This post was originally published by Allyson Dobberteen on lessonly.com.
Most managers would agree that, in an ideal world, their teams would be filled with passionate people who have a deep understanding of the processes, technologies, competitive landscapes, and industries they operate in. Let’s call those passionate people “subject matter experts” from here on out.
Subject matter experts don’t just grow on trees. They generally come about two ways: They’re hired fully-formed after putting in the time elsewhere, or they’re created from the ground up. Let’s look into the pros and cons of each method.
Hiring subject matter experts
Ah, hiring. It sounds nice and easy to hire the subject matter experts you need. Hiring an expert might be the fastest way to get one on your team, but there are a few downsides to be aware of here.
First, subject matter experts can be more expensive. After devoting time to learning the ins and outs, they may simply be out of your price range. Second, they’re typically harder to find. A specialized subject matter expert is a rare breed. And lastly, they may have some ingrained “bad habits” that you’d rather not bring into your company. For example, they may be close-minded, only wanting to do things “the way they’ve always been done.” They might be jaded for years of running up against the same challenges over and over again. Or, they may have just worked for a competitor, becoming overly used to the way they do things.
Creating subject matter experts
Around here, we’re big fans of giving employees the training tools and techniques they need to become subject matter experts. One of our beloved customers in the financial services industry, Lower.com, has first-hand experience on this matter, as they typically hire reps with little-to-no industry experience.
“Unlike others in the industry, we develop talent from the ground up,” explains John Lanz, Lower.com’s Vice President of Training and Development. “We teach them about the industry alongside their position with the goal of getting them to the next step in their career.”
But training the everyday employee to be a subject matter expert is no easy feat, and it’s nearly impossible without the right training management software. So we’ve put together a few tips and tricks on how to use software for training your entry-level employees into subject matter experts.
3 tips for creating subject matter experts
Make onboarding anything but on-boring
Long days in conference rooms and haphazard shadowing calls does not a subject matter expert make—and this is especially true for specialized industries like financial services, insurance, or healthcare. Start from day zero with a training management system that allows you to personalize learning paths, track individual progress, and measure overall results. (Cough, cough, we know of one.)
We’ve learned a thing or two about onboarding effectively. For one, it’s important to keep lessons short and sweet because information overload is real. We’ve also noticed that training software platforms that put the learner first are adopted more effectively, making them more likely to make subject matter experts out of employees. Better yet, build in some interaction! To keep onboarding hands-on and applicable, use an interactive training software that allows learners to practice their skills and test their knowledge as they go.
Highlight what’s working
One of the most effective training tools for employees to use is actually your existing staff. They have the tacit knowledge that those outside of the industry just don’t have. Make sure that their wisdom is captured in your software training program of choice and treat them like your most valuable asset. Then, give them the floor.
After all, why should every employee go through the same trial-and-error if someone else has already cracked the code? We call this “Highlighting What’s Working.” What tactics do the existing experts use? What questions do they ask? Where do they put their focus? By giving the more experienced people training platforms for employees around them to learn from, up-and-comers can jumpstart their journeys more effectively.
Keep feedback loops open
The biggest roadblock to developing subject matter experts is a lack of openness. Entry-level employees have to feel comfortable enough to ask the silly questions that might seem obvious to a more seasoned veteran. On the other hand, experienced employees need to recognize that everyone will get farther if they share their expertise openly.
We call this “the curse of knowledge” around here. It sounds a little ominous because it is! When we assume that everyone around us has learned and knows the same things we have, we omit details or gloss over important information. Under-explanation like this makes the process of developing subject matter experts incredibly difficult. Ensure that your chosen software for training allows an open flow of information, so that learners can pipe up when something doesn’t make sense like it should.
Reach expert status sooner
Are you looking for a training software for employees to use to reach expert status sooner? Lessonly by Seismic helps reps onboard 62% faster than before. Schedule a 15-minute call with one of our subject matter experts here.