Dave Derington 00:07
Welcome to CELab the Customer Education Lab where we explore how to build customer education programs, experiment with new approaches, and exterminate with extreme prejudice the myths and bad advice to stop growth dead in its tracks. I am Dave Derington.
Adam Avramescu 00:26
And I am Booboo the Fool also known as Adam Avramescu I would happen to the disco and my nicknames. Yes, listeners, I did introduce myself as the disco King, but we had to abort that take. So now we’re back. And we are enjoying national strawberry parfait day. Oh, it loves me some parfait. So the reference track haven’t seen that. I’m kidding. I’m seriously concerned. I was that was just that was just a light troll or maybe like ogre as it as it made. Oh my gosh, okay, we’re gonna have to cancel this take too. We have decided on today national strawberry parfait day to bring you a sweet treat of our own an answer to an emote one of the most common questions we see in customer education. Whom should I hire? For my customer Education team? Ooh,
Dave Derington 01:30
That’s a really good question. And it isn’t a new question. In fact, you know, we first covered this topic on the show, if you can believe it, almost three years ago, now, it’s crazy. But there’s been some new research. Our market of course, you know, in three years time has changed quite a lot. we’ve, we’ve gone through some interesting times to say the least, right? And we’re seeing more new customer education teams form than ever before. And the people hiring for those roles are all asking, Who should I hire?
Adam Avramescu 02:03
That’s right. And so we have a few things that we can talk about here. First, we need to talk about hiring a customer education leader. So when people ask Who should I hire for customer education, oftentimes, they’re speaking as the customer success leader or the, you know, the executive who’s sponsoring customer education. And they’re asking Who should I hire to do customer education in my company. And we’ve we’ve covered that on the show before in a few different ways. I won’t spend as much time there today. But where we will spend quite a bit of time is talking about how those leaders will hire their team members, and how to structure those roles. Right.
Dave Derington 02:40
It is definitely really interesting. I mean, you and I are both in the throes of the thick of being hiring managers, and we’re in the trench. And we covered this topic three years ago. And we were both in different places then. And we had seen two common patterns. And those those patterns were either one, a company would hire a customer Education team of one, you know that leader, doer, jack of all trades, who eventually that person is going to be able to hire more, right? Or alternatively, they will start by promoting some talented team member likely a CSM or a support agent into that role of what we we put in air quotes is the accidental and customer educator, accidental customer educator, where it’s your heart, and eventually that, you know, that promotional route will get to a leadership role or alternatively hire a leader over them to fill in the blanks, right. So we still see all these things happening. But the balance has shifted.
Adam Avramescu 03:43
Yeah, I agree. I mean, anecdotally, even just from seeing job postings and talking to leaders who are starting customer education teams, it seems like compared to those, those halcyon days, no, they were I think they were worst day, because three years ago, I can’t believe by the way we’re even talking about three years ago, we’re almost at three years of doing the show, it was a bit more common, then I think, to hire that team of one and there was no real guarantee that the function was going to grow, they were kind of in a position of having to prove their worthiness as as a player coach. But now I think it’s getting a bit more common to start by hiring an explicit customer education leader who has a mandate to build and grow a team more quickly, you know, earlier in the customer lifecycle, and so that that team of one where it’s ambiguous as to whether the person is leader, practitioner player, coach, it’s still there, but it seems to be giving away to more mandates to actually build on staff customer Education team.
Dave Derington 04:44
Yeah, that’s, that in and of itself is actually a really exciting development, Adam, it means like, in a way that customer education teams are being seen as more of this accepted practice in a business right that I’ve well I know that you’re probably having same conversation that I have when we network with people up the line down the line or whatever, you’re seeing a lot more focusing, I need to have a customer Education team, it’s not really a question. So, you know, if you’re hiring your customer education leader earlier in your company lifecycle, which is great, and then giving them that remit to build and hire team, it really bodes well for maturity of customer education at that business, it’s going to be a lot more strategic going in, like this is really what we could have hoped for the best possible outcome, you hire a leader, hopefully, that leader has some experience and want to find something with with the kind of chops that you need. And ultimately, rather than coming in just kind of sorting things out in the moment, and the fly, just doing the work. Now we have the proclivity or the ability to start being more strategic and think broadly over your roadmap.
Adam Avramescu 05:53
Yeah, and we’re seeing more and more of that as more customer education leaders get their chops, grow up within one program, move to another or start a new one. It’s that’s been a really nice thing to see over the past few years. So very, very rewarding, Dave. Yeah, that’s super cool. So okay, so speaking of things that we have done a few years ago, since it’s just you and me today, why don’t we bust out our old hypothesis format? Yes. Because that’s how I do it. All right. I mean, Dave, you use this format recently with Debbie, Debbie Smith, and an episode about certifications. And I got pretty jealous. So I thought we should probably bring this format back because I want a piece of it. But also, also, there’s some data. We did a LinkedIn poll recently asking what types of episodes our listeners wanted to hear. And this format, the hypothesis format, was the most popular one that came back. So we’re going to return to this format more often. I think we listen to our listeners. Yeah.
Dave Derington 06:56
And this is good. You know, just to give you credit, and I like to there is no reason to be jealous. We just happened to fall into that. And I think we were talking about the hypothesis. So we just did it. But yeah, let’s go ahead. Let’s do this hypothesis. So what should that be? You know, last time we covered this topic, we were really kind of niched down and focused on who the customer education leader should be.
Adam Avramescu 07:21
That’s right. And we were asking if I remember that hypothesis correctly, whether you should hire a proven customer education leader, someone who’s done this exact thing before, or promote that Rockstar CSM into that accidental customer educator role. And we weighed some pros and cons there. Yeah,
Dave Derington 07:37
yeah. But you know, as we framed up frame this up, things have changed. In the last few years, we’ve been talking about, like lists, how many episodes that we had, since we did that? It’s been quite a few.
Adam Avramescu 07:48
So what knew you were gonna ask what episode number that was? I can’t remember. I want to, I want to say 11.
