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

 

Risks and Rewards of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the Training Role

This post is the first 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 rewards and risks of asking SMEs to deliver training.


Effective SMEs: A Trainer's Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate LearningIf you’ve ever worked with subject matter experts (SMEs) in the training room, you know they can bring depth of experience, credibility, and relevance to live instructor-led training. The stories they tell enrich the process and offer learners insight into how someone who works in the business thinks about their portion of it. When SMEs deliver training, their institutional knowledge is transferred to others. For these reasons, the value their contribution brings to the organization is immeasurable.

Reliance on SMEs (we pronounce it smees) also brings with it a certain amount of risk. After all, they are not experts in talent development. They are subject matter experts. While they want to do well in the classroom, it is an environment unfamiliar to them. Often, SMEs assume that simply presenting information leads inevitably to understanding and learning. In many cases, they struggle to assume the learner’s perspective when speaking from their own. Left unchecked, they may want to include everything they know about their topic. Any combination of these risks can result in disengaged, frustrated learners. And, in the long term, this negatively affects both the business and the reputation of talent development.

As learning professionals, we need to do all we can to help SMEs use their expertise to serve the learning process. That means that materials should be developed with the SMEs’ needs in mind. Their strengths and weaknesses as communicators should be taken into account. SMEs should be coached to deliver information clearly, set up and debrief learning activities, and facilitate fruitful discussions. They also need permission and freedom to make the delivery of the content their own. Without this support, SMEs will not be set up for a successful learning conversation.

The challenge for instructional designers (IDs), though, is that providing this support is difficult to do, given their responsibilities in the process. For example:

  • In their attempt to help the SME deliver content clearly, designers may produce a script that the SME struggles to follow.
  • In the name of accuracy, they may produce overly complex materials that confuse SMEs and learners.
  • To keep the learning process lively, they may include activities that look good on paper but are difficult for SMEs to facilitate.
  • In the spirit of consistency, they may lock down the design, unintentionally discouraging SMEs from “making it their own.”
  • By offering SMEs advice on facilitation best practices, they may inadvertently increase SMEs’ anxiety about delivery.

While the tension between the SME’s needs and the ID’s goals will never be fully resolved, it can be understood and managed.


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

The New Book, “Effective SMEs” Launches Today

Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger, of Turpin Communication, launch “Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide to Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning” Dale Ludwig (Turpin’s Founder) and I are happy to announce the launch of our new book, Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning!

This book has been in the making for quite a while. We’ve been working with subject matter experts (SMEs) for years, helping them be more effective in their role as trainers. There’s a lot that’s been written about consulting with SMEs to develop training content, but nothing written about helping them succeed once they arrive in the training room. This book sets out to change that.

The book has two different audiences:

  • Instructional Designers (IDs) who design learning events for SMEs to deliver.
  • Talent Development professionals who should coach SMEs on their facilitation skills before the learners enter the room.

I use the term “should” in the second bullet above because many SMEs don’t get the training and coaching they need to be successful. Delivering training is like a presentation. There’s a PowerPoint on a screen and someone’s talking about it. Facilitating learning, though, involves much more. This book is designed to help TD professionals help their SMEs understand that.

We’re thankful to ATD Press and Amanda Smith for recognizing our expertise in this area. The ATD conference sessions that I’ve led on this topic have been standing room only for a few years. Because of that, Amanda asked me to shoot some videos on the topic. The popularity of those sparked the idea for this book.

Effective SMEs launched today, November 7, and is available at the ATD bookstore and Amazon.

What our pre-readers had to say (can you see us blushing?):

Readers praise Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide to Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning

 

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the books “The Orderly Conversation” and “Effective SMEs

Preview the First Chapter of Effective SMEs!

Effective SMEs: A Trainer's Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate LearningIt’s finally here!

The book that Dale and Greg have been working on is ready for pre-orders now, and it is set to ship November 7!

Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning” was commissioned by ATD Press after they realized how popular the topic had been at conferences over the past several years. In some cases, Greg had standing-room-only crowds in rooms set for 400 people.

You can pre-order your copy now at the ATD bookstore.

Want to see what it’s all about? Download a sample chapter of Effective SMEs.

The practical recommendations made in the book are based on work Turpin has been doing with certain clients for years. These clients know that SMEs shouldn’t be tasked with delivering training without the proper support. This book explains how to provide support both through instructional design and through coaching.

As the back cover says:

“Don’t plan your next live training event without it.”