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Adrian Stokes

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Professional skills development for subject matter experts?



I wonder whether you can put forward your view on why companies don't tend to put their 'subject matter experts' through any formal delivery training programme?

I think it's a combination of time and money, plus perhaps the more structured and formal L&D/HR teams don't know exactly how many SMEs there are and where they sit within the business (as many report into business lines, not L&D/HR).

It may also be lack of perceived value in developing their skills, as they might deliver infrequently, or low importance content?

I appreciate that I've given a number of ideas, but what do you think?

Best regards,


10 Responses

  1. Authorisation


    I can only speak for where I work but anyone delivering training (particularly enforced for client training) must be authorised. This is a minimum of a 3 day TTT and many other options to follow. 

    Totally depends on individual as to quality of training but with super specialists you can only do what you can do and the audience of such specialisms don't really value learning, they value being in the presence of an expert! 

  2. Hi Adrian,

    Hi Adrian,

    I think you've raised a really interesting question – this group (subject experts who train) are actually one of my core groups of people that I work with and from what I've seen there is no 1 answer.


    What Steve says is spot on – asking someone who delivers infrequently to complete a TtT course is often not worth it because their audiences aren't that bothered (unless they are really dreadful presenters, but most are not because they are talking about their specialist subject!).

    I have seen some instances where companies don't value investing in this type of development for a subject expert, which obviously I think is disappointing!

    Is there a particular reason that you ask, or was it just something that you were wondering?




  3. cost benefit

    SMEs tend to deliver training on their specialist topic… hence it might appear condescending to ask them to undertake a ttt. Especially when all non trainers know that the way to deliver training is to simply tell the audience everything you know about the subject (TFIC).


  4. co-delivery

    Hi Adrian, we have used SME's in a kind of co-delivery role but having said that they don't tend to facilitate or drive any of the sessions; they are there as a resource to answer questions and give one on one support.  When we do this it's always with someone from the Learning Team leading and facilitating the session.

    Talking just for my Org; I'm not sure the SME's would want formal TTT development as the Learning Team members, (who a re all qualified), would give them a crash course and I don't think they would see any value attending a course as they can learn informally and socially from local experts.

  5. Thanks for replying Steve

    It's good to hear that those who deliver client-facing training do get professional development Steve. I'm surprised to hear that the audience doesn't value the quality, just the input of the specialist, but I wonder if the output of the delivery was measured in terms of how it impacted the client and met their business outcomes, that perception might change?

  6. Business outcomes

    Hi Adrian

    Some (training) events don't have business needs or outcomes. Just a load of very clever people listening and nodding and smiling at a very very clever person with his dodgy slideshow and enjoying a few nibbles afterwards and filling in 5 stars on a smiley form having learned absolutely nothing. 

    No point trying to change something they don't think needs changing.



  7. ThanksFiona!

    I agree that many companies don't appear to see the value in investing any time or money in developing SMEs. I guess it does depend on perceived value in the output of the delivery (aka Steve's point). I suppose I would argue to a degree that all delivery is important, otherwise, why do it at all? We tend to view the question as to whether to develop SMEs training delivery skills around the degree to which the delivery is really  important to the business (although I've just suggested that all delivery is important one way or another, but I guess critical technical/compliance/H&S training carries more weight) and the frequency in which an SME is required to deliver, so a matrix of importance versus frequency.

    In Steve's situation, where there is an end-client involved, I would suggest the training is important enough for the company to invest in a full 3 day programme – as it appears they do.

    The reason for asking is that we have developed a matrix approach to training SMEs ranging from 1-5 day programmes dependent upon the above importance versus frequency, but over the years, frankly it has been nigh on impossible for us to encourage businesses to take matters seriously, so I am seeking intelligence as to understanding what's driving the lack of commitment, given that SMEs often provide critical training support.

    I do appreciate Clive's approach, which I have heard sometimes happens, makes sense and negates the need for professional development of SMEs as training deliverers.

    Rus – I think that's why many SMEs don't engage in TT programmes!

    Interestingly, we did some research into delivery standards for HE and Uni lecturers and it transpires the only qualification they need to deliver information is a PHD. As PHDs are clearly highly intelligent and knowledgeable people, they tend to lean towards the PP and pin back your ears and listen approach – although that isn't the case for all!

    All interesting stuff- thanks for your thoughts.

  8. Nobody else

    Also worth noting that many SMEs just can't do it. Ever…even after an intensive TTT and coaching.

    I work in an area where quite often there is only one person in the world with the very specialist skills needed so we have to use them no matter how good they are at training.

    Its almost unheard of for a super specialist to get bad feedback, even after 800 slides worth of techno babble. 

  9. Corporate Training

    Developing professional skills for SMEs is now considered as a vital development strategy for any business corporate. Moreover, there has been a stiff competition in the market regarding the demand of professional skills. More the SME is enhanced with the technical skill, he/she has a better understanding of the technicality and can provide a wiser and better solution to the project issues and can be solely responsible for its success. Even a decade ago, the lack of proper market research of the R&D team created a huge skill gap in the IT sector and other corporates. But in the recent past, the development of the concept of corporate training and restructuring the corporate workplace has raised serious certain regarding the job skills of the SMEs. So in order to curtail the skill gap for the future prosperity of the organisation and stay in the business market, corporates have introduced "Corporate Training" facilities to bridge the skill gap and further reinstate the workforce empowerment.

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Adrian Stokes


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