Your subject matter expert can be a great training resource. Here’s how to set your SME up for success when delivering training.
Do SMEs Make Good Trainers?
How many trainers have started out as subject matter experts?
Often, recruiting a subject matter expert (SME) to become a trainer is the easiest move a training manager can make. Who would make a better trainer than someone who’s already an expert?
Being an expert and teaching others to be an expert, however, are different things. Do SMEs make good trainers? The answer is, they certainly can. As a training manager, how can you help make the transition successful?
Three Tips for Equipping Your SME to Train Well
- Recognize the curse of the subject matter expert. Subject matter experts (SMEs) are brilliant because they’ve spent years in the field. When experts encounter a problem, they can relate it to something they’ve seen, draw parallels, and solve it. A novice can do none of these things. Make sure your SMEs recognize that they need to peel back the layers of their expertise to get to the raw beginner below—when they’re teaching, SMEs need to think about how they got where they are, and what can help others get there.
- Invest in training your SMEs to teach. Your SMEs may be accustomed to giving advice to others in the field; they may even give presentations to public or private audiences. While teaching has a lot in common with both advising and presenting, teaching is its own field. There’s a whole world of research-supported training methods that, when employed, will enable your SME to both thrive as a teacher and build successful students.
- Provide support. In the field, your subject matter experts had people, tools, and technology that helped them do their job. New instructors need the same. Support can include the training mentioned above, making instructor guides and other course-specific tools available, and giving guidance on how to use software such as PowerPoint and services such as Dropbox and SharePoint. If you can’t provide extensive assistance, can you assemble references that SMEs can use to educate themselves? Even a small collection of documents can help SMEs avoid hours of internet searching (which might only provide answers that aren’t valid or appropriate, anyway).
So, Can Your SME be a Good Trainer? Absolutely!
SMEs can make the best instructors, and sharing their expertise can be personally rewarding to those who’ve spent a lifetime accumulating it.
For maximum impact for both new instructors and their students, ensure that they are equipped to succeed.
What methods have you used to support your SMEs as they become trainers? Let me know!
Until next time,
Senior Learning Architect
More Resources on SME Involvement in Training
- The Importance of Using Roles When Developing Learning
- The SME Role in Course Development
- The Indispensable Role of Clients in Learning Projects
- Accessibility Expertise: Determining Where It Belongs in Elearning Development
What We Do
Microassist is a learning and development consultancy. We can take your learning project from curriculum development to delivery, whether that training is in person, online, or a mix. Contact us to scope and price your training development project.
Sign Up for More Learning and Development Insights
This commentary originally appeared in our March 2018 Learning Dispatch newsletter. Use the form on this page to subscribe to the Learning Dispatch for monthly learning insights, resources, and thought leadership for learning and development!