Dave Derington 07:54
Let’s say it was it was early. I mean, three years ago, it’s hard to believe. But let’s go ahead and move our hypothesis forward. Let’s, let’s assume we’re talking to that customer education leader. So again, if you’re out there listening to this, you are that leader, or in our audience. I know we have a lot of companies that are looking to hire that leader you host is relevant here to your that person, ideally, just got hard, put your put yourself mentally into that role. And now we’re asking that person, who are you going to hire? And how are you going to structure your team? This is a big moment. It’s actually a pretty exciting moment. And I’ve been there several times. It’s always fun building that.
Adam Avramescu 08:37
It is. So here’s where I think the debate comes in. As far as this question goes, yeah. When you’re on an early stage team, whom do you hire? Some teams hire specialists, others hire generalists. But if you are specialists, what should their specialty be? Are they going to be instructional designers? Are they going to be facilitators? Is it even a good idea to hire specialists on an early team? Or should you start with generalists? If you hire generalists? What competencies do you look for to actually make sure that you’re getting the right generalists? So I think there’s there’s a seedlings of a hypothesis in here.
Dave Derington 09:12
Yeah, let’s take the point of view and see if this pans out. The hypothesis will test today. drumroll please. Early customer education teams should hire generalists who handle responsibilities, including training, instructional design, and content development.
Adam Avramescu 09:32
That was the symbol to add those in. Do you want here I’ll do one in isolation and we can copy and paste it. Okay. I’ll use it. Never let it be said. I bring my own percussion. Okay, okay. Okay. We are we are in a mood today. We are. So we’ve got we’ve got a few great sources. This episode, but we would be remiss to start without hearing what our community thinks. So we decided to use that most scientific methodologies, the LinkedIn poll for that hashtag engagement. So recently, we asked our community to weigh in on who their first customer education hire is, the options we provided were, you could hire a generalist, like a customer education manager role, you can think of that as analogous to like a product marketing manager, a trainer, and instructional designer, and then we had another field. So Dave, what do you think was the most common response? Do you think people hired a generalist, a trainer, or an instructional designer?
Dave Derington 10:44
I’m going from my personal experience, and I want to I want to guess generals.
Adam Avramescu 10:50
Now, that’s what I would have guessed too, but the results will surprise you. Would you click on on that if I if I gave you that? clickbait?
Dave Derington 11:02
Yeah, I would. That’s a great header results will surprise surprise you. Sounds like a good LinkedIn header.
Adam Avramescu 11:07
Okay, I’m sorry, listeners, we are in a mood. here’s, here’s here’s how I broke down. So the generalist role actually only got 34% of the vote, which was actually super surprising. And super low surprise you, Dave. Yeah, that’s really it feels low. What are the higher and we can? Let’s keep talking over each other. What else? Nevermind, keep going. Okay, I expected to see more, too. And I think we can get into this in a moment. I think some of this might have been some ambiguity around what we meant by generalist. But I think directionally, the results still point how they point in the direction we’re about to go in. Because trainers only got 15% of the vote, which again, suggests to me that at least in our community, it’s less common stock customer education programs with instructor led training than with more scalable approaches. There’s an expectation here that if you’re doing any of that synchronous training, you’re not hiring someone that only is doing that synchronous training, they’re gonna have to do other stuff as well, right? Because with a whopping 46% of the vote, we had instructional designer as the most popular first role on the team.
Dave Derington 12:21
Wow, that’s a lot. 46, almost 50%. You know, my first reaction to that is, it seems rational, right. But I also think there’s some kind of a cautionary tale in there. Okay, let me tell my story and see if it resonates with anybody listening. Personally, I tend to hire, okay, again, framing it up. It’s me, right? I’m alone. I need a heart. Of course, sometimes you inherit or get a team member to start with, which is cool and cool. But I tend to hire generalist first. And this is why I would because I have a lot of unknowns, right? Unless I came in, and there’s a clear dictate and what needs to be done, which usually isn’t the case. Because as a leader, that’s my job to figure out what to look down. In in that context. I go, Well, I know I’m going to need to train I know, I’m going to need to prepare content, maybe some light documentation, but definitely video, who do I pick, I like to train I like to get somebody who is a journalist that can do at all. And why I do that. And this is just me again, I think there’s a real proclivity or potential for problems, if you have that first hire be a poor fit. Right? Let’s talk about this. Just briefly. I know we have a bunch of talking points here. But to me from experience, I’ve seen that traditional or non software as a service like this is our industry specifically not if we broaden it out more, sometimes have a real challenge in this environment. And I’ve seen some struggle, where the speed is just can be just ridiculous, like an outrage here. It’s literal rocket ship, we are moving so fast all the time. And we had to come in and develop all that content. So I tend to hire somebody that’s more akin to like being a full stack instructional designer is what I call it. I don’t think we have a name for our industry but someone that has a lot of chops. I mean they can go elicit content they can they can root out stuff, they’re good with people management, right they can facilitate meetings and run the room on their own. But then then they can might also be able to train to a mix of skills like a one other skill. I actually look for an aptitude is business analysis. That’s really akin to what instructional designer does, what is the outcome? What are the learning objectives? What am I trying to get to? And I’ve also seen CS people really fit well into this role provided they have the chops and they have the focus. So do you think
Adam Avramescu 14:53
I think that’s a really interesting way of looking at it. I’ve heard you use that term full stack instructional designer before But I don’t know that I’ve quite conceptualized it the way that you’re, you’re bringing it up right now, I think that’s it’s an interesting term that you’re choosing to use there too. Because while you’re saying that they should be a generalist in many senses, they should be able to do a little delivery, they should be able to work with people manage their own projects, and do the instructional design. Right, you’re still calling them a full stack instructional designer, versus a full stack trainer. So you’re, you’re privileging in a way, the idea that and that instructional design is still was at the core of that job role. And I find that interesting.
Dave Derington 15:36
Well, you know, just just to go a little deeper on why why am I thinking things that way? Is because commonly, we’re really driving towards scale first, right? We need to get to the much one to many approach. And yeah, sometimes I and again, this is just me and in environments that I’ve been in. That’s it. But I have been adjacency roles where the trainer comes first, because you’re really talking, talking, talking, you’re doing webinars, style stuff. But yeah, that’s the way I tend to lean because that helps me optimize for billing in university and building the core content quickly. And then I can play or in some of the things. So I appreciate the challenge on that term like, but that that obviates a problem that we have is that I don’t necessarily feel like the titles or roles we have always perfectly fit.
