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What Can Trainers Do to Work Successfully with SMEs?

Originally posted September 20, 2013 by Chris Kilbourne on http://safetydailyadvisor.blr.com

Subject matter experts (SMEs) bring expertise and credibility to training, “ensure that the content really hits the mark,” and increase the adoption rate by learners, but trainers must engage SMEs in the process to ensure success, says Kendra Lee, president of KLA Group. In today’s Advisor, Lee gives expert advice.

“Getting them involved can be very difficult,” Lee says. Since training is likely not among the SMEs’ job responsibilities, it can be hard to schedule time with them and to get the information you need from them when you need it, she explains.

She recommends scheduling “kick-off meetings” with SMEs to set clear expectations, including:

  • Will they be expected to develop part of a training module?
  • Will they contribute ideas only as background for a training activity?
  • Will they deliver the training?

She then suggests that you gain their agreement on the training objectives, metrics, and process, and that you address potential challenges up-front.

During the kick-off meeting, discuss the SME’s availability, and set specific times and dates for future meetings so that you are already on their calendar, and “there’s a greater chance” they will keep those appointments, she says. In addition, Lee suggests making sure SMEs understand why the training—and their role in it—are important. If they see the business justification, “you are motivating them to stay engaged” in the process.

For SMEs who will deliver training, Lee recommends coaching them on their presentation style, their ability to engage learners, and how to debrief at the end of a session—both to increase their effectiveness as well as the likelihood that they will help you in the future. “The more successful they are, the more likely they are to want to work with you again.”

Why It Matters

  • To reiterate Kendra Lee’s initial point: “Subject matter experts (SMEs) bring expertise and credibility to training,”
  • They “ensure that the content really hits the mark,” and
  • They “increase the adoption rate by learners.”
  • But these results aren’t guaranteed: It’s up to you and the in-house staff to ensure that SMEs are integrated smoothly into your training program.