How to Establish Domain Expertise For your Team?

Team Expert

When it comes to growing your small business one challenge you’ll face is growing your team.

When starting out it’s perfectly okay to wear all the hats yourself but there will come a point when you need more hands on deck to meet demand – or burn yourself out and your business to the ground trying to manage on your own.

One thing we talk about a lot with business hiring is to focus on staff attitude rather than skill. Skill you can build, attitude is usually pretty set. This blog takes that concept further, into domain expertise.

Okay, so the idea is to hire great attitudes and put in the work to train them to run your business your way. It sounds simple enough but I see a lot of small business owners struggle to get their team to understand the job and clients as well as the founders do. 

There are plenty of different reasons why this happens. Evolving into a natural leader will take time, experience and patience. At the same time, you need to take into account that your staff might not have enough overall business or market knowledge to meet your expectations. While it is forgivable and fixable with time, it will hold your business back and stifle growth.

That means it’s on your shoulders as the business creator to ensure that each staff member learns the specific skills that deliver the highest possible output quality, in the shortest time frame possible. Knowing just how to go about it is the sticking point.

In order to let your team know what they have to do in their specific roles to meet your business goals, you’ll need to build domain expertise.

What is domain expertise?

Upon looking at a job applicant’s resume, you can see some skills that impress you but are also skills that are necessary for every good employee to have regardless of the type of job they’re undertaking.

Teamwork, time management skills, adaptability, the ability to work under pressure – these are examples of skills every model employee should have.

But on top of these soft skills, every job requires specialised knowledge based on the industry and the type of work involved.

For example, a content writer should have an in-depth knowledge about how SEO copywriting works and about the industry that they’re writing for. An environmental lawyer ought to have a deeper understanding about environmental laws than an immigration lawyer. A financial analyst should know more about the performance of stocks and bonds better than a retail sales expert.

These skills are known as domain expertise.

Simply put, domain expertise is the knowledge and proficiency you have in a specific discipline or field (in contrast to general knowledge).

Why domain expertise is important

Team domain expertise is vital to every business. 

For your staff to have domain expertise means that they know exactly what they’re doing, and that in itself is an obvious step towards a successful business.

Domain expertise benefits your staff in various ways:

  • Job efficiency. Those who work in a job they’re not an expert in will eventually find themselves in a slump. They’ll need to ask around or consult an expert, and it will take them much longer to get the work done compared to someone who already knows what to do from the start.
  • Accuracy of output. Being highly skilled and knowledgeable in your field will mean making fewer mistakes. While mistakes are normal in every business, you still want to minimise them whenever you can. It saves both time and resources, and getting the job done right most of the time is a great motivation to keep excelling.
  • Confidence in their work. Research shows that when people expect to fail in their tasks, their performance plummets. So confidence is crucial to excelling at work, and having the right knowledge to get the work done boosts that confidence.

As much as domain expertise is good for your staff, it benefits you too as a business owner. Domain expertise leads to better results, less mistakes, and higher productivity for your business.

With less confusion on what to do and what the business needs, this frees you up from extra work and stress.

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7 ways to establish domain expertise among your team

With how important it is for your staff to have domain expertise, this can’t be something that you can ignore. You need to properly train your team members so that they can have the amount of knowledge that will enable them to perform their best.

So here are seven ways to boost domain expertise among your staff:

1. Read

Everyone in your business can read, but that doesn’t mean that every one of them is a reader. 

If you want to learn something new, the first step to do that is to read about it. Then to widen that wealth of knowledge, read some more. There are thousands of books out there for every industry and career.

Here’s how reading can increase employee performance:

  • It strengthens and stimulates the brain. Research confirms that reading (e.g. novels) significantly increases brain connectivity. More areas of the brain light up with activity the more engaged the reader is.
  • It increases knowledge. Everything you read adds pieces of information that your brain stores, and you can use this knowledge as needed. The more information you have, the better equipped you are to accomplish a task related to it. So if you want to learn something new every day, keep reading.
  • It improves analytical skills. Studies show that reading helps people spot patterns quicker, boosting their analytical and problem-solving skills.

“Reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible.” — Barack Obama

2. Do a product or service demo

Some people learn best when they are taught or shown how something works.

A great way to cater to employees with this learning style is to do product or service demos.

A product or service demo is a presentation of the value of your product or service. This means that you show the core features and capabilities of your product. 

For instance, if you’re selling a coffee machine, you can do a product demo by demonstrating what each button does, and what are the exact steps to follow to get the machine to make coffee, from start to end.

While this is normally done for customers, it’s important to present these demos to your staff too, so they can fully understand what your business is trying to sell.

3. Set up a knowledge base for employees and contractors

Staff need access to a resource that contains information on what they are working on at any given time. This is called a knowledge base.

A knowledge base is a self-serve online library about topics relevant to your business.

This helps your staff easily find answers to their questions on their own, and already gives them a headstart on materials to read to broaden their knowledge about their respective jobs.

4. Use Google

Having a knowledge base will greatly help your staff learn more, but sometimes it won’t have every answer to your employees’ questions. 

If that’s the case, encourage your staff to ask Google first before claiming they don’t know anything about a specific topic. It is the world’s largest library, after all.

In fact, Google processes over 3.5 billion searches per day and is the most visited website worldwide, holding 92.18% of the search engine market share. This is because everyone uses Google to ask questions that they have, and more often than not, it will lead you to those answers.

Just make sure to remind them to double-check the sources they read on Google and how reliable they are.

5. Discuss and share the details with customers or senior team members

People often work best when they’re part of a team.

This gives them the opportunity to learn more ideas and information from other teammates with deeper knowledge or different perspectives on various subjects. That’s why it’s natural and important to involve other members of the team when a staff member is unsure about something and needs advice.

6. Test internally to check out skills of employees and contractors

Peppering your team with questions about what they do, how they do it, and how to serve specific customers (i.e. through internal tests – written or otherwise) needs to happen before they start working with a customer by themselves without guidance or supervision.

Doing so assesses how much they already know, how fit they are to work confidently in the job, and what they need to learn more about and improve so they can perform better and more accurately accomplish their tasks.

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7. Get certifications

Getting your staff to become certified in their fields and in the industries they will be working across is a great way to boost their domain knowledge and confidence, making them more efficient in their jobs.

These certifications also make them more competent and credible, and will further build the trust of your customers, knowing that they’re doing business with people who are certified for their roles.

The only drawback is that certifications can be expensive. But, more often than not, it’s worth it. Your employees, after all, are also your investments.

Your business can’t succeed if your staff members aren’t proficient in their fields and don’t have a deep understanding about your business and its products or services.

To make sure that they are knowledgeable and productive in their jobs, you need to build your team’s domain knowledge through the seven ways mentioned. 

Not only will this improve their efficiency, output accuracy, and confidence – this will also help you, as a business owner, maximise your time to do your own work instead of having to answer questions and correct your staff’s mistakes all day.

If you need more tips on how to boost domain expertise among your team, let’s have a chat.