Designing for Busy People at Work: from “Effective SMEs”

This post is the sixth in a series of excerpts from “Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning.” In this excerpt Dale Ludwig (Turpin Communication’s Founder) and Greg Owen-Boger (Turpin’s VP) redefine “adult learners” as “busy people at work.”


Effective SMEs: A Trainer's Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate LearningLet’s begin by refining our understanding of business learners. Learning theory tells us that adult learners need to feel safe, understood, and respected in the classroom. Place adult learners in the business environment, and we can see that they also need to trust that the trainer is going to deliver relevant information and be respectful of their time. So let’s think of businesspeople not simply as “adult learners” but as “busy people at work.” There are three reasons for this:

  • Busy people at work learn new things because it’s part of their job, and they are motivated to learn for practical reasons. But, during instructor-led training, they are not in control of what they learn or when.
  • Because of this, busy people at work crave efficiency. They do not want to feel that their time in the classroom (and away from their regular duties) is wasted. They want relevant learning, delivered efficiently.
  • Finally, businesspeople understand that the learning they do is, ultimately, for the benefit of the business. What they learn needs to be placed within the context of not only their own responsibilities, but also the business as a whole. Questions like, “Why is this important to the organization?” and “Why do we do things this way?” need to be answered.

Most SMEs understand the needs of busy people at work because they, too, are busy businesspeople. They need help, however, applying that understanding to training delivery. Doing that begins with instructional design.


For more information or to order the book, go to ATD Press, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

The 3rd Fundamental Principle of Success in the Training Room: From “Effective SMEs”

This post is the fifth in a series of excerpts from “Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning.” In this excerpt Dale Ludwig (Turpin Communication’s Founder) and Greg Owen-Boger (Turpin’s VP) discuss the third of three fundamental principles for success in the training room.


Design and Delivery Must Focus on Initiating and Managing the Learning Conversation

 

Effective SMEs: A Trainer's Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate LearningThe learning conversation, just like other forms of business communication, is an orderly conversation. That means it is an outcome-oriented event that is prepared and well organized, and takes place in a responsive, conversational way. Using this definition, we can move away from traditional lecturing techniques, often preferred by SMEs, and toward a more responsive, flexible, and listener-focused approach. Therefore, the third fundamental principle is that learning design and delivery must focus on helping the SME initiate and manage the learning conversation. When this does not happen, learning suffers, as you’ll see in the following example.

Save Your Questions for the End

 

As part of an organization-wide initiative, Liz had recently taken on a new role in L&D.

She’d worked as part of the delivery team on a few successful training programs in the past, so it seemed like a logical move for her. Liz had always prided herself on her attention to detail and her methodical approach to the work that she did as a systems analyst.

Knowing that her precision had served her well in the past, she applied this approach to the first training initiative that she led. However, despite having the best of intentions, her plans did not go well.

Her new manager, Rory, called us and asked us to work with Liz and see if we could help. To do that, we read her course evaluations from the failed workshop and interviewed some of the learners. We heard comments such as:

  • “Liz didn’t allow for questions to be asked. She said that if we had questions, we should save them for the end of the day. She was nice enough about it, but it was just weird.”
  • “I don’t think she meant it, but she was a bit condescending. At one point, we were discussing what I thought was a gray area in our procedures, and she made it sound very black and white. My manager is always saying ‘it depends, and here’s why. . . .’ Liz didn’t like it much when I brought that up.”
  • “On the evaluation, I gave her relatively high scores because I didn’t want negative comments to be traced back to me. Liz and I are friends.”

After the interviews, we worked with Liz to hear her side of the story. “I want things to be just right,” she said. “I was nervous because it was my first training event in my new role. I was given slides and a facilitator guide. There was a lot there. I was nervous about the content, so I figured I had to memorize everything. During my dry runs getting ready for the training event, I rehearsed everything I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. I even practiced where to stand and when to gesture. Once the big day came and people started asking questions, I freaked out! They pulled me off course, I forgot where I was, and I lost my confidence. It was awful.”

