It was about fifteen years ago that a number of major French industrial groups and research centers working on the international level started thinking about how they would be able to preserve their in-house skills and know-how (Airbus, Air Liquide, Areva, CEA, CNES, Lafarge, Michelin, Thales, Total, among others). They needed to find ways to offer their technically-talented staff other recognition than a career in management. To various degrees since then, these organizations have set up business expert or mentoring programs to ensure that these issues were being dealt with properly. These programs have generally been implemented in-house and spearheaded by management or technical directors with the advice and support of HR Divisions. Today, the stage of maturity that these programs have reached leads to questions about how they operate and how to drive them forward. Indeed, the challenge of preserving and recognizing corporate know-how has shifted to the challenge of offering an attractive place to work and do business, while building a competitive edge through innovation.
Who are these experts we are talking about?
These are professionals who have acquired a high degree of expertise in their fields of specialization, who have put their knowledge to the test through practical experience and have been able to identify and solve complex problems in their line of work. Therefore, expertise is inseparable from real-life practice. These persons are also those who perform the best, obtain the highest results, who staff members turn to when they need answers.
There are two main categories of experts:
- Scientific and technical experts (experts in acoustics, aerodynamics, optical networks, etc.)
- Business administration experts (procurement, finances, human resources, logistics, etc.).
How pragma assists companies to manage their experts and implement changes to their business expert programs
We have developed 3 complementary approaches:
1) Advice and support for Business Expert Programs
- Establishing a Business Expert Program - from co-construction to deployment: defining the vision with the EXCOM or Technical Division, identifying strategic fields of expertise, co-construction of definitions and criteria grids, co-definition of how the Program and various components and bodies will function, support with implementation.
- Audit an existing Business Expert Program using a survey to determine the strong points and the areas where progress needs to be made in terms of how the Program is operated (many indicators can be analyzed - how effective the systems being used are for identification, evaluation, appointment, use/mobilization of experts, capitalization of and transfer of know-how, monitoring systems, contribution of experts to innovating processes, etc.).
- Optimize all or part of Program operations (recruitment, recognition, career path, strategic workforce planning, leadership, etc.).
2) Coaching for experts and their managers
- Individual coaching for high-level experts on very specific issues: strategic contribution (technical innovation proposals), communication impact, transfer of know-how, etc.
- Individual coaching for experts called on to become managers of experts, with the many changes this involves in terms of leadership and creating value - balancing authority gained through expertise with authority now based on the personal level and level of status in the company.
- Team or Community of Experts Coaching, in IT, industry, research, among other fields.
3) Career and personal development pathways for experts and managers of experts
PRAGMA also assists companies after a Business Expert Program has been set up to design and drive forward career and personal development pathways in leadership for experts and their managers. We can also act as stakeholders in existing pathways.
Examples of expert leadership training program components:
- Acting as an advisor/consultant
- Intelligence gathering and benchmarking
- Support for decision-making
- Transfer and capitalization of know-how / mentoring by experts
- Communication impact
- Public speaking
- Meeting facilitation techniques
- Business acumen
- Impact and influence
- Managing stress
- Conflict management
- Feeling at ease with diversity
- Agility and change management
Examples of expert managers training program components:
- Specific characteristics involved in managing experts
- Managing authority/legitimacy
- Management style, where technical skills come in with management
- Setting objectives
- Relationship between being demanding and giving support
- Development plan for the expert / expertise
- Support with communications skills through real-life situations and exposure
- Project management, Agility