Career management is a fancy term for what companies do to manage an employee's work experience within the organization. They often highlight it during the recruiting process because they know of the positive effects it has on their organization. A survey by PluralSight and CEB found that just one hour of training a week saved 1.8 hours per week in productivity gains (or nearly 84 hours per year).
While some companies take career management very seriously, it's often one of the first things to be discarded as employees get busy. They're so focused on hitting business goals that they neglect their own career development.
That's certainly the case with customer education (CE) pros. Between navigating all the industry changes, the shift towards a customer-centric focus, and the increase in on-demand training, it's a challenge to keep up with it all.
How can CE pros sustain their work while also managing their career development and growth in these demanding times?
Understand that CE is changing
The evolution of software into more of an as-a-Service model (XaaS) has had a dramatic impact on the CE industry. Education and training are not just for post-sales customer adoption (though that is still an important function); it must do more. Milind Gurjar, Vice President of Worldwide Education Services at VMWare and CEdMa Executive Board member, noted that "education post-sales for the product has also to be pre-sales for the renewal, so the lines are becoming blurred."
Christine Souza, CEdMA Executive Council member, agrees and thinks the impact of the customer success model has further stalled CE in the workplace. Yes, CE works well in that structure, but as Souza stated, "We may not know where we now sit." Companies that are just getting set up with customer success may not know where to place CE teams in the overall organization.
That said, Danielle Campbell, CEdMA Vice-President, reiterated that organizations are "in the business of enablement", so as long as CE pros are able to remember this as they manage their careers, they'll still be successful (and won't be left behind).
How to keep your CE career on track in a volatile world
It's not all doom and gloom however, CE pros are not being forced out. As Donna Weber, President of Springboard Solutions and CedMA Marketing Trustee explained, "CE professionals that focus on the big picture have an opportunity to take more ownership of the customer experience and journey." It simply means CE pros must take greater control of their careers to ensure they're adaptable to any organization changes that may come.
Here are a few suggestions to keep your CE career on track in a volatile world.
- Stay updated on the latest learning technology: Many of today's businesses are moving away from a traditional learning platform like a LMS. They're starting to integrate learning into their existing centralized company platform such as Facebook for Business or Slack. CE pros must become proficient on these tools for their regular work, but also to find ways to leverage it for education purposes and prevent CE from being locked out.
- Develop collaboration skills to leverage the relationship with customer success (or other similar teams): Collaboration with other teams is going to be critical, especially in organizations where CE is left on its own. It's up to CE pros to develop and nurture relationships with other teams to ensure they stay relevant within the business.
- Develop sales skills to "sell" CE within the organization: Another skill that will be important for CE pros in volatile times is sales. Learning how to sell CE within your organization can be critical to job security. Especially in organizations without a dedicated customer success team or ones that are changing to a partner-led model like Kevin Streater's organization. Kevin talked about this at a recent CedMA Executive Council meeting and mentioned that it's the product resellers that sell and deliver training on his company's products. "It's completely changed the profile of the people we recruit into our team," he explained.
- Do your own marketing: Not only do you need to learn how to sell CE to your organization, but you should also learn how to sell yourself. This helps keep your career on an upward trajectory and gets your name out to others in the community. You may be doing interesting and valuable things, but if no one knows about it, you won't be able to take advantage of new opportunities that are out there.
Keeping an eye on career growth while you're working is important for CE pros. The industry is evolving at a rapid rate right now and companies are struggling to keep up. Using the tips describe above will keep you and your career on track.