You may already be using subject matter experts to deliver training and see the huge benefits that this model brings. You may have considered using them or used them already without success. Whichever camp you fall into, in this blog I am going to explore the pros and cons of using subject matter experts within your organisation. I am going to share a real live case study from Stockport Homes who have had great success with their ‘Facilitator Pathway’ programme, which was introduced in 2015 and has been reaping rewards ever since.
Liz Chadwick, Head of Organisational Development at Stockport Homes said about the (Learning Loop) Facilitator Pathway:
“The Facilitator Pathway is fundamental to SHG’s approach to personal growth and development. It has enabled us to provide development opportunities for our team members whilst addressing learning needs across the organisation. Having a tailored approach based on organisational priorities and policies allows us to get it right first time”
So why would you consider using subject matter experts and not external consultants? Here are just a few considerations:
Training budgets are limited or about to be cut
The specialist external consultants in the subject of interest do not always understand the intricacies of how it applies to your organisation and you want the training to be tailored
You have a lot of external consultants coming in as you need the training frequently as part of your compliance requirements.
Stockport Homes introduced the facilitator pathway alongside other career development pathways in 2015 to strengthen their personal growth offer and generate efficiencies. This pathway provided stretch and recognition of talent, whilst knowledge sharing with other colleagues. The pathway has been a fundamental part of SHG’s Learning and Development Plan, providing bespoke solutions internally across the group.
Here are some of the pros and cons of using subject matter experts:
They have knowledge not only relevant to your industry but the application in your organisation
Cost savings* see table below
Promotes a learning culture where learning is not ‘owned’ by L&D but can be seen to be done by anyone who is willing and with an aptitude
Person is a known and respected part of the organisation
Tailored to the organisation
Opportunities to build team cohesion when leaders and managers are involved
They are not trainers or facilitators, so may not be able to put their subject across in an engaging or impactful way
Their ‘day job’ pulls them away from delivering the learning
A consultant will know what trends are happening in the broader industry and be able to share those
Employees may not think out of the box
Lack of inclusion and diversity if hearing the same voices
Since 2015, I have been running the Learning Loop programme for the Facilitator Pathway for Stockport Homes. Part of the needs analysis identified that the main driver was to save the £1000 per day fee that external consultants were charging. There have been significant money savings since 2015, although it is difficult to be exact in the tracking of all the days the subject matter experts have trained.
Below is a very conservative estimate of how much money will have been saved by the July 2022. Most cohorts have had 12 participants and the cost of the training (mainly safeguarding) has not been adjusted for inflation over the last 6 years. Some of the people on the Facilitator Pathway have done maybe 10 days training whereas others have done none. Therefore, to give an idea of the sort of savings that could be had, we have assumed just 2 days training per year per person since 2015. You can see that will mean by this time next year they will have (conservatively) saved £320,000
Facilitators trained (cumulative total)
Days trained per person annually
Money saved that year (£1000 per day)
*2020 no training face to face due to COVID19
The impact of these figures speak for themselves. As a consultant, if the client knows annually, I am going to be saving them initially £20,000, my fee in comparison will seem insignificant.
Training subject matter experts is not the same as training trainers or facilitators. They do not have experience in how people learn or how to create engaging learning activities. The role of any programme to help them deliver training in an impactful and engaging way is to:
Role model great practice
Provide simple models to follow to make analysis, design, delivery and evaluation straightforward.
Give them confidence that they can facilitate (not just present)
Be pitched at a level where the SME’s may have no L&D knowledge
If you would like to know about the impact of the Learning Loop programme on the participants of the “Facilitator Pathway” look at some of the comments from past participants:
“Motivates me to think outside the box and make a different way of learning key to improving the organisation”
“Very interesting, not what I thought it was going to be. Have always had training but not like this. Was much better :)”
“Energising and inspiring. You get lots and lots of different tools and ideas to make training interesting.”
“Very informative. Brilliant teaching techniques and great activities”
“Really interesting training that helps to inspire you and bring out your creative side”
Liz Chadwick, Head of Organisational Development at Stockport Homes said about the Facilitator Pathway: “The Facilitator Pathway is fundamental to SHG’s approach to personal growth and development. It has enabled us to provide development opportunities for our team members whilst addressing learning needs across the organisation. Having a tailored approach based on organisational priorities and policies allows us to get it right first time”
Contact us to find out how we can help develop your subject matter experts to deliver training in-house to save you money year on year.
