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Effective communication strategies with subject matter experts

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As we are all driven by workloads, commitments, and interactions with teammates in this time of uncertainty, the way we communicate with each other has become even more important.

We noticed some silver in the COVID-19 pandemic. One is that virtually every email, instant message, or virtual meeting begins with someone asking honest questions, “How are you? Are you and your families safe? ”

What a nice change from those meetings where everyone (usually the meeting leader) immediately enters the agenda. yes empathy – and flexibility – may be two of the most striking results of this pandemic.

To that end, we’d like to share a few tips we’ve seen and used over the past six months to better communicate with our Experts on the topic (SMEs), many of whom are not used to working remotely. Most of the SMEs we work with are far from learning environments and, for that matter, each other. Most of our projects depend on the experience of our company’s leading technical trainers, our SMEs. You can easily imagine the struggle we have had since March to keep up with project deadlines – not to mention each other or the whole team.

To help us meet deadlines, we knew we would rethink our approach to communicating with all of our SMEs – to develop an approach that would alleviate their worries and support them as they work on their projects in the most unusual working conditions. : their house. Here are three best approaches we have used to communicate more effectively with our remote SMEs:

1. Empathy

Support, not just focus on the task

We changed our meetings to do more than just focus on one task. We started by looking for success in the commissioned projects and asking who needs help. Deleting items from the agenda was no longer the focus. Now our SMEs seem to be in no hurry; they want to spend time talking to us and to each other.

“Empathy and humility are ‘super’ learning developer skill sets”

This strategy is information from the e-learning Guild e-book “Practical Tips for Designers working with SMEs” written by Pamela Hogle. When we tried this approach, even some of the SMEs who don’t like it when asked to “do more” were willing to help us, especially when they learned about the issues they had collaborated with in their personal lives.

Remind them often about the goals of the project and how they will affect them

We felt that this communication strategy was effective in keeping our SMEs focused on how the project would help them, especially by pointing out ways to reduce their administrative burden so that they could spend more time learning.

2. Patience

Show how you value their time and experience

Of course, this strategy was on us. It became clear that spending quality time with each team member at our meetings, allowing them to share their experiences with each other, strengthened their confidence in their role as SMEs.

Consider them how to use any new communication platforms

Our company has just introduced a new one Learning Management System (LMS) and a new communication platform. The use of these new technologies has been a challenge for our SMEs, as 90% of our training activities take place face to face. Since our meetings could only be virtual, we had to dedicate our energy to the many functions of these new platforms, usually exploring them ourselves before we had to train SMEs.

Respect communication benefits

If your company relies heavily on the use of technology to communicate, you already know about best practices for sending invitations, instant messages, and other emails to your SMEs. But what if most of your SMEs don’t have access to computers during the day because of work environments like train stations and machine shops?

Our communication strategy should reflect the needs of our SMEs, so we have always asked them what is best for them. We then adapted according to their schedule and preferences, with many meetings taking place during conference calls when they could not reach the computer.

3. Flexibility

Allow SMEs to schedule meeting times

This strategy may seem too risky, but it worked for us. Allowing SMEs to schedule some time meetings creates a sense of ownership and responsibility. Now they couldn’t claim we were interfering with their schedules.

Make sure the agenda and meeting requests are clear and concise

The best practice we introduced at the beginning of the pandemic – and indeed always used in our roles – was to make every effort to make it crystal clear in communication what the purpose of each meeting was. A quick glance lets them understand what we wanted to cover. Leaving long paragraphs from emails is a real best practice.

Remind them of approaching deadlines and make the topic of emails meaningful

Describing the purpose of the meeting in thematic lines is a simple technique, but we immediately saw the benefits. We realized early on that “our” project deadlines may not be considered “their” project deadlines. Our messages always contain, either in the topic or in the title of the meeting, the name of the project and the deadline.

In this overly stressful and uncertain work (and life) environment, it’s nice to remind ourselves that we need to find time to improve the way we communicate with our colleagues, colleagues, and clients. These are difficult times, and there is no exact date when we can return to the “normal state”. But we have the opportunity to improve the ways we communicate with our SMEs, which gives a real opportunity for L&D professionals to apply their skills to a significant goal.

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