What is a subject matter expert?
A subject matter expert, or SME, is a person with deep knowledge within a specific field or topic. In a business context, this knowledge is usually associated with a business function, division, unit, or geographical location. Your organization is likely to have many valuable subject matter experts. Each contributing to your business’ daily operations and success.
Involve subject matter experts in training
To leverage internal expertise, companies can involve internal SMEs in the production of training materials. The course producers then consult with subject matter experts to find and gather relevant information. Traditional methods include interviews, documentation, and repurposing of original documents. Although rich in information, these methods can be difficult and time-consuming to interpret and manage.
For that reason, many organizations give SMEs more hands-on roles in the course production. With the right knowledge and tools in place, subject matter experts can also become skillful course designers. After all, they are instrumental to the production, development, and quality assurance of your internal training materials. SMEs can also play an important role in follow-up, or take ownership of entire training interventions.
Involving SMEs in training comes with a number of benefits associated with learning experience and business value.
- Relevant and company-specific training interventions
- A time and cost-efficient way to expand your organization’s course offering
- Leverage and scale internal expertise
- Reduced dependency on individual employees
- Fewer middlemen and reduced production hours. Giving your SMEs tools for course production, your organization becomes less dependent on external resources, such as agencies, project managers, script writers, and producers.
- Reduced need for external (often generic) off-the-shelf courses.
Despite strong benefits, there are some challenges associated with involving subject matter experts.
- Maintaining quality and structure as the course offering grows
- Less attention to the learning experience
- Misalignment with business priorities (settings, follow-up, development, and updates)
- Variations in course format and quality
Your ambition: quality and structure help you succeed
So what is the dream scenario when it comes to involving SMEs in course production? To enjoy all the benefits, while steering clear of common pitfalls, your organization should aim for quality and structure. As the number of course designers grows, so does the need for clarity. All course contributors need to have a mutual understanding of the learning goals and processes. Especially those without previous training or LMS experience.
Below, we have listed 5 prerequisites for involving subject matter experts in training.
Prerequisites for involving SMEs in the course production
1. Organizational maturity - secure a solid knowledge foundation before starting
Involving your SMEs requires a certain level of organizational maturity. Before getting started, your organization needs an established L&D framework. Academy owners, LMS admins, and super admins need solid knowledge in course production and administration.
A solid knowledge foundation is essential in order to expand and involve others in the learning interventions. Start by gradually involving members of the organization. Everyone can not start at the same time.
2. Subject matter experts need good training skills
Alongside their specialist skills, your SMEs need good capacity to train others. Training skills and a learner-first mindset are key.
To support your SMEs, you can provide them with training on course production. The goal is to increase the understanding of learning design and awareness of impressions that drive engagement and results.
3. The right attitudes encourage knowledge sharing
Attitudes are essential. A positive approach towards knowledge sharing is essential for sharing skills and know-how with the organization. The core values should include team success and learning from each other.
It is also important to highlight individual characteristics and personal strengths. In organizations that only value individual performance and results, employees might refrain from knowledge sharing, worrying they might lose their value.
4. A user-friendly LMS lowers the barriers to knowledge sharing
To enable your SMEs to design courses, you need an LMS with a user-friendly authoring tool. It should be easy to design courses and other learning materials, regardless of previous training or LMS experience. Dynamic admin rolls give your subject matter experts appropriate admin rights and tool kits.
5. Company-specific guidelines improve quality and structure
Having a mutual understanding of processes and learning goals is key to creating a structured, high-quality course offering. Company-specific guidelines help clarify the look and feel of a course and how it should align with the company culture. Best practices include your company’s use of language, pictures, and other quality-improving elements.
Each course adds to your organization’s internal academy, which is the go-to hub for acquiring and sharing knowledge. In other words, it is the key component of a learning organization. It is thus vital to maintain a high level of quality.
At Learnster, we know that subject matter experts are essential to learning organizations. We have experience helping organizations coach their SMEs to become stellar course designers. Together with Learnster’s user-friendly LMS, we help leverage internal knowledge and create company-specific learning experiences.