Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What is a Subject Matter Expert (SME)

The Subject Matter Expert (SME), sometimes known as a Domain Expert, is a person with the highest level of expertise in performing a specialized job, task or skill within the business. Often this person is an experienced employee with authoritarian knowledge in a particular field or topic.

Generally speaking, SME is any individual who is an expert in one or more fields of knowledge. This expertise can be in content areas such as history or biology, or a professional field such as medicine, or computer technology. The term can also apply to a Tribal Shaman with no formal education sharing centuries-old secrets of natural medicine and herbal treatments, or the 14-year old next door who is an expert in the latest music genre, and the 95-year-old World War II veteran who is an expert on the Allied Invasion of Normandy.

SME earn this standing depending on the circumstances surrounding their knowledge. Some have many years of experience in a field; and have published articles or books, and very likely hold positions as educators in academic environments. Others may be recognized by their peers as the "best of the best" and earn the SME title by virtue of their reputation.

The SME is any individual who is an expert in one or more fields of knowledge




Although the role of the SME is well defined, not all SME have the same characteristics. Companies vary in size, business strategies, and training processes. Companies with a large population of employees will have a larger pool of individuals who qualify for the SME role, whereas small companies may have only one or two individuals who qualify. Whatever the case may be, a Subject Matter Expert will usually have at least one of the following set of characteristics.
  1. High Performing Individuals (HPI) - are those who learn quickly and adapt to change easily. They focus on doing a good job to satisfy clients and customers. High performers seek input and feedback from their supervisors, allowing them to negotiate their way to the understanding of business processes quickly. These employees are valued not just for their capacity, efficiency, and knowledge, but for their ability to establish a strong business network. Their knowledge, business connections, and willingness to collaborate make them a good resource for the SME role.
  2. High Performing Leaders (HPL) - probably started as high performing individuals, so they share many common traits. In addition, these leaders have accumulated years of experience and knowledge of the business beyond their own organization. Furthermore, they have responsibilities not just to the company but also to the people whom they lead. For small or family-based companies, the business owner falls into this category. All of these individuals will have a clear understanding of the business strategy. Their value as a SME relates to their global vision of the business and to their authority to make things happen.
  3. Trainers and Facilitators (TF) - understand the organizational culture and are often the best communicators in the company. They know exactly what the learners need in terms of training. These individuals help the learner achieve specific outcomes with active, participatory, learner-centered methods. They regularly evaluate the process of employee training and can measure how well the participants achieved the stated outcomes at the end of the process. Their capability to deliver knowledge and provide feedback on training processes makes them a valuable option for the SME role.
  4. Expert & Specialized Professionals (ESP) - are usually valued for their extensive knowledge in a particular field, gained after years of work experience, research, and study. Many of these professionals hold academic positions as educators. These individuals are no longer dedicated to just one company so they will not possess the connectivity and knowledge of the business like a permanent employee. Instead, their vast knowledge on one or more fields of knowledge is what makes them a desirable SME in certain situations.

The Subject Matter Expert is an essential part of the Enterprise Training team. This individual will provide and verify the content used in the training of entire workforces. Still, some of the most challenging situations described by many Training professionals involve the process of dealing with the SME. You will read more about the role of the SME in future articles. Your relevant comments and suggestions are always valuable.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Engaged, Non-engaged, and Disengaged employees


Employee engagement is the emotional commitment that characterizes employees with respect to their organization and its business goals. This emotional commitment is a reflection of the employees' interest in their work and the success of their company. They do not just work for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization's goals. 

Employee engagement is a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work. 

During these hard economic times, the most optimistic leaders are thinking about what they can do to make a difference now. Increasing productivity, retaining the right people, and driving overall performance improvements to ensure sustainability are all major concerns. 

Top leaders have focused more on employee engagement, knowing that it can be a significant driver of productivity. These leaders know that in order for companies to perform well, they will have to find a way to make their employees feel happier at work, more sensitive to the business objectives, and more motivated to make a strong contribution. 

Successful companies will promote the idea that engagement is a responsibility of all leaders. Senior leadership should drive the effort to engage employees, ensuring open communication, endorsing surveys and other feedback, driving improvements, and ultimately creating a culture where engagement is valued and prioritized. The process begins with an understanding of current engagement levels, asking the right questions and taking the right steps to drive better results. 

Expert consensus in the field of business psychology and human resources is that out of approximately 100 million people in the U.S. with full-time jobs, engaged employees are only 30% of the total. Non-engaged employees are the majority of workers at 50%, and disengaged employees make up the remaining 20%. 

Statistical analysis has shown that the most engaged employees are less costly to the company for reasons like lower healthcare costs, lower absenteeism, and lower risks to accidents and mistakes, but of course, their overall productivity is much higher. Non-engaged employees are essentially 'zombies' who put the time but not the energy at work. Actively disengaged employees are not just angry at work; they are acting out their unhappiness. These employees are the exact opposite of engaged employees, and unfortunately end up costing companies in the U.S. an estimated 500 billion dollars annually. 

