is why I am an NSPE member and here’s what they are doing for me.” But this is only the beginning. We need to continue communicating. We need to continue building trust and communication within our Society. We need to communicate with the public. We need to communicate the important role professional engineers have in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

Through these measures and initiatives, it is my truly-held hope and belief that we are becoming a stronger NSPE, an organization in which all our members feel heard and valued. It is time to become one NSPE—from our individual members to our national leadership—and the capability of our communication is a step toward closer unity. When I campaigned for the vice-president position in NSPE, I indicated that meeting face to face and communicating with our members was my top priority. In the months ahead, I will continue to work on building a stronger NSPE through communication and building trust.