Adam Avramescu 16:24
Yeah, I agree. And I think you’re also talking about a balance of skills here that are not easy to come by. So, you know, in a way you’re kind of alluding to, I think, where we’re going to head in this conversation. And in fact, some of the research that we looked at, I think validates the way that you’re talking about this right now. One, one other thing that I would bring into the mix here is, there is something to the idea of instructional design versus learning experience design. And I know people will define those in very different ways depending on on whom you ask. But when you think about instructional design, what what that evokes a lot of the time is the idea of everything needing to go into an instructional format, there needs to be a curriculum, there needs to be, you know, a defined sequence of events that go according to performance objectives, the basic unit of measurement is going to be a course or a unit of instruction, whereas learning experience design is centered more around the idea that you are creating different types of experiences that ultimately serve learning objectives. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be doing everything in quite the same way where everything is structured into a course. Alright, so I think like, you know, there again, many different definitions of why of instructional design versus learning experience design. This is something that I’m learning a lot about, as well as I read more about it. But I think that’s an interesting idea, at least that to be an LSD versus a traditional ID, you need to be much more aware of all of the modalities available to your learner’s. You need to take it really more from like the their experience and their point of view, meeting them where they are and helping enable them.
Dave Derington 18:06
Yeah, I really like I like the emergence of this term alert learning experience designer. I really haven’t processed it myself, but maybe that’s akin to, you know, some of the notes that we’ve taken about it, it’s this fluidity or this interpretation of the role itself. But I think it’s important to our discipline or practice, particularly to differentiate it from other fields. because let me tell you just a quick story. And I’ll get to my point that I know at one point, I was having a, I was interviewing instructional designers for a role and it wasn’t shuffled cycle. But I had one candidate, that was actually kind of oppositional to me, when I talked about the role and what we need to do and how we went about about our development process. They were very bold on saying, no, it has to be this process, it has to be mechanical, it has to be very long cycles, you know, completely antithetical to our drive for agile quick loops. And, and that was really off putting, and I felt like, wow, like, I can’t quite understand what you’re saying that somebody is a hiring manager, but that’s okay. But I mean, there’s
Adam Avramescu 19:19
Well, I mean, that’s, it’s good in a way, right, if that’s how you’re used to working, and if that’s your expectation of an instructional design role. There are many instructional design roles out there that are like that. And frankly, I would rather have that conversation early with a candidate where they say, this is how I conceptualize of my job, this is the type of job I’d like to be doing. And therefore, if I come into the startup, and I am being asked to do instructional design and delivery and measurement and voice of the customer, that’s not for me, that’s not how I want to spend my time that’s not what I want to be doing. That’s great. We’ve we’ve we’ve established at that point that we probably don’t actually have a great fit between that person’s preferences and the the duties of the role.
Dave Derington 19:59
So The point I was trying I was leading up to before was you talked about when we were talking a debate on what the term customer Education Manager itself, right? Sometimes we get roles, like, let’s say customer success manager, that’s not necessarily manager people. That’s, that’s a manager of process and function. Right? So does, I’ll ask you, this is a customer Education Manager. And I see role like a PMF, Product Marketing Manager, or is it truly a manager on the team? You know, I’m just really curious about how that expresses in your mind.
Adam Avramescu 20:42
I think there’s inconsistency here. Right? So you know, in a moment, we’re going to talk about Dr. Julia Hooper cuz Yeah, dissertation where she, she classifies customer Education Manager as a manager level role. In the past, I have hired customer education managers, and been hired as a customer Education Manager in more akin to an icy role like, like a product marketing manager, or I guess the best equivalent is a customer success manager managers in the title, but that’s a that’s an IC role, you are managing the process, you are managing the customer success. So when I hear customer Education Manager, I definitely think IC role, I think that’s like the core unit of measurement. But I know that some use customer Education Manager or customer Training Manager as the manager level role, and then they’ll have a different role on the team called the customer education specialist, or where they might actually go into specialist roles like customer education, instructional designer, customer education trainer, at slac, we have customer learning consultant.
Dave Derington 21:48
I like how you’re putting though, the prep prefix of customer education in certain moments, because maybe that’s a guy. I’ve thought about that too, as I started to go through our job descriptions and roles that we have, because, of course, no good form is you’re always, you know, going back through those job descriptions, and advancing them and making more, you know, depth of, of your org as you grow. I don’t know, I’d like to, I think we need to sit with this and come back in another year or two, and see where this is. But I look for now I think it’s okay to be a little fluid. But the call out to the hiring managers is to make sure that that distinction that this is an Icee. Okay, for example, last role I had, I actually was the director of user enablement. And so that didn’t have customer Education Manager. But yet, I really was performing as a team of one in that capacity, doing all the things including strategy, vision, etc. So is, it’s interesting, I don’t know which direction we should end up taking. But I tend to align with I’d like to have if I see a title or customer Education Manager, they probably formula is like, manager of customer education if you’re a manager, customer Education Manager. Yeah,
Adam Avramescu 23:06
that’s how I see it, too.
Dave Derington 23:08
Yeah. Because then it’s very clear distinction, if you’re hiring for that role as manager, customer education, not a customer to kitchen manager could be that first hire.
