4 Strategies For Successfully Working With Subject-Matter Experts
Subject Matter Experts (or SMEs) are critical to helping your team and your business understand some of the more technical aspects of the work everyone contributes to day in and day out. While they are an important part of the mix, sometimes working with SMEs can be a bit of a challenge. Here are 4 common challenges you should expect when working with an SME, and what you can do to be more successful in the meantime.
1) Broad Content Expectations
When you are communicating with experts, a common challenge is to reign in their content. Sometimes too much content can lead to confusion, and helping SME’s translate technical material into language for a broader audience can take time and effort on everyone’s part. The key to enabling everyone to work well together is to communicate expectations clearly and help them understand what the ask is and who it’s for.
2) Need to Know vs. Need to Do
When you are building out your learning and development program, you want to get your SMEs involved early and often. But there’s a difference between understanding what they need to know and what they need to do in order to help you build out your content. SMEs are an excellent resource for knowledge, but sometimes they can use a helping hand getting that knowledge into a format that is useful for the development of the content. Again, be sure to communicate your expectations clearly and be flexible if necessary because it’s important to remember that there’s a high likelihood that this isn’t the only priority on their plate.
3) Access to SMEs
Sometimes just finding the right people to provide the information you need to develop a robust learning program can be a challenge. Access to SMEs is something that can be a bottleneck when it comes to process, particularly if they’re busy professionals (as most of them are likely to be). Consider your SMEs to be key stakeholders. Take steps to make interactions easy and impactful to get the most out of your time with them. Find collaborators who can commit to your timeline and deliver on their promises with minimal disruption. And remember to keep them in the loop as much as possible as your content is built out.
4) Getting timely feedback
Feedback is a critical part of the process when you engage with SMEs. Sometimes they are involved more heavily on the front end then they are likely to be as the project winds to a close, but remember that getting their feedback is an important part of the process and should not be overlooked. Set clear timelines to help keep them on track. Follow up frequently and do what you can to make sure they are able to deliver the expertise you need when you need it, so that everyone is able to meet their expectations.
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