Expertship Explored

How to get started with Expertship

Expertship is a big subject. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. It might seem a little daunting, particularly if you believe you need to get all the settings in place before you start.


You don’t have to. Many of our clients take small steps at first, to test the viability of the concept. There are a number of ways of doing this. Dozens of major organisations have adopted HFL’s Mastering Expertship program, and they started in many different ways.


Always get the expert’s buy-in

But there is one thing they all have in common. It is very important and it needs to be done well. Experts need to be persuaded that they can be even more expert. Specifically, they need to understand that the value they bring to the organisation is based on more than their technical knowledge – they need to master other skills and capabilities.


Many experts believe that they are already as expert as they can be. They are unlikely to embrace ‘development initiatives’, because they believe they are already fully developed.


Even the word ‘development’ has negative connotations for many experts. They believe that HR is trying to ‘fix them’ when they send them on such programs. For that reason we use the word ‘growth’ rather than ‘development’. We’re not saying they are not expert – we’re saying they could be even more expert.


One way to get them to appreciate that may need to widen their skills is for them to undertake the Expertship360 survey. HFL has developed this comprehensive evaluation tool, based on the Expertship Model, which identifies strengths and weaknesses in all capabilities. It is a practical and effective way of starting the conversation.


Test the concept

it is unlikely your organisation will have the time to launch a complete Expertship initiative on your own. A good starting point is to send a few of your experts on one of HFL’s public Mastering Expertship programs to test the waters. This will enable you to see whether your experts who attend the program respond positively. Most of HFL's Expertship clients started this way.

The benefit is that you get a good look at whether the growth opportunity offered by the program is effective. HFL runs public multi-client Mastering Expertship programs on a quarterly basis in London, New York, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne and Wellington.


We ensure that nobody is in the room with directly competitive organisations. And because we run Expertship programs in many cities, you can involve experts who are geographically spread, rather than having to fly them in from around the country or around the world.


This is an inexpensive and effective way to start. You can quickly determine whether your experts have a good experience with the program, whether they feel they have learned anything, and whether they have found ways in which they might change the way they operate to increase their value to your business.


These public programs have a final day Panel Session. These allow you and other stakeholders (such as HR or senior management) to attend and see presentations from your experts on the Personal Growth Plans they have developed during the program. This provides you with a chance to assess how seriously your experts have taken the program, and whether the outcomes are what you expected.


In our experience, one of the most frequently mentioned advantages that experts have just completed the program mention is an increased realisation of where they and their skill sets sit within the organisation. Exposure to other experts also helps them understand that many of the problems they believe they have our not unique to them.


Other typical comments from participants to managers after completing the program is to thank them for investing in their professional growth. This is a very big deal. Experts, like all of us, want to feel appreciated. Many experts also say that despite the fact that they were worried that the workshop element of the program was too long when they arrived, they now believe that even more time would have been better.


A lot of them say it was a unique experience, and that spending time with specialists from other organisations and other disciplines was very helpful.


If you find that the participants found program beneficial, then you can send more - or look at running a program in-house.


Ask HFL to run in-house pilot program

if your organisation has many specialists and it’s possible to take a dozen or so off the floor at one time, a more cost-effective way to test the concept of Expertship is to run an in-house program. This has the advantage of being able to be customised to the strategic needs of your organisation. It also allows key executives to speak to your experts and share their journey.


Many of HFL’s client organisations have used these type of programs to ‘silo-bust’ – getting people from different parts of department or the organisation to sit down and work together. This helps to increase understanding, break down barriers, and build a shared understanding of how collaboration in a matrix structure is an effective solution.


It provides your experts with the opportunity to work together as a team to work out best practice approaches to meetings, decision making, conflict resolution, and culture.


Test part of the program in one or two-day workshops

Several organisations have asked HFL to take certain components of the Expertship Model, and focus only on those aspects - for example, collaboration and stakeholder engagement – with groups of technical specialists in house. We've done this for groups of up to 45 people. This allows you to test the validity and relevance of the content, and the appetite of your experts for this type of development.


Start with the Expertship Model

An alternative method is to start with a focus on the Expertship Model or another capability framework. Some of our clients have started by running focus groups asking managers and experts to identify skills that the experts might need to be most effective at within the organisation. They have then used the findings of these focus groups to build out their own capability framework and tools to undertake a needs analysis. This takes longer, but ultimately the initiatives are customised to the organisation and get good buy-in from managers and experts.


Some of our clients have built their own Expertship programs. One major finance company sent people on our program and then developed their program on the basis of what they learned from ours. We are happy with this - we are keen to help as many experts as possible achieve their full potential in whatever ways work best for them. There is no one size fits all.


Sometimes an organisation’s HR or OD department will decide to build their own capability framework. This might be one unique to their organisation or it might utilise the considerable experience inherent in HFL's Expertship Model to act as a base for assessment and training needs analysis.


This is typically followed by the development of specific programs to address the gaps identified by the framework. This approach provides a unique and customised base for the talent team to build a holistic and highly relevant framework for Expertship within their organisation. This approach tends to be adopted by organisations with large numbers of specialist experts.


Revamp your talent reviews to include experts

You can also start with Expertship by simply revamping your approach to talent. Be more inclusive – include experts in grid assessments and other leadership reviews. We know of a few instances where an organisation has created a specialist nine box talent grid specifically for experts.


Typically, the Expertship journey in these organisations begins after the talent review season, when a cohort of candidates for accelerated Expertship development - typically those with high potential – are identified and sent on an internally created program, an internal program run by HFL, or one of our public Expertship programs.


Critical to this process is getting your people to understanding the appropriate capability framework  - in HFL's case the Expertship Model. This enables all the managers and experts in your organisation to see the concepts and behaviours behind the many aspects of Expertship, and to shape and refine personal growth plans accordingly. HFL’s Guide to the Expertship Model is very useful for this process.


And the final step …

It is very important to provide feedback to the participants. They value this enormously.


The value of robust follow up and check in procedures once participants have attended a program has often been demonstrated. One thing we have learned is that the follow up needs to be personal. HFL’s Expertship program now includes personal 30 minute coaching sessions after the initial workshops, facilitated by accredited Expertship coaches. This has been extremely well received by the participants. It has led to great conversations, real world outcomes, and barriers being broken and solutions devised.


We have also found that participants often want to stay in touch with each other as a group. A great deal of bonding goes on in the intensive workshops, which is part of our design. We’ve passed responsibility for this social interaction and networking to the participants themselves to organise and maintain. This has worked remarkably well.


HFL has developed a primer covering everything we have learned about running these programs - download it now.





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