I have never kept it a secret that in a former life I was an engineer. It is something I am immensely proud of and it has formed my thinking as an L&D professional. Learning is a process and it does not begin with a training session nor does it end with a learning outcome.
Fruitful learning can only begin with the clear identification of the problem you are trying to solve. Impactful learning will not only have learning outcomes but also observable measures, that improve the performance of individuals as well as the organisation.
As an engineer, after graduation and working for a boiler manufacturer in Glasgow, I first came across two departments: QC (Quality Control) and QA (Quality Assurance). Quality control came at the end of a process and rubber stamped the finished boiler, pronouncing it fit for purpose and meeting the production criteria. QA on the other hand, punctuated the whole process and steered it to ensure that the boiler would be able to meet those stringent production criteria.
So how does this apply to L&D and how do we know if we are QA or QC led or both? In L&D a QC approach would be to have definitive outcomes (learning and performance) that can be measured at the end of the learning process, once the learning has embedded. Nothing wrong with this, but let us imagine taking 3000 people through this to find out that only 30% of them have achieved what you set out to achieve. Even if you have correctly identified the problem and have clear outcomes, this would not be a satisfactory result.
Adding the QA approach, once you have a definitive problem and clear outcomes, builds in checks and balances to ‘right the ship’ if at any time it goes off course. These measures might be about how engaged the participants are, what the completion rate is, benchmarks on their achievement, maybe even ‘bums on seats’ and many other so called ‘vanity’ metrics: something which we may feel we have been told to steer clear of. The key thing is not to use these metrics as a confirmation of success, but as a confirmation that:
The participants are engaged on the journey
They are completing the whole journey
There is no point at which there is an exodus of participants or a drop in engagement
If at some point the participants become disengaged, using these metrics, you may be able to find out why and put things into place. If you notice that the number of attendees is dropping off even though there are many more who need to attend, it may alert you to checking in with their feedback. As a result, you may have to make changes or begin a new marketing campaign to encourage attendance.
So how do you do L&D. With a QA or QC approach or both and why?
In this blog, I am going to show you step-by-step, how you can use Blooms taxonomy to map the learning journey for your learners/performers/colleagues. How this will help you is, it will give you clarity in designing programmes and how to stage the learning so as not to overwhelm participants. It will help you to create robust learning objectives that will be linked to the improved performance of those participants on the learning journey.
For longer programmes, when writing objectives, you may be revisiting the same subject on a number of different occasions. So, do you just have one objective or a number of objectives to cover the different stages of the learning journey? I would suggest the latter. The objectives need to build up logically, the knowledge, skills and attitudes along that journey.
During the programmes I deliver, working with trainers, facilitators or subject matter experts, I help participants on a learning journey to creating robust objectives, knowing that this helps greatly in design. I do this in stages:
Introduce the thought that it is hard to write SMART objectives without some extra help – I use Robert Mager’s PCS framework. Before they can even start though, they have to be able to differentiate between aims, organisational objectives, performance objectives and learning objectives/outcomes.
Learning Objective: In a group activity correctly match the definitions, with the terms and examples, without the use of notes.
Draw attention to the table of objective verbs and the reason for their classification. Discuss which verbs you should avoid using and why.
Learning Objective: As a group list at least 5 words or phrases that you should never use when setting robust objectives
For a given topic explore how learning can be a mixture of knowledge, skills and attitudes according to Blooms Taxonomy.
It is important you know which level of Blooms taxonomy this specific group of people need to achieve. Not all roles require learning to the same level.
Walk through the Blooms taxonomy examples for each domain
Learning Objective: In your small groups determine for the case studies given, the correct domain and level of learning that is required
Watch the video on objective setting and take them through the slides on Robert Mager’s PCS framework.
Learning Objective: Individually, with the use of notes write 1 learning objective on a given topic using Robert Magers PCS framework.
The first step for you, in creating great objectives, is to map the learning journey and you can use Blooms Taxonomy to help map that journey.
Here is a diagram showing Blooms taxonomy. There will be references to this in the examples I will walk you through.
Here are a couple of examples to show you how you might map the learning journey, using Blooms taxonomy.
