Most organizations employ smart individuals who are subject matter experts (SMEs) in their line of work, be it an industry, a process, or a new software or technology. It’s why they likely were hired in the first place! Being an internal expert does not necessarily mean they have expertise in training, though — so why do so many organizations ask internal subject matter experts to build the training content they need?
Typically, learning and development teams aren’t qualified to train employees on every topic and tool the organization needs. But, is it appropriate to ask internal experts to prepare and deliver training and keep materials updated? Are they qualified to train in a way that benefits your learner? Do they have the time and resources to do so while accomplishing their own daily work? Not always.
When you push the development of learning content and resources to the department level rather than streamlining training efforts across the organization, it becomes more difficult to achieve your employee development goals. In its 2017 research on “bridging the gap between content and employee development,” Aberdeen Group found that companies that engage an SME partner for content development are 73% more likely “to see a greater alignment of performance improvements with greater achievement of management goals and objectives.”
When it comes to developing training content for new hires or in preparation for a new project, your internal experts remain the most trusted source of information when compared with a third party or external subject matter expert. However, considering the pace at which training materials update, along with the depth they’re expected to demonstrate, your organization might not be best served by taking up your internal experts’ valuable time to build training instead of doing their day job. So, how do you efficiently harness their knowledge without wasting their time?
More Efficient Methods to Develop Training Using Internal Experts
Rather than having internal experts dedicate their time to creating courses or training materials, they can share their expertise in ways that are less time- and resource-intensive. Lunch and learns, for example, are popular. In this format, department experts or team leaders host lunch sessions to keep others in the organization up to date on new processes and on projects that they’re working on. Alternatively, internal experts can blog and create other short form content so that everyone can benefit from their experience while taking up less of their time.
You can also save time for your internal experts by enabling them with digital tools to deliver recorded presentations so they can deliver training one time, and then make it accessible to everyone who needs it on demand. A recording also benefits learners by being available whenever they have a gap in their schedules and across multiple time zones.
Although assigning the quick creation of a training course to an internal employee seems like the easiest solution for everyone, the learning and development (L&D) team still has a role in ensuring high quality. Your organization should have a standard decision-making process to determine whether to use internal experts’ resources and time or to purchase third-party off-the-shelf training. Even when using internal resources, it’s important to guide internal experts in the development process and review the content before deploying to your learners.
Finally, updating and maintaining training remains one of the biggest challenges for many L&D teams, so consider the resources and time it takes to maintain training developed by internal experts.
A Blended Learning Approach
When developing content for your training program, build a blended learning program composed of in-person and third-party online content, depending on the subject, the learners and qualifications required. Everyone’s learning needs are unique, but not every internal expert has the teaching skills necessary to meet those various needs.
High-quality online training can provide a variety of learning options, such as simulations, quizzes and assessments, and gamification for topics not specific to your organization, while internal experts can provide in-depth insight on specific topics unique to your organization’s needs. If your company is switching software, for example, you might ask an internal expert to write a blog post or an email about why your company made the switch and how the new system is intended to be used and by whom. Then, you can supplement that content with off-the-shelf, online training about the software itself from the software provider or your eLearning content partner. Your employees will still receive the training they need — but with less burden on your internal resources.
Leaning too heavily on your internal SMEs to develop training content takes away valuable time and resources they could spend on the role they were hired to perform. Adopting a blended learning strategy allows your company to realize greater L&D efficiency while delivering high-quality learning experiences, tailored to your organization’s specific training needs and goals.