Adam Avramescu 23:16
Yeah. So I think I think that might might have caused some confusion in our LinkedIn poll titles, titles are inherently confusing once you start getting into like manager or lead some of those those types of titles. So it’s interesting to see, I think, a couple of points of view, there are some people saying that they would hire a customer Education Manager first. But they weren’t talking about that as in I would hire a generalist. They were talking about that as I would hire the leader of my program first. But then when you when you kind of reduce for that noise, we did see some interesting results, in terms of instructional designer being the most common one. There was, I think there were some answers that genuinely pointed towards this generalist idea, though. So I singled out Pat duranty, one of our, one of our good friends in the customer education world, former president of sigma, he said, I would hire a trainer who can deliver but also enjoys course development, or, of course development, who is willing to deliver training for a while as we grow. Maybe that’s what you meant by a generalist. And indeed, that is what we meant by a generalist. And that’s often how we see it, where you have you start with somebody who maybe has a strength in one area, but is willing to stretch into the other. And as time goes on, then you start to specialize over time. And that’s when typically, I start to have more defined facilitation of delivery roles. So it’s like for instance, we call those enterprise customer learning consultants or customer learning specialists. And then on the other side, you have more of the Alex D role, or the instructional design role. It’s like for instance, we call those learning experience designers, enterprise customer learning experience designers, right and then as time goes on, then I start to add Other key roles and functions like that’s when I’ll add an option programs. But this is interesting, right? Because it used to be. Back in the day when everything was on on prem. Everything was IoT training services, there were so many logistics so many systems to manage. Yeah. And just so much happening manual that it used to be your training ops person was the first person you would hire. And now that is definitely not true anymore. They are crucial, crucial, crucial roles, but they’re no longer the first hire most typically.
Dave Derington 25:28
Yeah. And you know, I’ve also seen something very interesting happened to among my own team, you start seeing that stratification of like interests, because there’s just kind of like kids as gorod Kids ends up, if you have more than one brother or sister in your family, you end up being very different from one another. And I think that’s to like, because that’s like a natural thing. Same thing happens when your teams start to evolve. And I’ve seen my teams develop over years. And it’s really fun to see. Because, for example, we had Adam laverda, on one of our very early episodes, and Evan and I have worked together for many years is going back to gainsight. And I really liked the fact of how he’s changed and pivoted his his focus over time. So he’s done instructional design work. Now he does a lot more certification work, he does ops work pretty regularly. And that role, particularly with with someone like him, helps, because then I’m like, I’ve got other people on my team that have a lot different, like one person has a very, very deep educational, basically, as an educational consultant, right? They’ve done this for a long time they know what they’re doing. And that opens up and unlocks other capabilities that have the another person who really is super strong and style, and curriculum design overall, like the overarching curriculum. So now I have three people that I can count on every day in instructional design competency, not even get to the training side, where you start seeing speciation, people say I want to go and develop a train the trainer thing. So now you’ve got a hybrid role, or you’ve got a stellar trainer, right? So I call them training consultants that besides the fact that they’re very consultative in our org, not just when we started to have trainers, now they can your trusted advisor, your partner, they have a it’s really cool. So now we’re seeing those roles evolved from like a 20. Consult to a senior to the next step. So this is this is fascinating to see the evolution that from the inside.
Adam Avramescu 27:30
Yeah, that generalist to specialist gradient is is an important one. And I think as the team grows, is increasingly common, but I also do I see people start with generalists more than our LinkedIn poll would indicate. So we should dig into that. And you know, we’ve been we’ve been extrapolating on this for a while. But Dave, who wants to hear what we have to say I want to hear what a PhD has to say. That’s exactly have anyone like that? Yeah, we have Dr. Julia, let’s talk about her. Okay, Dr. Julia Kubrick, who is VP of learning science at Intel, him and head of the popular learning science weekly publication, and they also have a podcast as well. Yeah. Yeah.
Dave Derington 28:13
So what like, what’s interesting about Julia is, okay, so I’ll go back to my education words that, you know, I have a master’s degree, and I did a thesis and I was so excited to hear, you know, Julia, if you’re listening, this is super cool that you chose to do your dissertation on this field. Because this, this kind of kindness actually expresses some kind of legitimacy, that now we’re looking at this scientifically as well, and thinking business science, in fact. And, you know, now what, what I know she did in her dissertation is really focusing on Okay, what are like what we’re talking about today? What are the roles in customer education? What are the competencies needed to be really successful? And, yeah, let’s talk a little bit about her methodology. And Adam, like I lightly perused, and you took the time to go deep into the dissertation. So I’ll defer to you on this. But I know her methodology focused on couple data sources, where she’s looking at analyzing a collecting job. I’ve been looking at job postings all the time, right. Because I want to know from other companies, well, what are they thinking about? How are they expressing? Can I just steal their coffee?
Adam Avramescu 29:28
Maybe I don’t know. Well, now, she went a step beyond that, right? She She took the job postings and she filtered them down. So she filtered them for relevance. There were some that she ended up throwing out of her initial sample set because they were not customer education specific, or because they were roles that were related less to kind of a customer education generalist position and more to a previously established role. So for instance, if she saw a customer education instructional designer And the competencies on there were just instructional designer competencies, then that didn’t necessarily have anything to say that would really inform her researcher or give her the the data that you that she needed to see to do this analysis. So she was collecting and analyzing the job, the job postings, specifically looking at ones that didn’t reduce down to pre existing job functions, and then taking the bullets from the job postings and grouping them by similar competencies. That’s a lot of them. And she did that actually, it doesn’t. There’s a lot of work. And then she did some additional stratification of the the data. So one way that she did it, and I think is super interesting was she divided the individual contributors, whom she called specialists, I believe. We’ll come back to that. I’ll verify that but there was icees. There’s managers, and there was directors. And then additionally, so that was kind of the that’s like the bottoms up descriptive way. And then she also did, I think it’s called the delfy. Adelphi model, right, where she did expert surveys, where actual customer education leaders broke down the competencies that they found most important at each of those levels. So she was kind of able to do a top down and a bottoms up to get to what are truly the competencies at each level. Right. So yeah, very interesting methodology. kind of gets it from a couple of angles. But what I think was most interesting coming out of this data is that even though she was reducing for some of these pre established instructional design roles, it turns out the most common skill in all positions she analyzed, was still instructional design. Hmm. Yeah, that’s interesting, right? So like, if you’re right, if you’re looking at these customer, education specialists, customer, Education Manager, Director of customer education roles, instructional design was still the most common role across all levels. And granted, she calls this out her. She had a larger sample set for IC roles, just because there there were more of them out there, right as she was doing this analysis, but it showed up in the manager and director level roles to an overall it showed up in 21 of the positions that she analyzed in the study across all levels.
Dave Derington 32:21
Yeah, because it’s a really vital skill to have. I mean, I have a, I have it in my back pocket, right? Because I’ve been an instructional designer as well.
