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3 Tips for Working with Subject-Matter Experts

Posted by Steve Flanagan on 12/15/14 3:00 AM
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Since moving to our farm a few months ago we certainly have learned a great deal. We've discovered a lot of "what to do" as well as "what not to do" when it comes to growing grapevines. Since all of this is very new to us, we've had to rely on some seasoned farm experts. Our main resource is our vineyard manager – Roger. He has 30 years of experience in the farming industry as well as endless resources and contacts. Roger coaches us on how to prune, tie, sucker, and tuck the vines. However, when we are unable to perform a task around the farm, even with his help, he finds someone who can. He truly is a subject-matter expert and a valuable resource.

When it comes to the instructional design of training, I'm a big believer in using expert resources to help get the job done.

Here are three tips to consider when working with subject-matter experts (SMEs) during the instructional design process:

  1. Communicate clearly: explain the purpose of the SME's involvement in the development of the training. Avoid training jargon and make sure to use terms the SME will understand. Describe exactly what information you require.
  2. Strive to agree on “the” way: when working with more than one SME, endeavor to get agreement on the expected way to perform a task. Keep in mind that employee performance of a job task will only be as good as the instruction they receive.
  3. Acknowledge contributions: it is important to recognize the input of SMEs in the development of training. Thank them for their participation. This will increase the likelihood they will participate in the instructional design of future training projects.

Using these three tips will contribute to your success in working with SMEs in the development of your training. Remember, communicate clearly, get agreement on “the” way, and treat your SMEs well!



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Steve has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education and dreamed of being a pro soccer player. Steve translated his love of soccer and physical performance to the corporate sector and became a trainer. He’s had the pleasure of training within the government, large corporations, and as an independent consultant. Outside of training, Steve’s two biggest passions are his family and guitars, which he collects and plays!

Topics: subject-matter expert

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