eLearning Industry: How to Incentivize Subject Matter Experts

Few can take on more work: we’re all at capacity nowadays.

So how can you get subject matter experts (SMEs) to help the learning organization? As they are not on your team, how can you get SMEs to take time out of their busy schedules to write content that forms courses which others in your organization so desperately need?


Tips for working with SMEs abound. Christopher Pappas, founder of eLearning Industry, writes frequently on the topic. His “8 Top Tips to Work with a Subject Matter Expert in eLearning” include the usual suspects: define expectations and roles, open up the lines of communication, invite your SME to team meetings, and the like.

However, this advice may seem obvious to anyone familiar with sound, professional project management principles. Beyond this, how can you motivate — better yet, inspire — your organization’s experts to truly put themselves behind your learning project?

Incentives could be financial: the occasional gift card or surprise lunch could go a long way. Obtain sign off from the SME’s manager, and have gift cards and meals charged back to his or her department.

Incentives can also be at the HR level. While it is beyond your authority to change another employee’s responsibilities or job requirements, you can work with the management team at your company to add “creating training” or “authoring courses” to the job descriptions for particular key roles. In this manner, new hires can become potential SMEs and part of the L&D effort from the get-go.

Most importantly, as an L&D manager, you should try to figure out what truly makes your experts tick. Why did they enter this field? How do they carry out their daily work? What are some big challenges they face and how do they overcome them? As eLearning Industry‘s Pappas notes in another article, active listening is the number one top skill for working smoothly with SMEs.

Understanding employee motivation is key to success of your learning projects. What works for one individual may not work for another. There are even ways you can assess your influencing style, as better comprehension of the way you influence others can help you improve your skills at engaging the experts in your organization.  

Of course, making anyone’s job easier is a sure-fire way to success. The ability to predict — then make good on your promise — about the number of hours required of the SME’s time goes a long way.

Lean on technology for this. A platform should be in place that can take content from experts and automatically create chapters, summaries, and quizzes or assessments – while ensuring that the courses are right-fit and purpose-built for your learners’ needs.

Doing so frees up everyone’s time, standardizes the process, and galvanizes everyone behind the learning effort.

By embracing newer ideologies like a Learning Design Systems (LDS), anyone can learn how to design training content – rapidly and at scale – that satisfies your SMEs, learners, the instructional design team, and the organization as a whole. 

You might also like

Article Details

Collaborate & Grow:
Discover the

eLearning Industry: How to Incentivize Subject Matter Experts