Bid Training, blog

Learning with impact – disrupting the 70-20-10 rule

In the early days of developing the bid toolkit concept – when we were thinking through how to not just raise win rates in an organisation for a short period or to drill a team for a specific bid, but to create sustained whole organisation impact through widespread adoption of best practice – we studied the 70-20-10 rule.  

We knew we could build a successful bids and proposals live training proposition. The market was a mixed picture with few established quality players. We didn’t have our APMP authorised training accreditation back then, or even a daydream that it could be possible. But we knew we could be disruptive and differentiate on quality and innovation, for instance with our ‘top tip’ videos by some of the best bidding professionals around the world interspersed throughout our content.

But how to you make it stick? How do you boil the ocean of raising win rates across a whole business?

The 70-20-10 model for learning and development (L&D) is a commonly used formula within the training profession.

The model was created in the 1980’s by three researchers and authors working with the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro in the US. The model outlined the optimum split of learning consumption, suggesting that individuals obtain knowledge, skills and abilities in their roles through the following mixture of sources:

  • 70 percent from on-the-job experience
  • 20 percent from social sources such as interactions with others
  • 10 percent from formal structured training

They observed that hands-on experience (the 70 percent) is the most beneficial for employees. It enables them to learn from mistakes, discover and refine their job-related skills, make decisions, address challenges and interact with people in their organisation. Employees learn second best from others (the 20 percent) through encouragement and feedback, including social learning, coaching, mentoring, and collaborative learning. The most surprising element is that their research showed that only 10 percent of successful professional development comes from formal traditional live in person training.

We thought this concept was fascinating and really steered the development of our approach for the bid toolkit. We knew we needed to provide a collection of services and tools that injected improved performance across that spectrum, building momentum to create a dramatic rise in win rates bigger than the sum of our parts.

How has the approach moved on and how have online, virtual techniques and digital assets changed the game?

Helpfully around the same time we were preparing to launch the bid toolkit in early 2018 Training Industry Inc released an insights report, based on data from nearly 1,500 working professionals, to update the focus and efforts in accomplishing training impact. The updated on-the-job, social, formal (OSF) learning blend observed an increased role of social and formal learning. The overall blend is now closer to what might be called a 55-25-20 model. With higher quality and more impactful methods in live training, huge consumption and availability of online structured content and improved understanding of mentoring and social learning there has been a dramatic shift in the dynamic.

In the context of bidding

Previously I held a bid leadership role and was responsible for the leadership of the capability development and training of their 50+ people bid global function.

We saw APMP Foundation as a quick win, a fairly simplistic baseline qualification to recognise staff performance. There wasn’t a great deal of online content to speak of, certainly that wasn’t American market focused, when the rest of the world largely operates to a variant of UK practices, and that wasn’t dramatically over or under engineered for everyday needs.

Yes, we wanted to reward our staff with a qualification and to raise standards, but actually it wasn’t our bidding staff where the real capability improvement was required and where value could be driven – it was their stakeholders – their bid leaders and SME’s / content contributors.

Quite a common predicament. But you can’t pay for everyone in your whole business to go on a course. And if you did you would suffer from erosion of that upside quite quickly with 15-20% staff turnover and apparently it only having a 20% impact that dissipates over time.

The 55-25-20 model

We think we’ve cracked it. In the last 12 months we have found that leveraging the 55-25-20 model with a mixed economy of learning methods and interactions, organised to build and drive momentum, delivers the greatest long term impact and value.

With clients such as Quod, we’ve found that mobilising with live training (or webinars) for bidding ‘champions’ creates the initial upsweep in understanding and motivation, the 20.

We then support that wave with ongoing mentoring and coaching of key individuals and deliver ongoing modules as part of their apprentice, graduate and leadership development programmes – enabling social learning and embedding bidding good practice in their DNA. The 25.

Lastly we land an enterprise bid toolkit site in their intranet as their constant online digital mandated bid process and textbook, providing their consistent roadmap and governance to follow and embedded microlearning to refresh or upskill bid teams right when they need it, on live bids. The 55.

Our clients are averaging more than a 20% increase in win rates and finding the experience of their new measured methodical bidding far less stressful and draining on the business.

“Jeremy and the team have been immensely helpful, both in providing training for our technical staff and in building a robust bid process. We have already received some very positive client feedback on the quality of our submissions – all achieved with reduced stress levels generated from the efficiency of the approach.”

Chris Wheaton, Director – Quod

Bid Training

The unspoken problem in the bid training world

In their career, most business leaders and senior bid professionals face the same problem.

No matter how good your relationship with the client and no matter how good your proposition and win themes are… get the wrong technical input and you’re not going to win your next pursuit.

The problem many bid team face is the reliance on subject matter experts who also have a day job. This is a particular challenge for those in the professional services world as you might end up with a wide pool of SMEs who may only do one or two bids a year, balancing utilisation targets to try and maximise their billable hours.

Creating a bid training programme

I have to admit that I, like a lot of senior bid people I know, have had a go at creating a training programme. In a previous role, I developed and rolled out a bid training programme, snappily titled Bid Smarter, Win More.  We spent hours training technical teams on bid writing, management and theory, and gave them big hefty training guides that captured everything we wanted them to know.

This all sounds great… but…

By the time people were allocated back onto a bid, they had forgotten their training. We had trained people who were bad at bidding, and whilst the training had moved them in the right direction a little, they were still just… bad!

People left the business,  new people had joined and the training was quickly lost.

Overall, in hindsight, my first foray into bid training wasn’t successful because it wasn’t sustainable. We had focused too much on the textbook and not enough on behaviours, process and culture.

Since Bid Smarter, Win More, bid training has moved on.  If I tried it again my approach would be a tad different. (I might even look at the Bid Toolkit as a shortcut, but don’t tell Jeremy!)

Bid Even Smarter, Win Even More

After the initial rollout of Bid Smarter, Win More I was able to refine and develop the approach further, giving me some valuable learning and insights. If I had to run a training programme again,  these are the three things I would make sure I focus on:

Be selective

We need to be much more selective over who gets training. We need to help the best improve, rather than trying to force those who hate bidding to love it.  Rather than bidding becoming something everyone does, we need to focus on small groups, enabling us to build teams which support one another and learn and develop together.

Embed bidding in business processes

Bidding is business critical, so we need to make sure its part of the business fabric, from the staff induction process right up to reporting win rates by a business unit at the Senior Management Group meeting. This, in turn, helps to get people to want to commit to training and learning, it fires up new starters who’ve never been introduced to bidding and makes improving the process, not just celebrating wins, important for our senior management team.

Break the training down

Staff in professional services businesses aren’t any busier than those in other industries, but the scrutiny on utilisation is a big factor we need to consider. This statement will make my bid training colleagues shake their head, but I think we need to condense and break up training into smaller chunks, using a quarter to half-day workshops. This gives the benefit of providing more tailored training and enables people to be more selective over what they are focused on.

Where will bid training go in the future?

With the emergence of new automation tools, improved content library platforms and increasing competence and capability of the best bid teams, bid training needs should focus more on capture and strategy, teaching teams to think creatively and develop solutions which genuinely differ from their competitors. There will always be a place for practical training on writing, reviews and management but focusing on the element which will make the difference between first and second place will become more prevalent in the best teams.

By Mike Reader