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Internal experts: an effective, affordable way to improve operations—and give these workers leadership opportunities.
Businesses are not the buildings that house them; they are the decisions you and your employees make and implement. The quality of those decisions depends on how well your people understand the fundamentals of operating a business. With a solid understanding of business in general and your business specifically, your employees will be better able to:
Identify and secure business opportunities.
Evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of your current processes.
Develop and evaluate ideas for improvement.
Before you send employees to external, offsite training, consider turning to internal experts. With the help of your HR department or on the recommendation of others, find people within your organization with the knowledge most needed by employees. These experts are not necessarily senior executives or even managers. They could be you, your counterparts in other divisions or your team members.
Using internal experts is an effective, affordable approach to teach business skills to your employees. For example, your top marketing manager could teach a session on marketing, or your chief financial officer could lead a class on how to read the annual report. This training focuses on a combination of general business content along with company-specific content. The goal is to help employees become experts in your business specifically.
Several advantages of using internal experts to teach employees about the business make pursuing this approach worthwhile:
Internal experts are able to use specific examples to put general business concepts into context. External instructors may have a solid understanding of business concepts; however, they do not fully understand the details of your business. Educating employees on general business topics may be useful, but organizations will receive more benefit from employees applying general business concepts to their specific businesses.
When training content is developed and delivered by internal experts, the company owns the content. Thus, if the decision is made to expand what you and the internal experts have developed for your employees, the company can roll out the training to additional employees for minimal incremental investment.
Becoming an internal expert is a professional development experience. Understanding business content and being able to teach this content are different skills. Teaching requires employees to refresh their skills and knowledge and to think about the content from different perspectives. To develop training sessions, instructors delve deeply and research the content. Teaching the content and being questioned on it may cause employee experts to think differently about how they approach and perform their jobs.
Teaching may cause employee experts to think differently about how they approach and perform their jobs.
To get the most benefit from tapping internal experts for business training:
Match the expert with a trainer. An educator or trainer can help internal experts grasp the integrated nature of business functions. Furthermore, internal experts will likely benefit from the support and coaching of an experienced instructor. They may assist in designing and delivering curriculum, assessing trainees' needs, developing learning objectives, pinpointing external resources and evaluating content.
Use applied learning. Learning about concepts and applying them are different. Having internal experts use applied learning techniques during training will allow participants to connect to concepts in a real way.
Examples of applied learning include using specific cases to illustrate business concepts, assigning homework to use business concepts in developing ideas to improve the business or asking participants to use such concepts in writing business plans for a new offering. These assignments will improve participants' learning and can provide opportunities to assess participants' learning while directly improving the business.
Expand the Scope
Once employees have an understanding of the business, expand the scope of training to areas such as technology, social media or graphic design. Find the organization's foremost tech and social media whizzes to teach employees how to get more out of Microsoft Excel and Twitter, for instance. Bring in the artist adept at graphic design software to help employees design their reports. The experts may be on your team, and you can help their professional development by recommending that employees in other departments learn from them.
Lynn C. Dailey, Ph.D., holds the Moor Endowed Chair in Business & Economics at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and is president of Dailey Consulting LLC. She can be reached online at
www.businesstrainingbootcamp.com. Mark Matson, SPHR, is vice president of HR at EWI, a professional materials-joining engineering consulting company headquartered in Columbus.
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