The coaching that we provided hinged on helping Liz shift from a lecture-based approach to a conversational approach. This was a big change for her, but she came to realize that as a learner, she actually prefers a looser style herself. She explained, “It’s strange to make that realization. I love a good debate, when there’s a lot of back and forth in the classroom. When I’m in training as a learner, I get bored when someone just lectures. Why in the world did I think I should do that myself? Good grief. I feel as if I should apologize to that group of learners.”


For more information or to order the book, go to ATD Press, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

The 2nd Fundamental Principle of Success in the Training Room: From “Effective SMEs”

This post is the fourth in a series of excerpts from “Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning.” In this excerpt Dale Ludwig (Turpin Communication’s Founder) and Greg Owen-Boger (Turpin’s VP) discuss the second of three fundamental principles of success in the training room.


Learning Events Succeed on Two Levels: Plan and Process

 

Effective SMEs: A Trainer's Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate LearningCreating the conditions conducive for learning—a sense of equality, respect, safety, relevance, and shared purpose—requires recognizing the distinction between learning objectives and the learning process. Learning objectives are planned and the learning process is managed. Once SMEs understand their dual responsibilities, they’re much more likely to succeed in the classroom.

From the learners’ perspective, the live training process requires a sustained level of engagement and focus. Unlike asynchronous delivery, for example, learners do not have the option to pause the process, back it up, or complete it another day. They give those options up when they enter the training room, just as they did when they entered the academic classroom. The difference in business, however, is that facilitators are responsible for making sure learners feel good about that decision. They do this by managing the learning process well and creating the conditions for fruitful learning.

So while meeting learning objectives is the SME’s primary goal, it cannot be reached effectively or efficiently without learner engagement. That requires bringing the instructional design and all its components into the here and now of the learning conversation, making whatever is taught understandable, relevant, and useful for each learner. Facilitators must be relentless in their effort to adapt and respond. When they do, trust is established and good will is earned. For these reasons, the SMEs’ success in the training room must be measured on two levels.


For more information or to order the book, go to ATD Press, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

3 Things You Know About Learning That Your SME Doesn’t

This blog article was originally posted to ATD’s website and is based on the new book Effective SMEs, co-authored by Turpin Communication’s leaders, Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger.

An excerpt:

3 Things You Know About Learning That Your SME Doesn’tBringing subject matter experts (SMEs) into the training process is often necessary and important. Their knowledge and perspective during the design phase help talent development (TD) professionals determine what learners need to learn and what they need to be able to do after training.

When your SME is also the person delivering training, new challenges arise. SMEs are not learning experts, after all, they are subject matter experts. This can lead to ineffectiveness and inefficiency in the training room. Therefore, they need to be coached on delivery and facilitation skills that we, as TD professionals, already employ. Finding the best way to coach your SMEs, though, is daunting because each of them has different experience, strengths, and needs.

Before you dive into delivering feedback to your SMEs, make sure they understand the fundamentals of the learning process itself. Here are three things that trainers know, but SMEs may not.

  • SMEs must embrace the learning conversation
  • SMEs must understand their responsibilities to learners
  • SMEs must trust learners

Read more…

 

Podcast: A Talk with the Authors of “Effective SMEs”

Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger were recently interviewed by Amanda Smith from the Association for Talent Development (ATD) about their new book, Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning.

Check it out.

Amanda Smith sits down to interview Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger, authors of Effective SMEs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need to pick up a copy of the book? Visit ATD’s website.

2017 Year in Review

2017 Was a Big Year

We celebrated Turpin’s 25th year in business. In case you missed it, Dale wrote 25 Lessons Over 25 Years, which is an excellent read.

During the year, we delivered a lot of training and coaching for our long-standing clients as well as a few new ones. Along with that, we reached several milestones. Thanks for being part of the action!

 

Effective SMEs: A Trainer's Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate LearningDale and Greg’s Second Book

Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning launched on November 7. This book, published by ATD Press, is written for L&D professionals who design for and coach SMEs in the classroom.

Here’s what Terri Pearce, an ATD Board Member and EVP HR at HSBC, had to say. “This book is long overdue! Bringing subject matter experts into a training session can strengthen the credibility of the learning, but done incorrectly it can be a disaster! Greg Owen-Boger and Dale Ludwig have bundled up more than 20 years’ experience into one book that outlines how to design programs using SMEs to bring out the full potential of those experts in a spontaneous and interactive environment.”

