5 Ways To Support Your Subject-Matter Experts
Read Time: 4 minutes
Your organization can support your subject-matter experts (SMEs) in the following 5 ways:
- Understand Their Value
- Treat Them As A Part Of The Team
- Consider Your Delivery
- Give Them Your Best
- Share Feedback
How can your organization support your subject-matter experts (SMEs) and transfer their knowledge to a group of people?
At Roundtable Learning, we work with SMEs every day to create custom learning courses for clients. The gathering of information from an SME is one of the most important steps in a project. We know that the training program will succeed only if the information we gather, transcribe, and deliver, comes from a reliable SME.
This article will define what a subject-matter expert is and provide 5 tips to support your organization’s subject-matter experts.
What Is A Subject-Matter Expert?
An SME is a person who has special skills or knowledge on a particular job or topic, and is commonly used by instructional designers to extract knowledge when developing courseware and learning programs. Aside from their expertise in course development, SMEs frequently serve as guest lecturers or instructors for training.
Rather than viewing SMEs as simply a resource, we view them as people who have mastered their craft. They deserve respect and inclusion in the conversion of their ideas to training modules.
Now that we know what SMEs are, let’s dive into 5 tips for supporting your SMEs as they help you create content.
1. Understand Their Value
Part of recognizing your SME’s value is to acknowledge that without them, your new learning module or program could never exist. Treat your SME as a person with a unique perspective rather than a resource in your toolkit.
Get to know them by asking how long they’ve been with the company and how they became so knowledgeable about their line of work. Chances are if they’re an expert, they’ve put in years of curiosity and discovery to become passionate about their topic. Lean into this passion and try to translate it into the development of your training.
2. Treat Them As A Part Of The Team
Mentally promote your SME to a member of your learning and development team. If you believe and treat your content expert the same way you would your graphic designers and software engineers who are working on your learning program, you’ll create mutual respect among everyone who has a hand in the project.
Resist the idea that you should press them for information and then run with the project script. Your SME has taught or shared this information in 1:1 scenarios and meetings hundreds of times. They likely have great ideas for message delivery and know what sticks with learners. Invite your SME to project planning and development meetings and keep them in the loop with regular communication about the status of the learning program.
3. Consider Your Delivery
How are you delivering the content? If it’s instructor-led training (ILT), ask your SME if they’d be willing to facilitate. If it’s not their thing or if they don’t have time, ask if they can teach a sample course or mini class to you and your team. Hearing how they present the information can give you ideas for the ILT course.
If it’s eLearning, are you able to capture video of your SME within the course? Can you work with your SME to create job aids and other resources to support the eLearning?
4. Give Them Your Best
Though this may seem obvious, your SMEs deserve your best work. If they’re as passionate about their subject as you are about training, they’ll want to make sure you get every detail correct.
5. Share Feedback
Your relationship with the SME should continue long after you launch the training module. If the situation calls for it, share any areas where learners are still struggling after completing the training. Your SME may have a fix or more information that could help to explain a product or process.
The SME will also appreciate the positive feedback. Be sure to thank your SME for their contributions to the module and share positive program results.
Do Your Subject-Matter Experts Have The Support They Need?
In this article, we’ve covered 5 ways your organization can support your SMEs.