In 2005, Rainey, Turner, and Dayton published the results of a survey of technical communication managers. Their study, Do curricula correspond to managerial expectations? Core competencies for technical communicators, (*.pdf opens in new window) has become necessary data for program administrators and faculty to have as they look to sustain, update, and grown their academic programs. Having some idea of what managers feel employees need to know is important and useful data.
The goals of the original research was to get a better understanding of expectations of skills needed in the workplace. It’s a useful benchmark to get the industry perspective on what types of skills folks need to have to do the work of a technical communicator. The original study used course descriptions as a starting point to have managers rank the importance of certain skills such as writing, editing, technology, design and business acumen.
As the study is now over ten years old (the data collection precedes the 2005 publication date), we felt the survey needed to be updated. But, we had some problems with the original study design. While this approach to a research study design provided some useful data, we felt that the study could be designed differently to better answer the question at hand. If the research question is what do managers/employers expect of new graduates, then it would make sense to ask working professionals specifically what they thought rather than providing a leading set of pre-determined list of skills. The open-ended approach is a risky one in some ways, but we felt it was a risk worth taking. We would much rather have messy data than easy to analyze data that we felt was automatically biased going in.
We also opted to include all working professionals because as we know, people move in and out of management positions. There is a professional history question that will help us analyze the data based on job experience, but opening up the survey to more than just managers gives us additional, valuable perspectives.