We’re also looking forward to delivering a one-day workshop and a breakout session based on the ideas in this book at ATD International Conference & Exposition in May of this year.

Trainer Certification

Our trainer certification program kicked off in November when we held our first trainer-the-trainer session for The Orderly Conversation. This workshop, based on the methodology described in our book, The Orderly Conversationis a way for training professionals to bring our methodologies to their employees or clients in a scalable, cost-effective way.

 

Turpin Cares

Turpin Cares, our philanthropic project supporting Chicago’s homeless population, continues to grow. In December we partnered with Almost Home Chicago and our local Starbuck’s to collect and distribute Christmas gifts and food to families on Chicago’s south side.

Turpin Cares partnered with Almost Home Chicago and Starbucks for holiday gifts for people in need

We even won recognition for our work from Starbucks’ #ProjectGiveGood!

We look forward to 2018 and wish all of our clients and friends a happy and prosperous year!

Starbucks #ProjectGiveGood Recognizes Turpin Cares for Helping People in Need

Turpin Communication employees and “friendlies” were busy this holiday season supporting people in need through the Turpin Cares project. “We teamed up with Almost Home Chicago and the local Starbucks to provide gifts and pantry items to locals in need. Once everything was tallied up, the holiday project provided 40 individuals with gifts and a whopping 776 pantry items!” said Dale Ludwig, Turpin Communication’s founder and president.

Those contributions are in addition to the 40 Care Packages the organization sent to a local woman’s shelter in November.

Starbucks Project Give Good

To show their appreciation for this work, Turpin Cares was recognized by Starbucks as part of their Project Give Good campaign. Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, is shown in the picture below accepting the award.

Turpin Cares partnered with Almost Home Chicago and Starbucks for holiday gifts for people in need

What’s Next for Turpin Cares?

Turpin’s leadership team met last week to discuss Turpin Cares’ future. “We’ve been doing great work, and the recipients are so appreciative, there’s no reason to change what we’ve been doing,” said Greg. “It’s a lot of work though, so we’ve brought in an intern, Danielle Rogers (who happens to be the daughter of Olive, one of the Turpin Cares founders), to help keep everything organized and on track. It will be great experience for her as she builds her resume.”

About Turpin Cares

Turpin Cares is a philanthropic project sponsored by Turpin Communication. On a quarterly basis our employees and “friendlies” get together to assemble care packages for the homeless in Chicago. We distribute the bags through shelters and by handing them out one-by-one when we see someone in need.

Each care package is loaded into a reusable tote and contains:

  • Items to provide comfort, including hand-knit hats and scarves, socks, and gloves (in the winter months)
  • Packaged food
  • Items to help with hygiene and first aid

Interested in getting involved? Contact Turpin’s VP, Greg Owen-Boger. greg@turpincommunication.com

The 1st Fundamental Principle of Success in the Training Room: From “Effective SMEs”

This post is the third in a series of excerpts from “Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning.” In this excerpt Dale Ludwig (Turpin Communication’s Founder) and Greg Owen-Boger (Turpin’s VP) discuss the first of three fundamental principles for success in the training room.


Trainers and Learners Are Equals With a Shared Purpose

 

Effective SMEs: A Trainer's Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning

Many SMEs come into the training process with ideas about teaching that they learned in school. This is natural, given that most of us have years of experience in academic classrooms and have a clear sense of how that teacher-student relationship works. However, training in the business environment is not the same thing.

Here’s an example of what we mean. A few years ago, we were working with a SME on the delivery of his training session. He was struggling with the notion that he needed to focus more on helping learners understand what he was delivering. “The way I look at it,” he said, “it’s my job to deliver the content, and it is their job to understand it.” If this seems familiar to you, it’s because all of us at one point or another have been in the same position as his learners.

Let’s look at this in more detail. Imagine a large university lecture hall. At the front of the room is a well-known professor, famous for the research she has done in her field. This professor has credibility, but she’s an ineffective teacher. Her lectures are a regurgitation of notes written years before, and the slides on the screen are difficult to see and understand. During class, students take notes. As they do this, they try to understand what they hear and, probably most important, figure out what will be included on the test. In this environment, students are responsible for their own learning. Their evaluation, the grade they earn, is dependent on how well they manage it.

