It’s a riddle as old as time — which came first, the chicken or the egg?
In L&D, the riddle is a little less well known, but something I assure you every L&D professional has come across.
Who has final sign off, the L&D manager or the subject matter expert (SME)?
I have mentioned this before; when it comes to testing, most employee learning and development tests are written in a way to simply cover what one has read. Questions are usually written by an SME or sometimes even by the L&D manager themselves! But one big problem comes up with this approach: Neither party has a complete scope of what the heck they are doing.
Here’s a typical rundown for how this plays out:
The SME writes the questions, the L&D manager then proofs those questions for spelling and grammar issues, and as long as it checks out, the questions will be posted.
The L&D manager writes the questions based on what they have proofed and edited. The problem with this? Many crucial content points that should be covered may be missed. What the SME wanted is not included because no clear instruction was given.
Both scenarios don’t benefit the employee who has to take the exam and apply those learnings to their job. In my role to revolutionize L&D at Reward Gateway, it’s critical for us to change our ways.
Now don’t be turned off by my two scenarios above. While it’s not always the case, this has been my experience in the past.
In the end, it’s not my job to be an SME, but to ensure that the caliber and quality of question being written be to our standards of learning.
Stepping out of your comfort zone
The People team had an interesting experience wrestling with this problem recently. Didi Korova, Head of Learning and People Experience had the daunting task in front of her to create a comprehensive security exam — a company wide mandatory one, at that. The result? Didi sat with our team for hours, locked in a conference room to not only glean the information from the team, but also to cross-check the accuracy of the questions and answers on a very complicated subject.
With this approach, it puts two leaders of their respective fields in a situation where the absolute best from each other will be extracted. The security team can convey what questions they need to ask and L&D then translates them into easy to understand questions. This approach is all about going beyond the L&D traditional role of simply receiving information but going into an environment to say, “I’m here to help you.”
Too often, companies bury their L&D managers and use them simply as a stop gap.
Load them with information then simply give them a deadline and “make it work.” That was my experience.
But to do it right, and justify the time spent on crafting those perfect questions, and making sure your employees live what they’ve learned, you’ve got to push the boundaries (yes, that’s probably my favorite value).
Never compromise, even if it seems easier to do. I’m curious, how do you approach L&D with your SMEs?
Zachery is the Boston-based Learning and Development Manager at Reward Gateway. He has over 10 years of experience in L&D and also enjoys spending time with his family, being out in the wilderness, loves fine whiskey and is also an endorsed musician with Outlaw Drums and Sovereign Cymbals.