Adam Avramescu 32:30
Yeah, I think most most customer education leaders, at this point at least know something about instructional design. And if not, perhaps they find it helpful to learn about instructional design so they can speak the language of the folks that they’re, they’re managing who actually do the instructional design sounds like a blog
Dave Derington 32:45
for the many books that we we know like me being spoken, maximum instructional designer, maybe being
Adam Avramescu 32:51
Yep. Julie Dirksen designed for how people learn. What else do we like? There’s so many good ones. I actually read a lovely one recently called how people learn by Nick Shackleton Jones. Oh, cool. I don’t know if I’ve talked about this one on the podcast before but I hadn’t read it. It’s a relatively new book, I think it’s a couple years old. And he, he takes he takes learning science and just kind of like drops it on his head. And I really I like it, I like it. We’ll come back and talk about that one at some other point. But kind of along those lines. So instructional design was the most common one, the second most common across all levels was evaluating instructional impact. So, you know, we call that measurement a lot of the time, right? This is both the evaluation of the learning itself, like, you know, our traditional Kirkpatrick measurements. But also included in this was anything that was about tying the impact of learning to broader outcomes, like product adoption, customer satisfaction, you know, things that happen outside of the learning itself. So, really, really interesting, given that even though she wasn’t looking at the actual ID roles that were labeled ID, she was just looking at customer education, customer training, product training. And yet, the top two things that came back, were still what we would consider well within the wheelhouse of an instructional designer.
Dave Derington 34:09
Right, right. That’s good. So what else? What else did we uncover on this?
Adam Avramescu 34:15
Okay, so maybe let’s let’s go into specifically what she called specialist roles, which again, is the ICS. So instructional design was was at the top of that list, but it was tied with delivery and facilitation. So in other words, again, when she went and looked at these job postings, and when she asked people, what were the most important skills to have to be a specialist in customer education, it was basically half in half instructional design, and delivery and facilitation, okay, which really goes back I think, to to point at what we were talking about a moment ago, about this generalist role where you need to have a little bit of one and a little bit of the other.
Dave Derington 34:57
Yeah, that’s it. that’s crucial. I mean, I like that you’re finding that balance, because then it’s not truly it’s validating our hypothesis of the generalist.
Adam Avramescu 35:11
Yeah. And and even if you start to go further down the list, you start to see some things like technology, feedback and design, which that was any bullet point that was around providing feedback representing the voice of the customer back to the org, collecting and structuring the feedback. And then you go further down the list, and you’ve got more of these generalist competencies like product knowledge, communication, collaboration. And so that was that was mostly from the job postings when you if you go back to the the delfy, Delphi delfy, Delphi, I don’t know, doesn’t sound like a word anymore. Wherever the Oracle was from, I, in that expert study, she went on to ask customer education leaders what they thought was most important. And it seemed like the most important job specific competencies were around customer onboarding, delivery and facilitation, instructional design, product knowledge, project management, technical communication, the feedback and design when we talked about a moment ago, and user user experience was another one that they added to that list that I don’t think was actually in a lot of the job descriptions. So she took that and she sorted all of those competencies by frequency, and importance. So how, I guess, how often did they appear? And how important according to the experts, were those skills to being successful in the role, and that gave her kind of a Venn diagram where there was a list of core skills. And she was able, again, to subdivide those across each each type of role specialist, manager and director, but also across what type of competency they were. So she had three, three layers. At the bottom was these foundational skills, right? These are the skills you would expect pretty much anyone in this type of role writ large, like a just a knowledge worker role to have your things like collaboration, communication, growth mindset.
Dave Derington 37:03
So above that, so that’s like your value level, like at the company like, this is how we interact with people. This is how I knew how to get, you know, get what I want by interacting.
Adam Avramescu 37:15
Yeah, the values or attributes, perhaps like if you were if you were to do a hiring scorecard, and you were to have a set of attributes that you’re looking for, across all candidates who worked at the company, or at least, all candidates who work in the customer success org, or something, they’re all gonna have probably these basic things, right? Yeah. But then, but then she niches down a little bit, and she goes to what she calls Industry Skills. So these are the ones that would be more specific to tech or to SAS. So these are going to be things like customer onboarding, product knowledge, technical communication, technology, feedback, and design. So again, using that hiring competency analogy, these are the ones that might be common to everyone who’s in the customer success org, or who’s in the product or something like that. Right? It makes sense. Yeah. So I think what this suggests is the customer education icees are really being asked to be experts in the product and the customer lifecycle and represent the customer’s experience back to the business. And that, that validates exactly what you were talking about before, where when you’re hiring a customer education instructional designer, you need someone who’s going to have that get it factor about the broader context of what they’re doing. They need to be they need to not just be following the process, because the process exists. They really need to be listening to the customer and the needs of the business and doing work that lines up with that.
Dave Derington 38:36
Yeah, and I want to go deeper on this, because this all is very supportive, right of the reality that we have in software as a service hypergrowth type companies that I remember, I had a conversation with one of my VPS recently, and they were they were talking about this expertise. Question that we’re getting into, you know, I guess this goes back to an experience that I had with an instructional designer candidate. At one point where there was this con, there was this discussion about? Like, I think my team members need to be product experts. Right? That’s the aspiration. What degree of expertise is a question, right? Because does instructional let’s say structural design up to the CC does an instructional designer need to know at a certain depth at edit in great depth? how the product works? Yes or no? And you get different answers. Depending on who you’re talking to. I lean more towards my team members should should be at least have a pretty decent competency level of understanding how the product works to the point where they’re able to likely use it as a as an end user or even a technical user would that I say that the 10th you know pensively because I I think it’s hard. It is hard to get there because it takes a certain breed of an individual, who sometimes particularly at these very early phase companies that you’ll join, there’s nothing. There might be documentation. But the breed, the caliber of people that you’re looking for are, hey, you know, it’s not Uh, okay, Adam, your mind search designer? Oh, here’s a pile of stuff. Here’s a pile of stuff go in your life, then you read through it, and you don’t talk to anybody. And you work in a little corner, and then you pop out.
