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 £380,000
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!
On a Thursday I have decided to ponder….. #ThoughtfulThursday if you like…….
…….and today I am thinking about some choices that we can make in this time of reset/recovery/readjustment (delete as applicable) to make our profession the best it can be.
A couple of years ago I wrote about the Learning Loop Approach. Please see the picture below and read this document if you would like to know more.
Yesterday I came across an unfinished diagram and rather than finishing it myself, I wondered if the wonderful network of L&D professionals that I am connected with could finish or amend it with me. So if you are up for a bit of virtual collaboration then click on this link to join my collaboration space on MURAL.
I am not an angry person but on occasions there are some things that genuinely make me mad!
I love my profession and I know that it is not perfect but why are we still designing and delivering programmes, then thinking about evaluation when we have finished delivery?
I sort of know the answer to that, but would love to hear some of your thoughts too. What really stops us from demonstrating the value we deliver though learning?
One of the reasons I wrote my book “How Not To Waste Your Money On Training” was to provide a simple step-by-step guide of how to set yourself up for success in L&D. I had noticed in my 30+ years in L&D and the last 12+ years in developing people in the profession, that L&D professionals sometimes do not know where to start when it comes to doing an analysis of needs BEFORE embarking on the learning journey. In this way, they would know where they are headed and when finished could measure the effectiveness.
Some knew where to start, but didn’t have the analytical skills or confidence to find evidence to support why they might implement a learning solution. Some did not know how to engage with the organisation to get a clear focus on what the performance outcomes might be.
During this pandemic, when resources are stretched and tensions high in our organisations, we should be embracing the opportunity to reset and recalibrate what we do in L&D, shouldn’t we?
A couple of weeks ago Kevin M.Yates spoke at the Learning Technologies Summer Forum about “How to Solve Mysteries like an L&D Detective”. Below is a visual summary of his session. What I found particularly helpful are the 6 questions you should ask before embarking on an L&D project. The least anyone can do is ask those questions. If you cannot answer all of them with a “yes” then I would recommend my book “How Not To Waste Your Money On Training “
As a former IT trainer and programmer (in my engineering career) I was fascinated by anything which helped me to programme more efficiently.
I learned to programme back in the early 80’s when we were still using punch cards so the fewer lines of code, the shorter your stack and the less impact of accidentally dropping them. Elastic bands were considered an essential piece of kit in programming back then!
Having been at the start of when object oriented programming emerged, it was a time when reusing and repurposing efficient bits of code was at the forefront of everyones mind. AGILE was just emerging in the late 1990’s as a way to manage IT projects against a back drop of increasing storage (and lack of punch cards!) It was heralded as an innovative way to ensure speed of delivery as well as producing a minimum viable product to allow for testing and feedback. This was seen to be a much more efficient way to produce the millions of lines of code that were often required.
In the last few years I have heard more and more about what AGILE means in the L&D space and I had my own take on it when I spoke at the Learning Technologies Summer Forum in 2018. What I shared back then, still stands, I believe. It goes beyond pure methodologies in rapid design and looks at why we should align ourselves with the organisation to deliver learning products that deliver on what the organisation and the learners both need.
Here are the 4 key points for L&D:
‘Infiltrate’ the organisation, by getting know what its goals are and understanding what the priorities should be. Network like mad to get to know the right people to connect with. Dig deeper into the data to dine areas of concern and don’t take one data point or source as being gospel!
From the networking then determine which stakeholders you need to spend most time with by doing a stakeholder analysis.
Set clear outcomes that are important to your stakeholders so that they will measure! Make sure your line managers are aligned to these outcomes too! keep your eyes not he prize!
Listen to what is going on then encourage and feedback.
Just recently I attended the CIPD Festival of Work and was really interested in Carlo Beschi’s talk on “Agile Methodologies to Create Responsive Learning”. This is my visual summary on his session:
What I took from this for my own business is to start small and have a few iterations, gaining feedback to:
Iron out glitches
Test out the platform
I have done this for my online course “Creating Beautiful Visual Notes” – it is in the pilot stage at the moment, getting feedback and when the final product emerges in a few weeks it will hopefully have some of the glitches ironed put.
