By: Reece L. Hauf

Ask a student if he or she understands needs and training assessment, if he or she has ever heard of a SME (pronounced “smee”), or if he or she knows what ISPI stands for, and you will likely receive a look of confusion. However, if you ask a student to tell you about his or her favorite sports team and coach, you might be surprised by how much the student understands and has to say about the team and the coach–both good and bad.

What does this disconnect mean?
It means, somewhere between motivation models, personality analyses, intelligence types, and learning objectives, students are failing to see the connection between their career, their education, and the valuable field of performance improvement.

Why does this disconnect matter?
Because these young people are the performance consultants, instructional designers, coaches, counselors SMEs (subject matter experts), and ISPI members of the future; that is, only if they understand that performance improvement positions and societies exist, and how valuable THE Performance Improvement Conference can be in fostering interest in these areas.

THE Performance Improvement Conference is an annual event hosted by the International Society for Performance Improvement, and among its hundreds of attendees are a small segment of students. Although small, the student segment is the essential lifeblood the Society needs to stay current and alive for the future.

How is this true?
It is true because just as any business owner or manager knows, growth stagnates when fresh (young) talent fails to become involved in the business. With the breadth of fields in which performance improvement adds value being practically limitless, it is difficult to understand why more students are failing to find interest in ISPI.

Sit in on one of THE Performance Improvement Conference’s educational sessions, workshops, or seminars, and it becomes clearer that youth-attendees are hard to find. This lack of youth attendance is a surprise, to say the least. With student-friendly session topics ranging from social media and interaction to leadership skill development and career counseling, it is surprising that students are not in the majority.
So what is keeping students from attending THE Performance Improvement Conference?
I believe it is exposure…exposure to the other “side of the coin.” Students who attend educational sessions, i.e., class, for any field are exposed to an instructor’s teaching style, yet they may never have a chance to hear the reason why the instructor decided on one method or the other. By the same token, employees who work in a field may never be exposed to the method used by performance professionals, thus they never see the value in the consultant’s position or the field as a whole.

With ISPI’s diverse group of members working, learning, teaching, coaching, and performing in so many different fields, it should be a priority to add another variable to the diversification equation: age. If the work done within the performance improvement, consulting, and instructional design fields is important enough that its members hold an event such as THE Performance Improvement Conference, it should also be just as much a priority that the new generation–the future performance improvement specialists, counselors, designers, and practitioners–see value in the conference.
This perceived value is needed so those next in line can not only carry on the current work of those in the field, but also help to spark interest in the field and provide the generations to come motivation to do the same.

Reece Hauf is from Minot, North Dakota, and is a senior marketing and instructional design undergraduate at the College of Business, California State University, Chico. He currently serves as the marketing director for, a function of the Center for the Advancement of Standards-Based Physical Education (CASPER); the president-elect of the Chico State Instructional Design & Technology Society; and a supported living service provider at Northern California Adaptive Living Center (NCALC).