Employee Engagement


 Kevin Kruse | Forbes.com | June 2012  
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement does not mean employee happiness. Someone might be happy at work, but that does not necessarily mean they are working hard, productively on behalf of the organization. While company game rooms, free massages and Friday keg parties are fun–and may be beneficial for other reasons–making employees happy is different from making them engaged.  Employee engagement does not mean employee satisfaction. Many companies have “employee satisfaction” surveys and executives talk about “employee satisfaction”, but the bar is set too low. A satisfied employee might show up for her daily 9-to-5 without complaint. However, that same “satisfied” employee might not go the extra effort on her own, and she will probably take the recruiter's call luring her away with a 10% bump in pay. Satisfied is not enough. 

These are other statements referring to what engagement is not: 
  • Engagement is not something we are born with. 
  • Engagement is not portable. 
  • Engagement is not constant. 
  • Higher pay alone does not inherently increase engagement. 
  • Retention is not engagement. 


Summarizing the recent literature in this topic, you will find that the following list accurately describes: 

Top drivers of engagement 

  • The organization respects its employees. 
  • Everyone is treated fairly in this organization. 
  • There is an atmosphere of trust in this organization. 
  • The leaders of this organization really know what they are doing. 
  • The actions of our senior leaders support this organization's mission and values. 
  • It really feels like everybody is on the same team in this organization. 
  • Our senior leaders demonstrate strong leadership skills. 
  • The senior leaders in this organization are highly ethical. 
  • People with different ideas are valued in this organization. 
  • Our senior leaders are genuinely interested in the opinions of all employees. 

Top drivers of disengagement 

  • Problems with direct supervisors 
  • Lack of respect or confidence in senior leadership 
  • Basic needs 


Employee engagement strategy plays a vital role in motivating the performance levels of the workforce. A motivated employee will seek out ways to accomplish a task. In today's business environment, the nature of the workforce is changing rapidly thanks to a fast-growing tech-friendly young population whose imagination can only be challenged by the limitations of modern computer and communication technology. 

Human Resources initiatives will often focus on implementing a strategy for On-boarding thinking that an employee who joins the organization needs quick exposure to the relevant policies and procedures, as well as to the company culture. Furthermore, Human Resources will also consider implementing Learning and Development events to satisfy the acute necessity to keep new and existing employees updated with new skills, processes, regulations, and all knowledge required to perform the job. 

Newer strategies are being formulated to include Social networks as a tool to improve employee communication and engagement. Social networks are the result of mixing communication and technology together. Social media platforms connect all of us permanently to the rest of the world. Their user-friendly and interactive features help transcend geographies and cultural boundaries. Their built-in interactive components facilitate the transmission and reception of messages in all kinds of formats (text, audio, static images, animated images, video, etc.). 

 Amanda McGrory-Dixon | BenefitsPro.com | April 2013 
Social Media: A tool to boost employee engagement, productivity
While more traditional electronic communication tools, such as email and instant messaging, still have their place in the organization, social media provides another outlet that can help employees receive immediate feedback and engage with fellow coworkers. 

Even in the best of times, a workforce that is not satisfied and driven to perform at its best means the organization is performing at a fraction of its potential. The organization is therefore spending more to create and deliver products and services than necessary-an impact on profitability that most companies cannot afford.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Copyright Law Fair Use for Instructional Designers

"Fair Use" of copyrighted property is one of the most commonly misunderstood topics in my field. As an Instructional Designer, eLearning Developer, Web Designer, and a business owner who continuously handles information that may be legally owned by others, I have dedicated a substantial amount of time to understanding Copyright Law as it applies to my line of work.


Wikipedia.org (Copyright Law in Wikipedia) defines copyright as a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of the original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time. Most commonly, it refers to "the right to copy", but also gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work and determine who may adapt the work to other forms. It also defines who may perform the work and benefit financially from it, and other related rights. It is a form of intellectual property (like the patent, the trademark, and the trade secret) applicable to any expressible form of an idea or information that is substantive and discrete.

The US Copyright (US Copyright Web Site) describes copyright law as one of the rights conferred to the owner of a copyright to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the copyright law (Title 17 US Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of "Fair Use."