Think about what you CAN do online that you cannot do face to face
Quite often we try to translate what we would do face to face into the virtual world and it feels like a compromise. So, think about what you can do online that is really hard face to face. For example, getting many ideas in 1 minute becomes easy when you don’t have to give space to individual contributions one after the other. Chat, whiteboard and online tools like LINOIT and MURAL make gathering thoughts easy!
Be yourself, get chatty and encourage as much interaction as possible
Think about how you will introduce the event and welcome people. In the same way that when you are face-to-face, you would say hello as people come in, do the same, make small talk and get people relaxed and ready to contribute. It’s not so much breaking the ice but settling people in and getting them over that initial screen of faces staring at them (if they have their videos on). Ask them to say where they are calling from in the chat and what the weather is doing. Or maybe get them to share “One thing that…..” which is relevant to the topic of the day.
More slides, more pictures, fewer words
Don’t use the slides as a teleprompter. Use notes on your desk if you need a prompt and make the visuals appealing with pictures, questions and interesting statistics (if appropriate). Change the slides more frequently than if you were face to face and think about how to engage people by inserting questions. They can chat while you speak in the chat box.
Think about group size
If it is a small group (<12) you can invite personal thoughts and contributions on microphone whereas this should be managed more carefully for larger groups. By all means invite people on microphone but get them to raise their hand and make it clear you are looking for just 1 minute, 1 thought etc. You can still make it interactive if the group size is large but you may have to use tools like MURAL or LINOIT to capture thoughts and ideas.
Consider having a host for larger groups to deal with the tech and chatter
A good host will take the pressure of the facilitator and keep an eye on the chat as well as take over in case of any technical issues. Communicate what support you would like from the host: from adding in questions, spotting who might want to contribute to injecting a controversial question!
Belt and braces
If anything is likely to go wrong in the virtual world, it can and it will! So always have a back-up plan. Send your slides and session plan to the host just in case your internet connection goes down. They can keep things going while you get back in. Some activities may take too long or go too quickly – what will you do to “fill” or avoid that “we have run out of time….” announcement. Can they continue adding their thoughts on an online platform? Consider having a tablet as an extra screen so you can see what your participants can see.
Change pitch, pace and tone every 3-5 minutes. Keep them engaged.
There are lots of ways to keep them engaged and here are just a few:
I have been coaching people the last few days, noticing there is genuine fear and anxiety out there amongst some people, but with others a revelation that this may be a moment to pause and reflect. Wherever you are and whichever end of the spectrum, I will be praying for peace throughout this crisis. I will be praying that from each individuals perspective at least one good thing comes out of it to make a better future.
I haven’t blogged for a while for a number of reasons:
World weary from being on this treadmill we call life
Disillusionment with social media and the negativity it often brings
Filling my social media buffer feels like a chore, it is not really connecting with people, even though people respond and react
There has not been a burning desire to share a ‘nugget’ with all my connections
In this last few week I have seen a lot of worry and panic. This has almost been palpable and it feels like it is still rising. People are losing jobs, life has changed from what we know it to have been and we fear that we might lose loved ones. For some of us that may have already happened.
So why blog now? What’s changed for me? Work has stopped, almost and I am not good when I have not much to do. In a crisis, I often will ask myself “But what CAN I do?”
Coaching is a passion and it is a gift to receive it as well as offer it. In my years of coaching people, I have often been blessed by the transformations I have witnessed and inspired to make changes in my own life. The answer to my question was “Why not see if people want a free coaching session?”
It made sense and it would occupy me and hopefully distract me from the panic surrounding me. As soon as I put the offer out a few people contacted me. I have been humbled by their honesty and grateful to have been of what little help I can be.
The offer still stands, if you are struggling and need a conversation, some non-judgmental time for you to mull over what the possibilities might be, thencontact me. We can set up a time to suit both of us.
While coaching one person, I realised some of the questions and the order in which I asked them may, be useful to others. If you need some time to reflect now the pause button had been pressed, then maybe these questions might help reflect, recalibrate and plan a new brighter future once this crisis subsides.
Here are those questions:
What is your biggest fear?
What makes you think it is true?
What could you do to help yourself thrive at this time?
What will you do?
Thinking about these things how does it make you feel?
In six months time when (hopefully) we are through the other side what stories would you iike to be sharing?
Going through this crisis, what permanent changes would you like to see in your life for the good?