The benefits of skills building for subject matter experts
Summary: Developing the skills of technical experts produces big payoffs for growth organizations. They experts stay, perform better, and add more value. They enjoy their work more, are more engaged, and are better team players.
Written by Alistair Gordon 07 Jun 2020

Image credit: Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

Building the skills of an organization’s experts produces big payoffs

Developing the skills of technical experts produces big payoffs for growth organizations. The experts stay, perform better, and add more value. They enjoy their work more, are more engaged, and are better team players.

Organizations should invest in building the capability of their experts in the same way it invests in building the capability of their people leaders: it is the right thing to do. But it also generates huge payoffs.

Let’s explore some immediate, measurable benefits that organizations who have deployed Expertship initiatives (growing the expertise of subject matter experts produce.

Retention of experts saves a huge amount of money

Whether dollars, euros, pesos or pounds, retaining mission-critical experts saves organizations way more money than they think it does. Ask any recruitment expert, and the more expert you expert is, the harder they are to replace. They’ll almost automatically cost the organization more in salary than the expert they are replacing (finally, market value will need to be paid). But that’s just the tangible cost.

Intangible costs are scarier. Systems knowledge. Organization knowledge. Relationships. Understanding where things are hidden or buried. Provenance - understanding why systems and processes are like they are because of corporate history. The day an organization’s expert walks, all of this almost innate knowledge is lost - usually, forever.

And then comes intangible cost #2 - the new expert wanting to re-design everything from the ground up.

Wouldn’t it be better to retain the knowledge and experience, but open up your experts to new ideas and thinking? That’s called Expertship. A $4000-6000 program, or a $60,000 recruitment fee and subsequent changes that cost who knows what. Expertship programs, in this situation, are the most sensible investment the organization can possibly make.

And we are only on organizational benefit #1.

Re-energizing your experts makes money

We have all experienced the difference between having a motivated member of our team and an unmotivated one. This doesn’t have anything to do with talent - it’s about engagement. One person tries, and the other does the minimum.

Typically, engagement scores among technical experts are the lowest in most organizations. That is costing organizations millions every year in lost productivity and opportunity.

The reasons for low engagement are really clear - experts feel undervalued, ignored, disenfranchised, and isolated. Let’s be clear - they’ve all played their part in this situation. But start investing in experts, and your ROI goes through the roof. They re-energize, start applying effort to the right work, prioritize, connect to organizational strategy, and start sharing rather than hoarding - these often difficult to see intangible financial benefits are immense.

The innovation agenda comes to life

It only takes one good idea from the right experts to create enormous value to an organization. But conditions have to be right for this to happen.

  • The expert has to be motivated to generate the idea.

  • The idea needs to be created in the context of market environment, organizational strategy, and customer needs - and the expert needs to understand and connect with these.

  • The expert needs to be able to succinctly and compellingly articulate the idea (without jargon).

  • The expert needs to have built a coalition of the willing before presenting the idea - that is, consult widely, take on feedback, manage and understand key stakeholders and decision-makers really well.

What are the topics we cover in expertship programs that your experts need to be exposed to?

Graduates of expertship programs know how to do all of the above. And have access to a coach to help them do it.

The financial question here is: what is the opportunity cost lost if our experts aren’t currently capable of doing these things?

Positive culture change

There is no other way of saying this - very experienced experts who are not motivated and slightly disengaged from the organization and their work, present a poor role model. Their cynicism (whether reasonable or not) pervades the culture of the technical teams with which they work. This costs money, diverts energy into unproductive behaviors, and eventually ends badly.

This is a common situation because experts have not been invested in. But organizations can make huge leaps forward by changing the learning culture, and then changing the operational culture.

This is diversity central

Investing in experts is the right thing to do on many levels, but not higher a level than diversity. Diversity of thought, domains, personality, approaches - this range of diversity resides in expert groups rather than operational cohorts. Great innovations come from multiple ideas being creatively forged together - from disparate thinking.

Investing in building the enterprise skills of your experts makes immediate (and long-lasting) business sense.

We are willing and able to help you launch your own expertship programs in-house, delivered by your team. Or able to deliver externally facilitated culture-changing programs. Connect with us today.

Read what experts have to say about expertship.

Explore the Expertship Model, a world-first capability framework for all experts.

We wrote the book on how to develop experts, called the Expertship Growth Guide.

Download a concise description of Expertship