Adam Avramescu 40:33
Oh, yeah, I know. Igo through my ADDIE model. Yeah, I’ve got all the source material. No, no, that’s not how it works at all right? And this is not you. You’ve actually what we’ve done an episode on you, you lead that episode. That’s what I’m saying. You, you you. Because I remember this sticks. In my head. You talk about customer education, instructional design as being akin to being an investigative journalist, you really have to develop your sources and your leads, and you have to go digging for information where you might not expect it and then be able to come back and synthesize that into something that’s instructionally effective.
Dave Derington 41:04
That’s where that’s where the full stack is coming from. For me, I think actually, that it’s seen in customer education instructional designer, let’s go with that. Is it’s really important. I actually gave a talk at one of our off sites once on being a detective. Because a detective is kind of like investigative journalist writing about I’m gonna get back on my site check again, okay. But but it’s super important. Where you can go in, you uncover rocks, you don’t give up, you’re going to have opposition from people who have busy schedules. But you got to break through that and you to do that. One of my team members would say, that’s where we we have a relationship. And we go to lunch with people. And we talk to people you grab a beer with them in the office, there’s this non non specific skill sets that are more, how do we elicit content for people when they don’t have the time?
Adam Avramescu 42:03
Yeah, so yeah, what I hear you getting out here is like some of the foundational skills like collaboration, communication, elicitation, all of those things that is necessary to be successful in any type of role that we would be talking about here. And, you know, it’s not an it’s not an internal l&d versus customer education thing. Certainly, some of the processes might be different if you’re coming from either academia or internal l&d in an environment, say, where you have these super long cycles, and a super waterfall, Addie style process, right. But that’s not that’s not a customer education versus internal r&d thing. There’s a lot of internal l&d people, or even people in academia, who are super agile and young work on at very different pace and have to go do all of the same investigative journalism. So this, you know, just flipping the script for a moment, if you’re a candidate, and you’re applying for a role like this in customer education, instructional design, being able to show the examples of how you’ve worked in ambiguous environments, and how you’ve worked on super short cycles of changing priorities and unbalanced projects, you know, with constantly competing needs, those are actually really good skills to show how, what you have been doing my transfer into a roll like this. But conversely, if you haven’t been working like that, and you’re transitioning to customer education, instructional design for a startup, or a growth stage company, or even a SaaS business, where you just know that all of the content is going to change. So quickly, because the product changes so quickly in the market changes so quickly, you have to be able to find a match for for your working style, or you have to be able to kind of show how you will be able to adapt and transfer from the type of work that you’ve been doing to the type of work that you will be doing.
Dave Derington 43:50
Yeah, you know, I want to make a point in there too. So like, if you are that kind of individual, there is something that that I have, I’ve noticed in you know, I get on this kick on YouTube, and social selling and promoting our education on more, you know, like a YouTube type environment or twitch or LinkedIn live. There. There’s something in that, where, for example, I, I tend to watch some of the things like on Twitch or YouTube, which are gamers getting deep into a product. And while I am a gamer, but the thing that I find absolutely amazing, is let me pick one example, there is a person who is playing a game on on Twitch and recording the sessions put him on YouTube, for a game called satisfactory satisfactory is a beta game. And it’s but it’s extremely technical. And in fact, I think it’s like a supply change management simulator. Really, he boil it all down. So this person is doing these really thick, really pushing the boundaries of what this application can do. And this application, this game is really technical. There’s like he’s pulling up a calculator and showing planning and all this strategy. But the way they have done and articulated these videos, is every bit on par with really good high quality material that our people would make every bit and it’s entertaining, it brings, it’s what we want, right? Because it’s showing, hey, somebody has a mastery of this really technical thing. They’re playing this game to win, right? They’re trying to educate other people on how to do it, too. That’s what this whole twitch movement had been about. But I find that amazing. And that’s something like if you’re trying to practice, take a take a page from that kind of a playbook where you find something, it could be like we do it. For our training, interviews, or instructional center degrees, we asked somebody to pick up an app, and we asked them to go deep, and do some research. And that’s not the same as it would be internal. But it really, it really does help both the candidate and us understand where we say,
Adam Avramescu 45:53
Yeah, so Dave, I think this is a whole different episode is worth diving into we will we will do a transitioning into customer education episode gonna do we haven’t done one already may even have a guest who has made that that transition before we were right that there are plenty, there are plenty, there are lots of people, we could talk to you who have done that. But let’s go back let’s let’s go back to the the hypothesis that we’re exploring for this episode, which is more around the generalist versus specialist model. So just going back to Julia’s dissertation in that pyramid, where she had some of those foundational skills, and then Industry Skills, the top of that pyramid was occupational skills. So these are the ones that are specific to education. And once you know it, the top two on that list were instructional delivery slash facilitation and instructional design. So again, I think that points to the idea that we are seeing a lot of generalists out there. Yeah, who can create content, deliver training, manage their own projects, instructor feedback to show the business impact, the customer impact? You know, they can do a little bit of all of those things, or at least the job descriptions are expecting them to do it. And so it’s possible, again, because we don’t really know from from her methodology, which specific job posting she was looking at, it could be that half the ones she looked at were facilitators, and half the ones she looked at were instructional designers. Actually, no, that’s not true, because she didn’t look at instructional design specifically. So we have a good sense. And she said as much later that these are primarily generalist roles that were being posted, they were not necessarily half and half. So there actually are these roles out here that where people are expecting people to do a little bit of both, even though you’re not going to necessarily find the perfect generalist, you’ll probably find someone who has a strength at delivery or a strength that ID or at least are more passionate about one versus the other, but are willing to do the other thing, especially as the team grows and expands. Cool. And you know, Dave, just kind of like bringing this to a close. Three years ago, this is actually something that we said, when we when we covered this topic for the first time, we said, when you’re looking at those competencies, and you’re trying to find someone with that perfect blend of content, versus technical acumen or product document versus facilitation skills, you need the perspective to choose what’s most important, you’re not going to find someone who is going to do all three at 100%. That’s the that’s what we call the purple squirrel. You know, get that term and find that person? Nobody, nobody, nobody does them equally? Well, they’re going to have a strength in one, and they should at least be competent in the others. And I think that’s still true today.
Dave Derington 48:37
Yeah, so so we’re definitely gonna have to look at our priorities here. It looks like still those most common skills are clustering around the ID side. That’s great, you know, content development, evaluation and training impact. All clear instructional design skills. This is this is interesting.
