Why don’t you use subject matter experts?

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:

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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
  • Outdated content?

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)
2015 10
2016 10 2 £20,000.00
2017 20 2 £20,000.00
2018 30 2 £40,000.00
2019 40 2 £60,000.00
2020 40 0* £0.00
2021 50 2 £80,000.00
2022 2 £100,000.00
TOTAL £320,000.00

*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)
  • Inspire them to design quickly for themselves, relevant and interesting activities without the need to buy in ‘activities’
  • Help them to deliver learning that is business focussed as well as brain friendly (not just one of these!)
  • 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.

 

The Transformation Curve from Towards Maturity

I read this a while ago but have only just created this visual. It is hard to condense such a dense report and so I have been giving it some thought. I  think the key things to take away from this are:

  • To become more ‘mature’ as an organisation you can follow this curve
  • The starting point is a discussion between you and stakeholders about the barriers and benefits to improving your maturity index
  • The curve is actually a series of 4 steps
  • Between each step is a transition to the next step called a ‘pivot of change’
  • Each pivot point gives you some indicators as to when is a good move onto the next step, these are shown above but more detail van be gleaned from the report
  • Many of the points in stage 4 can be reached by following the steps in my book ‘How Not To Waste Your Money On Training’

 

 

To educate, learn or train? That is the question!

Should we in L&D be focussed on improving job performance and hence all learning is focussed on that or should we be looking for people to be inspired to learn more and be more self-directed?

I spent some time in July 2018 writing my book, “How Not To Waste Your Money On Training” and during the week I had a few philosophical moments. One was about the difference between education, training and learning. I often speak to L&D professionals about the difference between a training needs analysis and a learning needs analysis. How the former always leads to training whereas the latter leads to something broader than just training; it could be learning in many different forms.

In a similar way I was thinking about how my degree in chemical engineering and fuel technology was a good education. It prepared me for the world of work and also began a lifelong desire to learn more. When I moved from engineering to IT training with IBM we were called “instructors” and I worked in the IBM Education Centre in St. John’s Wood. Was what people received when they came to us there, an education? I am not so sure. I would hope the delegates were more prepared for their world of work and that they were inspired to learn more. But how broad was that inspiration? Did they become self-motivated learners keen to go beyond the traditional training course to further develop themselves?

This leads me to the present day; my title changed from instructor to trainer to L&D professional/facilitator. How do I define though whether I am educating, training or helping people to learn?

A few years after I gained my Certificate in Training Practice, I began working with trainers, delivering the CIPD Certificate in Training Practice, then the Certificate in Learning and Development Practice. Through my accelerated learning programmes, I further worked with L&D professionals to help them learn more about an approach that has been taking shape over many years. An approach that helps me focus on organisational needs as well as learner requirements. Programmes that took 8 months of weekly 4 hour sessions, were delivered in 8 one day sessions moving to a well-known learning provider. Now I deliver a 6-week programme, which includes a 2 day workshop and I cannot possibly ‘cover’ all I used to.

Leading by example and walking-the -talk have been driving forces in our organisation “How to Accelerate Learning”. Facilitation is practiced and runs like an invisible thread through the programmes. Inspiring resources and innovative ways of learning through gamification, create a different feel to the programme, leaving many people “inspired” – their words not ours. Even hardened trainers with years of experience under their belts talk of how different it feels.

This has not always been a deliberate intention, but a on occasions, a happy and accidental one. One that we persist with because of the results we achieve and the feedback we get. We put effort into:

  • Drilling deeper into needs to see if learning is the appropriate course of action
  • Delivering learning via a blend of activities not just training
  • Helping people to gain confidence in stepping out of their comfort zone – to experience new ways to help people learn
  • Using unusual materials and resources to inspire a different approach
  • Following up the learning so it is not just a one-time event

So, I don’t feel like it is training in the traditional sense; not like when I was a VM Instructor. Nor do I feel that it is just learning because of the feedback we get. So are we educating and is that now the remit of L&D?

 

Imagine if …. #6

 

This is the approach that we take at How to Accelerate Learning. Many other people do too (without calling it that!). In this blog series we will be looking at each of the 6 parts of the Learning Loop approach. So imagine …. what if, YOU were to take this approach:

Number 6: Learning interventions are underpinned by accelerated learning principles

I have been using accelerated learning principles for quite a number of years now and probably even before I knew what it was.

