At the Women in Bids and Proposals (WIBAP) launch event we focused on some of the key career challenges faced by many individuals within the bid profession. We focused on what both individuals and organisations can do to improve the following challenges:
Unclear career progression
Lack of confidence in own abilities and having the ability to push back when needed
Managing your work-life balance
Lack of technical knowledge.
The group had some great advice on what we as individuals can do to overcome these challenges and this can be found in our previous article.
WIBAP members (from a variety of backgrounds, experience and industries) also discussed what organisations can do to help us to overcome these challenges. To find out more, please read on!
1. Unclear career progression
Many people within the bid and proposal profession have unclear career paths. It is essential for organisations to help their bid and proposal teams to focus on their future and their potential.
What WIBAP says:
Create individual personal development plans that are tailored to enhance the teams’ skills and exposure to your bids
Create clear road-maps for bidding roles and ensure that the roles within your bid team are well defined. If the experience and knowledge required for each bidding role is clear, individuals can use this to undertake their own skills-gap analysis and target key areas for personal development
Invest in relevant events, courses and certifications which will further the knowledge and potential of your bid teams, and provide exposure to other bidding professionals and industry experts
Promote opportunities for training and secondments within your organisation as this can enhance the bid team’s understanding of the wider business and develop their skills in other areas such as business development or marketing
Organisations must recognise bidding as a long-term, skilled career. Often bid and proposals managers are seen as administrators, and are not managed by other bid and proposal professionals. Rather they are often managed by Sales or Commercial Managers, with less understanding of the skills required for the role. These skills are always evolving, and companies need to provide a path for career progression for your bid and proposals team in order to meet client’s changing requirements. As the standard of bids continues to improve generally across all industries, by investing in your bid team’s development you will be able to create successful proposals against your competition, now and in the future!
2. Lack of confidence in own abilities and having the ability to push back when needed
The confidence of your bid team in their own abilities can often correlate to how the team is engaged with and portrayed to others within your business.
What WIBAP says:
Individual development plans and structured roles are also imperative to provide your bid teams with confidence in their own abilities. If the team are being developed and have a clear career path, this will automatically show them that the business has confidence in the team and their abilities
Frequent one to one reviews involving 360 feedback will allow your team to let you know if they are having any difficulties and highlight areas with which they may need support from you in order to push back
Coaching and mentoring (internally or externally) can develop confidence within your teams. Sometimes bid teams need to take some time to understand that they are the experts in what they do and as such, have the ability to push back when necessary
Encourage best practice (such as sticking to internal deadlines) to enable your team to produce the most effective bids. Often other teams may struggle to understand the reasoning behind bid decisions and as such, may need the benefits highlighted to them by the organisation and not just the bid team
Empower the bid team to speak up if anything is wrong – can you develop open forums where teams can work through any differences in opinion which may be causing conflict?
Finally, support the bid team in understanding proposal quality vs. workload. If the bid team are struggling with too high a workload, proposals can end up being churned out with generic content which doesn’t meet the quality that you, or they, expect. By ensuring the workload is fair, the bid and proposals function is able to concentrate on tailoring content where necessary and creating bespoke proposals for your clients; utilising their abilities and improving your win rate!
3. Managing your team's work-life balance
Sometimes bid deadlines can lead to late nights and weekend working, but is this once in a while or a repetitive habit for your bid team?
What WIBAP says:
Recognise and reward your team. If they are working above and beyond your expectations to ensure you have a winning proposal, is this being acknowledged? Maybe they could finish early on Friday to make up for the extra hours worked, or maybe their workload needs to be reviewed to prevent them from burning out!
Promote flexible working within the bid team to accommodate for bid programmes which may benefit from early starts and later finishes. If your sales team want to focus on proposal content in the evening and your Bid Manager is happy to work 11 - 7, could this be more productive?
Ensure leadership understanding and buy-in of the input required at key stages of a bid programme. If everyone meets the deadlines throughout the bid programme, often this can prevent endless hours being spent on proposals in the days leading up to the deadline (and may also allow for time to improve quality and tailor the proposal even more!)
4. Lack of technical knowledge
Bid professionals are often expected to write technical content for proposals and may receive criticism from other teams for their lack of understanding of the solution being proposed.
What WIBAP says:
Many bid and proposal professionals are brilliant at what they do because they are not sidetracked by technical discussions, and instead have their full focus on the proposal. If however, you need your bid team to have a strong technical knowledge, please provide clear job descriptions to ensure that they are aware of this expectation when they join the team
Invest in external training if relevant, which can enhance the team’s high-level technical understanding. Alternatively, you could develop internal technical learning programmes which are tailored to improving the high-level knowledge of your bid team function
Arrange placements with operational teams where possible to allow the bid team to shadow technical/client facing members of the team. This will help them to gain a better understanding of the solutions or services that you provide and consequently create more relevant proposals and win more work!
Lastly, ensure that there is senior management support for your bid team and bid processes. Having senior buy-in for your bid process will allow your bid team to work more effectively with subject matter experts across the business to develop the best solution for your clients. Positioning the bid team as a central function that connects different departments across the business will allow better cross-functional collaboration and demonstrate the how the bid team contributes to the overall success of the business.
These great ideas have been highlighted by a mixture of bid professionals, from a variety of industries and roles including: bid and proposal managers, coordinators, writers, consultants and directors, all within the WIBAP community.
To get involved with Women in Bids and Proposals and hear about our upcoming events, please become sign up on our members page and join our LinkedIn group: bit.ly/wibap