Adam Avramescu 48:54
Yeah, so it’s interesting to just to see the research in this dissertation mirror some of the things that we were saying more anecdotally, a few years ago, you know, what we had said in that episode was, if you’re looking for someone who you’re bringing in as that accidental customer educator, what are what’s the baseline of skills that you’re going to need to look for, and where will you need to scale them up and we said, the person should know the business subject matter and the customers, the person should have a clear idea of how customers get value from the product. The person should have a passion for educating customers. Usually, if it’s the accidental, you know, CSM becomes educator person, it’s the person is gonna have a knack for it already. And there’s a reason why they’re, they’re doing it over and over with customers. But training and content are skills, there are ways to do them that require experience and practice. And so you need to help them get a formal basis and what makes for effective facilitation, what makes for effective instructional design what makes for effective adult learning? And, and and those things all put together like that, to me, almost leads to the same path that Julia explored in her Dissertation, when you get to some of those same foundational, competent or not foundational competencies, I would say the job specific competencies. So I find that really interesting to see the parallels there.
Dave Derington 50:09
It’s actually very interesting. And I like the fact that we have some kind of validation on what we experience, the experiential side of things. Now coming from like, more data, more, more academic rigor side.
Adam Avramescu 50:23
That’s, yeah, absolutely good. So why don’t we shift gears away from the academic side of the house, to the consulting side of the house? And hear from Brian childs who has been on the show before? Yeah, he’s now Senior Director of learning strategies. Hi, Brian, at thought industries. He also has a consulting practice with Tyler foster called learning outcomes. And they recently wrote an article that takes a more prescriptive view of who your first customer education hire should be. Now, we like prescriptive approaches on this show, because otherwise, if you’re trying to be completely descriptive about what’s going on, you often end up getting those it depends answers, which is not helpful if you haven’t done this before. And you can’t analyze all the factors that quote unquote, it depends on so i like i like that. They took a more prescriptive approach here. So Dave, what what did what did Brian have to say?
Dave Derington 51:19
Well, he outlines two different scenarios here. Number one is, of course, hiring your first leader. And his terminology in this case is, and I really liked this Training Program Manager. So you know, a sidebar on that it’s put some notes in there that I like this approach in the training program manager first, because it actually helps frame up one of the valued skills for somebody coming into a role like this. It’s nice to have somebody that actually can plan out and hold people accountable to doing work, right. Because sometimes you do kind of organically building a team, it’s a little fluid, you’re a little sloppy, you you don’t have it, but that project management skill will tell you that every role I’ve ever had has come in such value. Going deeper in this, you know, he says, in this case, you know, starting from scratch, if you’re starting from scratch this position, he recommends bringing some with experience training or instructional design, definitely SAS and people that end people or maybe and Program Manager experience. This doesn’t can feel controversial here. Right? There are good parallels. These are that we find very mature. We were talking about Julia’s research, we we find good parallels at the manager level competencies, but it’s not quite what we’re talking about today.
Adam Avramescu 52:41
Yeah, we’re talking more about you you have that program manager in place, or that people manager in place that customer education leader, who are they hiring? So this is this is an interesting question. Because first of all, in being prescriptive, he advocates for customer education to own documentation and knowledge resources, not just the traditional course or Academy type resources. That’s both. And so it is it is bold, and I agree with it, I love to own documentation and help resources as part of customer education, because those are also resources that educate customers. But even even with that said, in his article, it still seems like what he’s pointing to is the non negotiable skill is instructional design. Yeah, because he argues that someone in those first hires, whether it’s that initial Program Manager, or the first IC on the team needs to have instructional design experience. If it’s the leader who has instructional design experience, then they can hire someone to focus more on writing and documentation. Yeah, but if the leader doesn’t have instructional design experience, maybe they are a CSM, who came over maybe they are a leader of a different business unit who wants to serve customers education program, they need to hire someone who does have the instructional design skills.
Dave Derington 53:57
Yeah, and, and I think it’s also important to bring out that he indexes on having your full time employees be the ones with the ideal experience. And if you really got to go that contractor out, bring in a contract for the documentation writing. I think that’s kind of interesting, you know, that you know, how you’re positioning and and I kind of like that because an ID internal can just go really far. But documentation is more. Well, if you have material to work with. It’s relatively easier in in because you don’t have all the same kind of skill sets. You’re not building the video, the audio doing that. You’re focusing on it.
Adam Avramescu 54:34
Yeah, but it’s really interesting now to see three sources, our poll, yeah, Juliet’s dissertation, and Brian’s article really pointed instructional design still being the key competency, across roles of most levels. So I mean, our take on this, I think, is the reason people keep pointing to instructional design as the key competency is anyone can come in and say they’re doing customer education, but someone needs to understand what actually works and doesn’t work. When it comes to learning, and educating customers, otherwise, you’re gonna become a content factory. So you need someone thinking strategically about how customers learn not just like churning out content or just getting on and doing a webinar. Now, let me because it’s only going to get you so far, let me hold with this space for a moment.
Dave Derington 55:18
And this is where one of the things I’ve been doing in our communities and on some other webinars I’ve been on, is I’ve been, I’ve issued a PSA of my own, around what you’re talking about here, what Brian’s talking about here to that for the company, right? Let’s think that you’re a business. And let’s think maybe you’re that first hire, maybe you’re looking to get that first hire who might be developing that team. What you’re saying here, what we’re saying in here is, if you Okay, you could go out, and you could find somebody who’s been like a project manager has an idea, a little bit of an idea of what’s going on. But technically, you could get a manager to run this team. And obviously, but what I think we’re saying here, all of us are saying is that this is a nascent, nascent field, this is new, there are people that know what works, they’ve been doing it actually, I thought, there’s a lot more people out there that are doing customer education, just don’t know what they’re just not saying. But having that having somebody with experience that’s super important, is super important, because they have to have seen what’s happened. In various environments. I know I’ve been through three bigs startup environments, it’s different in every place. But I’ve learned some themes throughout. And I know what works, you know, the things like focus on scale, focus on velocity, not quality, focus, all this stuff is important, you’re only going to get that with somebody that has had the experience. Or conversely, now if you actually hire somebody who’s got the chops, get them to some educational material. And that’s where you’re going back to like learning outcomes. Communities are stuff book, Donna’s book, you know, there’s materials out there now that can help that person.
