How to make the most of your SMEs

June 7, 2021

Hands up if you’ve worked through an online course on LinkedIn Learning, Masterclass, Udemy or similar…

If you have, you’ll know that all of those courses are fronted by experts in their field. Whether you’re learning about leadership, aerospace engineering or social media advertising, you’re learning from someone who’s been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

The courses are appealing because they’re credible. We’re paying for the expert as much as we’re paying for the content.

Using internal SMEs

Now think about your organisation’s training. Is it fronted by experts in the same way? I would guess not. In our experience, barely any organisations put their internal experts front and centre. It seems like a wasted opportunity. 

After all, in many ways our internal experts are even more valuable than the ones presenting high profile masterclass courses. Why? Because they can train your staff on how to do things your way. They have succeeded in your organisation and can be specific about what it takes.

So imagine your top sales person from last year recording sales demos and giving tips on how to close in your sales training. Imagine your Safety Manager lending his credibility and genuine care to your training on HSE regulations. Imagine a much loved people manager giving her tips on empathetic leadership. Imagine your learners sitting up and paying attention, wanting to learn from the best!

Making your experts visible

You might be thinking ‘I do go to those people for their expertise’. That’s great! But the question is, do your learners know that? All too often we take gems of knowledge from our SMEs, but write them up as if they’re from ‘the voice of the elearning’ instead. The lack of a human element makes it harder for audiences to connect with your content.

So Why aren’t we making our experts visible? Often for three main reasons which, you'll be pleased to hear, we have answers for!

“What if our experts leave?”

Granted, it would be a shame if you show an expert’s face and they leave a month later. But how likely is that, really? If they’re a top performer that’s happy to be involved in creating training they’re unlikely to be on the way out. Your digital learning should be frequently refreshed anyway, so you’re looking for a 9-12 month shelf life rather than 3 - 5 years.

“We can’t spare them to be involved with training”

A very common misperception is that top performers should be left alone to get on with their day job. But the truth is, with that approach, you still only have a handful of top performers. Encourage them to share their knowledge and you’ll end up with a whole team of high performers.

“They don’t want to be on camera”

First, check whether this is true or just an assumption. We’ve all spent the last 18 months on camera more than ever before and many people are significantly more comfortable with it as a result. But if it really is a no-go for someone, an audio snippet next to a headshot is an effective Plan B.

5 ways to make the most of your SMEs

If you’re ready to make the most of your SMEs and add a human touch to your digital learning, here are five ideas to get you started: 

Get your experts on camera!

Instead of struggling to make technical content snappy to read, ask your experts to talk through the key points in a few 60-90 second talking head videos. The context they add and the way they explain the learning points will be invaluable. Experts can self-record for free using something like Loom or Quicktime and there’s no need to be word perfect. The human touch is what makes it work!

Interview your experts

If your SMEs are busy people, this is the solution for you. Jump on Zoom or Teams call, put both of your cameras on, ask them some key questions and record your conversation. Expert interview - done!

Crowdsource tips and tricks from peers

You’ll be surprised at how many people have their own tips, tricks and advice to give. Put out a call to a team asking for their top piece of advice, then include a variety in your elearning, crediting each contributor by name.

Audio commentary

Find yourself wrestling with complex processes or diagrams that are crying out to be explained? That’s what your expert is for! Ask them to record a voice note talking through what your learners need to take away from the diagram and upload that audio file on the same page. Voila - learners can look at the diagram while being talked through it by an expert.

Make teaser videos

We all know that ‘if we build it they will come’ is a fallacy. Part of our job is to promote our digital learning to learners. Your SMEs can be a big help here. Ask them to record a 30 second video explaining what they’ve contributed to the training and how they believe it will help learners improve their skills.

Getting started

If you need a final reason to centre your experts in your elearning, remember that relevance is one of the most important things learners look for in digital learning content. It doesn’t get much more relevant than your own people sharing their knowledge.

We’d love to help you make your next piece of digital learning a success. If you’ve got a project on the horizon, reach out for a free consultation and quote and we’ll help you design and execute a piece of digital learning that makes the most of your SMEs.

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