Are you in a love-hate relationship with your SMEs? Maybe it's because they're not the right ones for the job.

The biggest mistake most folks make when adding SMEs to their training force is thinking SMEs are all the same.  They're all technically competent so don't they ALL have the ability to perform as trainers?  Can’t anyone train?

C'mon - remember what you do for a living?   Along with the SKILL to do the job has to come the WILL to want to do the job.

The first place to start when planning to add SMEs to your training force is to develop selection criteria. Yep - Basic Selection 101!

Take some time to rate your SMEs individually on the following skills* using this scale: 0 = Not at all/hasn’t a clue!
1 = Squeaks by at the bare minimum
2 = Hallelujah! Snag ’em!

The subject matter expert has:

___ Time available for a training assignment?

___ Willingness to take on training assignments?

___ Proficiency in the subject matter?

___ “Ambassador” skills: has spoken in positive terms about the training to others,

encouraged others to try/use the skills, has had success with the skills and shared with others, etc.

___ Experience in conducting classroom training or in giving presentations?

___ Experience in coaching or mentoring others either formally or informally.

___ Experience conducting one-on-one training or on-the-job training.

___ Good verbal communication skills.

___ Good written communication skills.

___ Facilitated team meetings or has been a team leader.


What does this all mean? A perfect score is 20. Although a candidate who has less than 12 points would have minimal skills in some important requirements, this SME may not be the best candidate to train others in your organization.

the SME who does not have time or is unwilling to take on a training assignment may not be a good internal trainer.

Taking the time to think about these criteria when selecting SMEs will not only enable you to pick more qualified candidates for your training efforts but will show the organization that you can’t just pick-out someone and drop them into a training role. We don’t come out of the womb doing this stuff! It’s taken years of practice and honing our craft to get our own facilitation skills where we need them to be. So let’s give ourselves a little bit of credit and earn the respect we deserve in the organization by selecting credible SME partners in training.

“Anyone can train!”…. we don’t THINK so. 

Maria Chilcote & Melissa Smith

The Training Clinic