Adam Avramescu 57:00
Yeah, absolutely. So okay, we’ve heard what our community had to say, we’ve heard what a PhD has to say. We’ve heard what an expert in the industry has to say, What do two knuckleheads with the podcast have to say, Oh, you want our perspective? Cool. I think I want our perspective, let’s do it, what’s yours. This knucklehead will start for us. So I like to start with generalists who have a focus area. So you hire someone who can do both, but again, has a strength in one versus the other. So perhaps there’s someone who is really strong in facilitation, but you know, as great in front of customers, but still has or can build enough instructional design competency to understand kind of what is right or wrong in terms of being able to, you know, recommend the right approach to customers or structure their sessions in a way that is adult learning friendly. This is actually, you know, a lot of my team, when I joined at Slack, were these really great learning consultants who were great in front of customers, they were consultative, some of them actually had come from consulting or from SAS customer education, and could could really work with customers to figure out what was going to be the best learning plan for them. And that’s a huge skill. That means that you’re great in front of customers, and you have a lot of facilitation and delivery experience. But you also have enough instructional design to be confident enough structuring and tailor your own content. Conversely, I’ve done it the other way, where I’ve hired people who are great with content, maybe they’re great writers, or written communicators. Maybe they have good instructional design backgrounds, but they’re willing to do enough of their own facilitation. And then over time, as the team grows, and there’s more of a need for people to really devote and focus on one thing versus the other thing, then you start to specialize those roles over time. So then typically, the division is going to be delivery versus instructional design. And then finally, as the team grows, and there’s a need for more infrastructure, more systems, more maintenance, then I add ops. Yeah, what do you what do you think Dave?
Dave Derington 59:07
I’m, I’m completely in sync with that. It’s very rare that I will go and hire a specific role early on, it’s always going to be a generalist. They mean, within reason, like you could have a training generalist, you could have instructional design you’ve got, you’ve got wiggle, but I really like to see someone with a diversity of experiences and probably strength in one area or another. Like, there’s all kinds of things to consider. But the thing that I’d like to tap on here is, again, it’s really important to know what your business DNA is, for example, where I’m talking from my personal narrative gainsight, it was almost all on demand. It was very rarely ever need to go to do live training at all. And that meant my team was architected completely differently. And that’s why I said I tended to bias more towards instructions and that’s where I came from. Now conversely at outreach, that challenge and outreach, we have a really high demand because of the audience that we have that for more live tech stuff, because traditionally, salespeople if they’re people, people, we got host he put it, and that that makes a difference in how we approach. So that’s, that’s really important.
Adam Avramescu 1:00:19
Yeah, so I think I think you’re talking here about finding that that balance of people who are flexible enough to adapt to the business, they’re not going to be so human to like, they know their stuff in terms of instructional designer facilitation, but they’re not so human to one specific way of doing it, that they’re, they’re gonna say, well, that’s not my job when they’re asked to do something else. And in general, just hiring based on some some of these general competencies, hiring for growth mindset, people show initiative to keep improving, there are going to be gaps, regardless of who you hire, or whom you hire. But you want someone resilient, who’s going to identify and fill those gaps. And that also means hiring people who are really clear communicators, and collaborators. And that kind of stuff is going to serve you well, in any role. The competencies are important.
Dave Derington 1:01:03
Yeah. Another one I think we talked about before, but just to bring this back up again, is don’t hold out for that purple squirrel. You know, it kind of goes with our whole ethos of, we need, we optimize for speed. You could find the best candidate in the world that you hire, but hopefully you’re going to be able to hire more than one person. So think about what you need at first, optimize for the best you can get and then move from there, because it’s going to be hard to find that absolutely perfect candidate.
Adam Avramescu 1:01:33
I agree. So hypothesis semi confirmed, I would say hiring a generalist is important. But if you’re going to index on a certain skill set, it really does seem like the the instructional design is the most prevalent theme in terms of where to look if you have to make some of those hard trade offs. But I think it’s all of that finding someone who has the instructional design chops, but is like flexible and sensitive enough to the needs of the business at the early stage. If that’s going to be your first hire. Would you agree, Dave?
Dave Derington 1:01:59
I would agree, I think I think we’ve got a good correlation or a slight support of our hypothesis here. And then we know the edges. So great.
Adam Avramescu 1:02:11
I mean, this three years later, we’ll come back for more data.
Dave Derington 1:02:13
It is great to come back and revisit this right now. Because I don’t know about you. But I’m always thinking about jobs and growth and how our team members evolve. And our team members are two and two years in and outreach. I know team is like Where can I go next? What can I do now? How can I grow? I love this. It’s so fun. It means our field is really legitimate and expanding and growing. And you’ve got all kinds of great conversations. I’d love to see at some of the upcoming conferences. Maybe we dive deeper into this. In explorer like, I’d love to see a lot more things about common titles, common roles and techniques on how to hire but I think we’ve got a good start.
Adam Avramescu 1:02:50
I agree. And speaking of learning more, if you want to learn more, we have a podcast website at customer dot education. You can find show notes, transcripts, other materials, articles. And please if you found value in this podcast, please share it with your friends, your peers and your network to help find the others. On Twitter,
Dave Derington 1:03:12
I am at every masscue now I am at Dave Derington Special thanks to our friend Alan Cota, who provided our amazing theme music. And we know many of you are subscribed right now, what would really, really would appreciate and I have to say this emphatically, hey, give us a five star review out there on Apple podcasts or your pod catcher of choice. And give us a give us a review. Tell us what’s going on. Tell us why you like this show. and spread it out to the rest of the world. And, you know, while you’re at it, if you see some of our links appear on LinkedIn or any other social, go ahead and click that reshare button and tell us what you think about it and tell your audience as well. So to our audience, and close thanks for
Adam Avramescu 1:03:53
joining us. To whom to whomsoever is listening, go out and educate, experiment. Find your people. Thanks, everybody. See you later!