"Fair Use" is commonly misunderstood concept. The majority of people who work with content, such as the instructional designers, eLearning developers, and other content curators, have very little understanding of the meaning "Fair Use". The following statements come from real conversations during the course of our business activities. Do not be surprised if you have heard some of these before.
  • Fair use allows me to download an image from the web and use it any which way I want, as long as I am not making money by using it.
  • Fair use allows us to use a copyrighted work with the intention to educate others, report the news, or any other activity as long as we include a reference to the copyright owner.
  • I am just going to take a couple of paragraphs from this book – who is going to notice?
  • We do not want any legal trouble so we will include a disclaimer such as, "This blog claims no credit for any video clips or images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Video and Images on this blog are copyright to its owners. If there is a video or an image displayed on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed."
  • It is perfectly ok to download an image from the web, modify it with Photoshop, and then it becomes your work of art.
  • There is nothing wrong with using the song "New York, New York" by Frank Sinatra as the background music of our eLearning module. We are not making a profit out of it.


Everyone who made those comments above was wrong. None of the statements above describes the proper application of the "Fair Use" principle. Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. This section also lists four factors to consider in determining if the use is fair, or not. It is not enough to meet just one of these factors.
  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

The distinction between what is a fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission. 


To illustrate this point, I give you a blog article by Roni Lauren, a national best-selling author who had an unwanted encounter with a copyright lawsuit for posting a legally protected photograph (Roni Loren's "You can get sued for using pics on your blog").
  • Everyone who is responsible for gathering, curating, and publishing content (like text, audio, video, photographic images, illustrations, etc.) should have a clear understanding of copyright law. To my fellow instructional designers, eLearning developers, bloggers, web designers, and others, here are a few suggestions to keep you out of trouble:
  • You should be completely certain that the content you are using is either original or properly selected to meet copyright law. You cannot go to the National Geographic web site and use Snag It to start copying (capturing) their copyrighted images so you can use them on your project.
  • If you cannot establish the copyright status, assume it has copyright protection. Many people I have worked with who believe it is the other way around – that if you cannot determine its copyright status then it is fair to assume you can use it – wrong!
  • If you have already used copyrighted content or you have doubts, go back to your publication and remove it immediately. There is a chance you can get away with it but consider that everyday new technologies are available to track copyrighted works and assist in the identification of violators. For example, WriteCheck will help control plagiarism (Anti-Plagiarism Technology) by scanning the web for text duplication.
  • Finally, read about copyright law – we mentioned a government site for copyright law earlier in this article. You should take some time to read it, understand it, and apply it to your daily work or business (US Copyright Web Site)

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: 
  • Quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment.
  • Quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations.
  • Use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied.
  • Summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report.
  • Reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy.
  • Reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson.
  • Reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports.
  • Incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.

Copyright Law protects the particular way authors have expressed themselves. It does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in a work. FullMind Design is not offering any legal advice by publishing this article. You should consult a specialized copyright law attorney to consult about your specific case if you have one. As always, feel free to connect with us by leaving your respectful comments and sharing this article with others.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Our First Blog Post

FullMind Design Blog - Content Design
Paulo Castro, the business and creative leader of FullMind Design, is pleased to announce the launch of this new blog. Paulo Castro (Linkedin Profile) has a solid background in technology, having worked in roles such as Systems Administrator, Technical Support Analyst, Technical Trainer, and Training Supervisor. Paulo's experience is not limited to technology. He is also experienced in the field of education where he has made significant contributions in the roles of Graduate Teaching Assistant; Corporate Trainer; Technical Trainer; Instructional Designer; Curriculum Designer; eLearning Developer; Technical Writer; Facilitator; and Virtual Instructor.

The purpose of this blog is to provide a friendly intellectual environment where you, our audience, will benefit from the discussion of interesting topics. You will read about professionals, leaders, and personalities from the fields of business, education, technology, communication, and even government. You will read about past, present, and future ideas, theories, processes, regulations, methods, tools, and technologies used in the design and delivery of content. You will find articles that will discuss data, information, and knowledge and the many different ways to transfer this knowledge into the inquisitive mind.

We welcome your participation by asking you to insert your comments when you can provide your valuable opinion, knowledge, and experience in a respectful manner. You will find strategically placed buttons to help you share or recommend the articles you like through your social media profiles (Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, and Twitter). You can access some of the most highly visited blogs in the industry by accessing the links under 'Blogroll'. Most importantly, you can subscribe to our blog posts and to all comments by using the 'Subscribe To' buttons. This will allow you to receive our articles automatically when we publish them.

This blog is dedicated to those who have a serious interest in the topics we publish and the people who exist behind the articles, comments, and links to other sites. We forbid the use of this blog for reasons that would constitute any type of crime, including violation of individual or business rights. We will not tolerate the use of this site for abusive marketing schemes, including spamming. For these reasons, FullMind Design will enforce some rules for the benefit of our readers.
  • You must be a Registered User to add your comments into our articles.
  • Your comments will always be reviewed before they are published – comment moderation.
  • You will be required to complete a word verification step to reduce the possibility of spam.
We look forward to your participation. Do not forget to subscribe to our blog and share it on your social media profiles.