How Subject Matter Experts Can Provide Valuable Training Content

Dana Youngren Written by Dana Youngren

An important part of training and onboarding is communicating practical knowledge to new employees. With so much to teach and a limited amount of time, training managers must strategically consider which pieces of information will be the most helpful to new hires.

“The very first thing you’ve got to do is make sure that if you’re going to teach somebody and take the time to put them through something, that the content you’re teaching them is going to matter and make a difference,” says Mike Kunkle, Commercial Training & Development Leader for a Fortune 50 corporation.

He recommends looking to your company’s subject matter experts (SMEs) to shape your training. Every department will have employees that seem to consistently knock it out of the park. And much of what makes them so good at what they do has nothing to do with what they were taught in onboarding. Their value falls into the tacit, or tribal, knowledge category—all the practical knowledge and everyday tricks that they’ve learned over the years to make their work more productive and effective.

But how do you take the tacit knowledge that lives in the minds of your best employees and transfer it to your new hires?

Start With a Central Knowledge Hub

Imagine that you have a new hire who you think could benefit from the wisdom of a more seasoned employee. You ask that experienced employee to help train the new hire, and after several weeks of one-on-one meetings, the new hire is starting to feel like they’re getting up to speed.

But then another new hire joins your company, and you recognize that they too could benefit from the insights of this experienced employee. You ask the seasoned employee to go through the same training process, and they have divert valuable time from their core responsibilities to re-share information with the newest hire.

Rather than waste the time of your SMEs, look to a knowledge sharing platform that will serve as a single source of truth and a hub for all training materials. In addition to using the platform to house all your formal training materials, ask your experienced employees to create content around their best practices and upload it to the platform, where new hires can search for and review the content when they need it.

While your SMEs will need to make an initial investment of time to add their content to their platform, they’ll save significantly more time in the long run by eliminating the need to repeat the same training process over and over again.  

Ask SMEs to Record Videos

Are your subject matter experts too busy to write up process documents or best practices? Make the act of knowledge sharing as frictionless as possible by letting them record videos of themselves talking through best practices.

The videos don’t need to win any awards for cinematography or editing— what’s most important is that the experts at your company take what they know and verbalize it for new hires. Tell your high-performing employees that they can record the videos on their phones or web cams— whatever’s easiest for them—and upload the video files directly to your knowledge sharing platform with a title and short summary to provide context.

To save your SMEs time and make it easy for new hires to search through video content, look for a knowledge sharing platform that will automatically generate transcripts for video files. This will let new hires search for a specific word or phrase and jump to the exact point in a video where that word or phrase is used.

Provide Recommended Reading

Chances are, many of your SMEs are already generating valuable training content over the course of their workday. For example, recordings of discovery calls could help new sales team members learn what questions they should be asking prospects, product guides could help new marketing team members learn how you position your product, and so on.

Encourage your SMEs to make it a part of their workflow to add this content to your knowledge sharing platform, and point your new hires towards the content that will be most useful for them. If you’re using Bloomfire, you can share specific posts with other platform users or even bundle content into newsletters for a segment of users so that no one misses the content that will help them learn.

Go Beyond Formal Training Content

By getting your SMEs to share best practices in a way that fits into their workflow, you can extract the actions, techniques, and information that will most benefit your new hires.

“Most [formal] training that gets delivered isn’t built to follow what top producers do in any particular company,” Kunkle says. Sharing practical tips and insights from your best employees allows new hires to benefit from informal training that maps much more closely to what they’ll be doing on a daily basis. And that translates to a shorter onboarding period and greater productivity than your company is likely to experience with traditional training content alone.


This blog post was originally published under the title “How Top Producers Can Provide Valuable Training Content” on August 25, 2015. It has been expanded and updated to reflect current best practices.

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