A capability framework for subject matter experts
Mapping the development of technical specialists
HFL has developed a detailed and practical capability framework – the Expertship Model - to describe the skill set of the subject matter expert. The model has evolved through our experience of working with over 500 subject matter experts over many years, and is now mature framework for assessing all aspects of an expert’s desired capabilities.
Why is a model needed? It is a roadmap for the capabilities that an expert – regardless of their specialty - needs to be proficient in. Expertship is about a lot more than being an expert in a single technical specialty.
The Expertship Model identifies three main domains – Technical, Value and Relationship. Under these three domains sit nine impact areas, or talents, through which the performance of experts can be measured.
The Expertship model
Many experts never look beyond this domain. And even within it, they often think that their specialised knowledge is sufficient. It is not - they need to know how to use it and how to help others access it. Knowledge is power – but only if it is used effectively. Many experts believe that only the first of these two impact areas are important. But most organisations want much more from their experts.
This domain defines how experts add value to the organisation by putting their knowledge and skills into context and leveraging them for the overall benefit the organisation. It shows how they can be agents and leaders of change, demonstrating active engagement in improving organisational performance.
This domain covers their expert’s relations with other people in the organisation – their stakeholders, their managers and others in their team. Importantly it also looks at their own personal brand and what it means to them and the organisation. Collaboration and interpersonal skills are critical to experts’ effectiveness. They need to know how to ask the right questions and give the right answers.
Levels of Expertship
All of these areas are important. They all have one thing in common - harnessing the expert’s capabilities for the greater good. Experts, like all of us, live and work within an organisational matrix. They need to cooperate and collaborate, and ensure their skills and of their knowledge are shared across a range of organisational functions.
The Expertship Model defines the expert’s level of effectiveness in each area as being at one of three levels:
We also identify ‘Derailing’ behaviours, where experts’ actions are counterproductive or even damaging.
Overlaid on the Expertship Model, these levels of Expertship enable experts themselves, and their managers, to assess the level at which they are currently operating, for each of the nine impact areas. This pinpoints the areas of greatest need in developing extra skills.
Levels of Expertship
How organisations use the Expertship Model
HFL has now worked with hundreds of subject matter experts from a variety of organisations. They have all self-assessed against the Expertship Model, and then been assessed by those in their relationship network via a comprehensive survey tool, called the Expertship360),designed specifically for subject matter experts and based on the Expertship Model.
We have found that regardless of the results (some of them quite challenging), technical experts and their managers have been uniformly positive about having a clear framework that allows them to assess Expertship levels.
Importantly, it enables the organisation to show that they care about their experts and want to invest in them. This is a very big deal to many experts we have worked with, who have often felt under-valued, ignored or isolated.
From their point of view development initiatives invariably seem to be focused on people leaders. It seems to them that the only way to get ahead in most organisations is to become a ‘soft skills’ people leader, which many experts simply don't want to do.
A robust Expertship capability framework brings many benefits of the organisation:
It also provides many important benefits to the expert:
The Expertship Model is an important tool for engaging and advancing technical specialists. HFL has developed a primer on the model, which includes a detailed description of behaviours under each impact area and a description of how the Expertship360 assessment tool is constructed, and how it works. To request a free copy, please .