Subject Matter Experts are critical links in creating an informative and technically accurate learning experience. However, since SMEs are busy people who have additionally been tasked with providing support to training initiatives, it’s not always easy to get them to spare the time for you; yet, a delay in coordination has a domino effect on the entire production cycle. It’s a Catch-22 situation, really.
Play smart. Rather than using your time blaming them for delays or trying to make them see your side of the story, how about trying to understand their situation? Once they know you empathize, they are more likely to help you.
Here are four ways to make your SME work with you and not against you.
1. Respect their time
You think SMEs are never available. They don’t respond on time, and getting an explanation or validating your content takes far too long.
Understand that SMEs have a full time job of their own. To better manage this situation, draw up a plan before you begin work. Ask them for their preferred day and time in a week, and request them to block that slot for you until the duration of the project.
This gives both sides a fair idea of when they need to communicate and this doesn’t stop the flow of work on either side.
In case of an urgent requirement, drop them a text and ask for a specific time. If you call, you might be interrupting a meeting. How would you feel if you were disturbed by a call?
Use your SMEs’ time wisely, and use it responsibly. And they will respect you more for that.
2. Respect their knowledge
The eLearning team and SMEs are both specialists in their respective fields. And yet there is a clear knowledge gap between the two. This sometimes causes friction and frustration to build up, on both sides.
SMEs are a treasure trove of knowledge. They have to be; else they wouldn’t be experts, would they? But, they are not learning experts. So, don’t expect them to hand over content or information to you on a platter – ask relevant questions to get what you need.
Also, don’t go for meetings unprepared. If you do a little groundwork yourself, not only will discussions move faster, but you will also earn the respect of the SME for not being ‘ignorant’.
3. Respect their ideas
An SME’s knowledge, the reason you go to them in the first place, could be a stumbling block to generating good ideas. SMEs often have a fixed notion in their head about how they want a concept presented, which might not always be the best way.
Once again, have a little patience. Working with SMEs is a two-way street. You have to give as much as you take. Allow them to present their ideas without shooting them down right away. This makes them more open to listening to your ideas.
When it’s your turn, show them examples of good eLearning techniques. Spend some time educating them about the latest and best trends in eLearning.
4. Respect the relationship
Work with the SMEs, around their schedules, around their priorities. Don’t take them – or their time – for granted.
At the end of the project, drop off a mail to their senior, expressing your appreciation for the effort invested. This will surely make the SME more amenable to your requests the next time.
Keeping these simple tips in mind can help you go a long way in working with SMEs. Can you think of more ways to make the interaction more successful? Go ahead – share your thoughts.