The concept of transferring knowledge from experts in a particular field to a new generation of workers is really the base upon which training programs are built. Subject matter experts – or ‘SMEs’, as they are known in the training industry – are in high-demand as they play a critical role in the development of learning curriculums across all industries. The ability of these experts to pass along knowledge accumulated from years of direct experience in the field and lessons learned through trial and error has the potential to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of an entire organization.
There can be some drawbacks to this model as well, however. SMEs are incredibly valuable to an organization not only for their ability to effectively train less experienced colleagues, but also for their ability to execute the jobs they were hired to do. While pulling them away from their primary roles to conduct training sessions certainly has its benefits, it also has the potential to adversely impact their contribution to the organization in terms of personal productivity. Finding the proper balance between the time a SME spends educating the workforce and time dedicated to executing his or her primary job function is a critical consideration for both business and learning leaders alike.
Enter technology. The expanding role of SMEs in the creation and delivery of learning content is another example of how training is being positively impacted by the more frequent use of technology as blended learning becomes more relevant. As workforces continue to be more globalized and complex, conducting all training sessions in-person has become impractical and inefficient and thus we are seeing a reduced role for the traditional classroom instructor. Through the use of technology, course offerings created jointly by training professionals and SMEs are now offered through web-based, on demand and mobile applications. This allows the workers in the field to access training resources whenever they are needed, while remaining on the job and productive in their roles.
For SMEs, an increased focus on technology has created an outlet for them to share their wealth of knowledge and expertise with the broader workforce with minimal interruption to their role within the organization. This creates a scenario in which more employees are benefiting from the expertise of experienced colleagues with a lower cost to the organization and a negligible impact to operations. A true win-win proposition for all.