The first example is for customer service skills in a call centre:
At the induction, participants learn about your customer service charter (knowledge domain – level 1 and attitudinal, level 1).
From conversation with their line manager, expectations of the role are discussed. They are given their objectives and asked to describe how that might apply to their role (knowledge domain, levels 2 – 3).
They observe some live calls from their colleagues and make notes about what went well and what might be even better if….? (knowledge domain, levels 2 – 3).
They buddy up with an experienced colleague in their new role, who observes them during their practice sessions and gives feedback (skill domain, level 1 – 2, attitudinal domain level 2).
They attend a workshop on handling objections where they get to stretch their thinking and practice some new techniques (knowledge domain level 3, skill level 2-3, attitudinal level 2-3).
Once a month they are observed/recorded and they critique their own performance as well as get feedback (knowledge domain level 4, skill level 3, attitudinal level 3).
In their line manager conversations, they discuss the impact of some of the feedback, how it might change their behaviours and why (attitudinal domain, level 4).
Let us now look at a practical example of being able to write good witness statements.
They look at a (good)sample witness statement and learn to identify the component parts (knowledge domain – levels 1-2).
They look at a bad witness statement and are able to spot the errors (knowledge domain – level 3 or 4).
Learn about questioning skills and have a practice at using them (knowledge domain, levels 1-3 and skills – level 1).
What are the legal requirements of a witness statement and the conditions under which it should be taken? (knowledge domain level 3)
How should you prepare to make a statement? (knowledge domain, level 3 attitudinal level 2).
Practice interview skills (skills domain, level 3).
Observe someone else doing an interview and assess their statement as to whether it is acceptable (knowledge domain, level 4).
Conduct an interview in a role play and score well on the observation sheet (skill domain, level 3, attitudinal level 3).
Below is another diagram showing Blooms taxonomy examples. Once your journey has been mapped, you can use the relevant verbs and Robert Magers’ PCS framework, to create robust objectives for each part of that journey.
Nobody can say that the last 7 months have been easy on anyone. We have all been in a storm, handling it all in our own ways. Some have lost their health, livelihoods and loved ones. Most all of us have lost a way of life that seemed unshiftable. No one could have predicted this and yet here we are.
When I look at my unmoved and unemptied training bag at the side of my room, I wonder why I have chosen not to empty it? To accept that I will not for some time be delivering face to face? Is it denial? Hope? Maybe a mixture of those things as well as where to put this physical “stuff” that has been such a part of what I do for so many years.
I love being with people and the online world is sometimes not the substitute I would like it to be. No hugs, side jokes, banter in the way it used to be. It can however offer so much more than we often expect of it.
Here we are and as an optimist and someone who is grateful to be back in the saddle after a gap a few months ago, I am grateful. Grateful for the opportunities presenting themselves. Grateful for the people I can help in this difficult situation. Grateful to be conversing, discussing, designing and doing what I love to do: help people on their journey of development.
The reality of delivering online is that it takes practice, patience and confidence. Preparation for me is key and just to give you a little insight into how I prepare, below is a picture of my desk set up.
Do have a look at the picture below – it will give you a lot of insights into what it takes for me to prepare:
Here are just a few things I thought it best to mention:
Paper session plan so I can minimise the stuff on my screen
Paper workbook to scribble things on and refer to easily for the participants
Paper to write notes and thoughts and actions on
Post-its to remind me of important things and also to enjoy the session – I love what I do, but in the anxious moments before they arrive, I may forget that!
Lipstick, water, tissues and hand cream at the ready!
I have a stand up – sit down, desk so I can be energised and feel like I am on my feet ready to ‘perform’
Today I bottled out of using my second screen in favour of using my ethernet cable – a little security blanket and in an area where our internet is pretty good. It made me less anxious at least to know the internet would not blob!
So anyone out there preparing to deliver online. Let’s be human about it. Things will go wrong and so plan for the worst but expect the best so your participants feel like they are getting a valuable experience and you get some enjoyment out of it.
Be easy on yourself and don’t try too many new things at once. Practice what you are comfortable with and maybe enlist the support of a colleague on your first few sessions, until you find your feet.
Mostly don’t ignore the creativity you used when you were doing this face to face. Don’t discard your valuable experience and skills in the face to face world. They are still valid, they just need a tweak!