Accelerated learning brings together many models and theories which are practical and give results. Elliot Masie saw an improvement of 300% in the retention of information, switching from traditional to accelerated learning principles. I worked with an L&D team in Atos and Debbie Meddins, the manager reported a cut of 30% in trainer prep time.

So imagine if, your trainers took less time to prepare and the learning was more sticky? What might that mean:

  • More time to develop relationships with stakeholders to keep your finger on the pulse of the organisation
  • More time to explore new learning methodologies and a wider variety (see my #100ways2learn if you are stuck)
  • More time to develop new skills and create more of a learning culture
  • Fewer refresher courses and more credibility in L&D
  • Performance improvements that are more sustainable and noticeable

Would you like to know more about this approach? Then you have some choices:

OOPs I designed it again

HTAL - 14OOPS I designed it again – how to avoid reinventing the wheel in learning design

Would you like to make design of learning interventions easy? Would you like to be able to reuse activities so that design becomes much more modular? Would you like to design multiple programmes quickly and tailor for specific groups of performers? So in this article I will introduce to you a methodology not dissimilar to something used in programming, which helps you to achieve this.

Some of you may already know this but my first degree was in Chemical Engineering and Fuel Technology. As part of my degree we learnt how to program in Fortran and basic. This was to be very helpful when 6 years later I made a career change and became an IT trainer.

Just lately I have been making connections with a certain type of programming and how I have been developing the Learning Loop, a brand new way to do Train-the-trainer. When I first launched the Learning Loop Programme, I promised it to be:

  • Tailored to the individuals attending
  • Activity led and not content driven
  • Suitable for L&D people of any level of skill or experience
  • Creative and business focused

Object Oriented Programming (OOP) requires a different mind set. Instead of using the traditional approach to programming, where you start at the beginning and work your way through to writing the (sometimes unwieldy) programme, you start to recognize parts that are reusable and generic. Thus coding becomes more about using those generic parts and then adding the odd bit of customized code. This principal can also be applied to designing learning interventions.

When creating a new Learning Loop for an open workshop or a new client, it always starts with the objectives- making sure they are SMART using Robert Magers’ PCS framework. Once the objectives have been outlined then the design can begin. Initially there would be more design, but now every time I run a new workshop, after writing the objectives I can then reuse a good deal of the activities. The key is in determining the correct level and scope of the learning – whether it is skills, knowledge or attitudinal. Not designing too broadly is also key, then you can mix and match activities from the library you create over time.

HTAL - 13This can be applied to designing multiple leadership programmes for different levels of leader. Write clear learning outcomes from the organisational ones.  Select from your library the generic activities you can use at each level. Select for the higher levels additional learning activities and maybe then also design some new additional ones required to tailor at each level.

If you would like help to use this approach, then get in touch for a free 30 minute telephone consultation today: info@howtoacceleratelearning.co.uk

 

Imagine if …..#3

llapproach-copyThis is the approach that we take at How to Accelerate Learning. Many other people do too (without calling it that!). In this blog series we will be looking at each of the 6 parts of the Learning Loop approach. So imagine …. what if, YOU were to take this approach:

Number 3: L&D use a consultancy approach when asked to design or deliver:

 

I speak to many L&D professionals who work in a “reactive” rather than a “proactive” mode. This sometimes feels to them like they have no choice. A typical scenario may be:

img_2423

  • A stakeholder receives bad news
  • Stakeholder thinks they can fix it with some training so they call in L&D
  • Stakeholder tells L&D what they need and when
  • Stakeholder gets more bad news, when the approach is not working as planned

So when you use a consultancy approach, what might you expect? Here are a few things:

  • A detailed conversation about what the situation is that needs addressing
  • A willingness and openness to dig deeper to explore what might be happening (or not happening)
  • Less rush to the solution and more understanding about the real issues that needs to be sorted
  • A partnership approach, seeking advice and working together, rather than being told when and what to do
  • Targeted, business focussed solutions that at times may not have any training included
  • An eagerness for the stakeholder to measure the success, with responsibility for measurement being with them
  • Budgets justified, support offered and resources available

Would you like to more about this approach? Then you have some choices:

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