Because SMEs grew up with this type of learning, it feels natural to apply it in the business setting. However, it’s an inappropriate approach for some fundamental reasons, beyond what we commonly discuss as “adult learning.” To understand why, let’s compare academic and business settings from three perspectives: who holds the power in the room, how learning is evaluated, and how learning is used or applied.


For more information or to order the book, go to ATD Press, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

Criteria for Selecting Instructional SMEs

This post is the second in a series of excerpts from “Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning.” In this excerpt Dale Ludwig (Turpin Communication’s Founder) and Greg Owen-Boger (Turpin’s VP) discuss the importance of selecting the right person for the SME-as-trainer job.


Effective SMEs: A Trainer's Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate LearningIt goes without saying that SMEs must be experts in the subject matter they deliver. However, being an expert isn’t enough. The person who is selected also needs to have the skills—or be able to develop the skills—to deliver training and ensure that knowledge and new skills are applied back on the job.

In addition to a good skill set, it’s in everyone’s best interest that the SME be easy to work with. In our experience, there is sometimes a degree of mistrust between instructional designers and SMEs. SMEs may doubt that instructional designers know what they’re doing, and instructional designers often don’t trust SMEs to follow the plan they’ve created. Trust, openness, and a willingness to learn must be present on both sides.

If we lived in a perfect world, you would be able to select the SME or SMEs you partner with on any given training initiative. Unfortunately, the world of many, if not most, IDs is not perfect. Other people make the decisions, and SMEs are selected for a variety of reasons that may or may not have anything to do with how effective they will be in the training room.

We believe that the stakes are too high and the risks too great for selecting the wrong person. The SMEs’ reputations within their organizations can be harmed if they fail to be effective. That can, over time, damage the reputation of talent development. If SME-led training is too ineffective and learners feel as if their time is wasted repeatedly, why would they want to participate again?

Because it is so important for the right people to be in the right positions, we have created a job aid, Criteria for Selecting Instructional SMEs, that should be taken into consideration when SMEs are selected to facilitate learning, which you’ll find in the appendix. Use this list to influence whoever is the decision maker.


For more information or to order the book, go to ATD Press, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

Turpin Cares: Women’s Shelter Benefits from Care Packages

Care packages for the homeless, sponsored by Turpin CommunicationOn Saturday, November 18, Turpin Communication employees and “friendlies” came together to assemble 40 care packages for a group of homeless women in Chicago.

Each package contained about $50 worth of food, toiletries, first aid items, gloves, and a hand-knit hat and scarf. They also included a lot of love and a personal hand-written card for each of the recipients.

“We have some of the best people helping us with this project,” said Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP. “When we started this project, it was important to us that each care package include a hand-knit scarf and hat. That’s a lot of knitting, and our team really came through! We received so many handmade items that we have a really good head start on the February drive.”

Hand-knit items came from as far away as Montana and Ohio. Financial and gift donations came from as far away as California and the east coast. “When you add up all of the donors, knitters, and day-of volunteers, we had nearly 30 people contribute for this drive. We do this once every quarter, so it’s nice to have so many people who are willing and able to lend a hand every time we do this.”

About Turpin Cares
Turpin Cares is a philanthropic arm of Turpin Communication designed to help the homeless in Chicago
Turpin Cares is a philanthropic project sponsored by Turpin Communication.  On a quarterly basis our employees and “friendlies” get together to assemble care packages for the homeless in Chicago. We distribute the bags through shelters and by handing them out one-by-one when we see someone in need.

Each care package is loaded into a reusable tote and contains:

  • Items to provide comfort, including hand-knit hats and scarves, socks, and gloves (in the winter months)
  • Packaged food
  • Items to help with hygiene and first aid

Interested in getting involved? Contact Turpin’s VP, Greg Owen-Boger. greg@turpincommunication.com

hand-knit hats and scarves for Turpin Cares

40 hand-knit hats and scarves laid out for the Turpin Cares event

Donated items for Turpin Cares

The toiletries and first aid items get packed into Ziploc bags