Training and Development

Professional development at the individual and organizational level is a true discriminator in today’s competitive employment environment. Training offers both personal and organizational-level benefits and can be administered virtually or in person, to a group or one on one.

Introduction

Business development professionals at all levels must stay current in their knowledge, understanding, and application of best practices. Through training and professional development activities, professionals can keep their performance edge and give their companies the best chance to win.

Benefits of training and certification at the personal level include:

  • More value to your employer by learning and staying abreast of best practices
  • Greater personal reward and challenge through application of best practices
  • Improved efficiencies in business development processes and resulting revenues
  • Enhanced morale—for both employee and management—and job satisfaction

These benefits are relevant at all levels of business development, from senior Opportunity/Capture Managers and sales executives to proposal coordinators, writers, editors, and production administrators.

Organizations also benefit from embracing best practices through training and professional development. Training helps organizations:

  • Consistently apply tools and processes that work
  • Clarify roles, responsibilities, and expected outcomes across the business development lifecycle
  • Reduce redundancy and rework throughout the proposal development process
  • Build internal, organic capability for sustainable growth and improved performance

Best Practices

1. Pursue professional certifications and credentials.

Organizations recognize the value of capabilities and skills obtained through continued education and professional certifications. In today’s business environment, things that differentiate one worker from another and demonstrate the individual’s commitment to self-improvement are essential to career progression. Many certifications have to do with process. But in some industries and fields, you also must be an expert in the product or service being offered. Certifications:

  • Provide employers proof of your efforts at self-improvement and your dedication to your chosen profession
  • Show that you are knowledgeable and current with the trends and best practices for your chosen discipline
  • Demonstrate that you want to continually hone your skills to meet management expectations

APMP offers the world’s first, best, and only industry-recognized certification program for professionals working in the bid and proposal environment. APMP certification is the global standard for developing and demonstrating proposal management competency. Achieving APMP certification:

  • Demonstrates your personal commitment to your career and profession
  • Improves your business development capabilities
  • Creates a focus on best practices for your team
  • Earns you credibility and the respect of your peers, clients, and organization’s leaders and, in some cases, additional compensation

2. Make learning interactive.

Adults learn best through active involvement in the learning process. Within organizations, foster interest in learning by leading by example. All tiers of leadership should attend training and development events. These activities should also be highly interactive. All attendees, regardless of position in the organization, should be encouraged to actively participate.

Training provides individuals with the skills and knowledge to do a job. These competencies are defined in training objectives and outcomes. Training is used for developing new skills and knowledge, new hire orientations, and changes in processes, procedures, or technology. While training is usually done through instruction, it should have a hands-on or role-playing component.

Keep in mind, however, that training must have a framework, with learning objectives and outcomes for each module. Often, people put together presentations, read them to a class, and consider this “training”—but it is not.

Coaching, by contrast, helps people develop mastery of knowledge they’ve already acquired. It helps them develop critical thinking skills and decisionmaking skills. It’s usually delivered one on one in an informal, unstructured environment. Coaching aims to improve performance and behavior on the job. Coaches talk as much as they listen and ask questions of the people they coach.

Employees should attend training that puts them in situations central to their disciplines so they can hone the skills necessary to succeed. Experiential learning based on hands-on exercises, role-playing scenarios, and case studies provides the most rewarding and lasting learning experiences. Follow-up coaching and mentoring after learning events helps reinforce learning to support real performance improvement. Constructive, specific feedback on performance is also essential to helping people learn.

3. Coach and mentor others.

An integral part of being a business development manager is ensuring continual employee professional development. One of the most powerful types of professional development is mentoring, which combines job knowledge, experience, and skills to help an employee develop.

Managers, executives, and others in the organization can provide useful and timely training to employees. Coaching may be appropriate as a delivery means when training isn’t appropriate. In these cases, coaches can collaborate with employees to target specific areas needing improvement.

Coaches/mentors should follow good management practices and follow these generally accepted methods:

  • Continually assess employee performance to confirm that methods/job skills are up to date or to identify areas needing training
  • Set definitive goals that the employee can realistically attain and measure
  • Motivate the employee through assignments that contribute to the company’s mission
  • Give positive and constructive feedback so the employee will know what skills to apply or correct

Application in Diverse Environments

Importance for all organizations.

Training and professional development are important in all markets and all geographies. Initial training and sustainment training should be part of business development management in all organizations―small, medium, and large.

Professional associations define best practices and offer training programs that build competencies and skills. APMP provides training through an approved network of training organizations, or ATOs. These organizations ensure that learning is current and based on proven adult learning theory.

Recent Trends

Online/virtual training.

Today’s technologies have facilitated the growth of varied training delivery methods. This is a great opportunity for professionals for whom on-the-ground programs aren’t an option. Training and professional development have diversified from classroom-only training to a variety of blended learning models, including:

  • Live, instructor-led virtual courses. These sessions permit real-time interaction with the facilitator. Employees can attend from work or home. The massive open online course (MOOC) format is catching on with enormous speed.
  • Recorded courses. These sessions are video or audio modules/courses that let attendees register and attend at their leisure.
  • Online student collaboration for assignments. These sessions let attendees work at their leisure, as well as schedule collaborative teamwork sessions for assignments and deliverables for the course.

Although online training is effective for certain types of content, other types of training require real-time interaction and application of concepts that an online course can’t offer.

Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions

Where training can go wrong.

  • Lack of management endorsement/priority for training
  • Not enough time allotted for the training and associated materials, tools, or techniques, causing employees to leave frustrated and unfulfilled
  • Too much lecture and not enough interactive or hands-on practice
  • The wrong person conducting the training; not everyone can get the message across and motivate employees to learn
  • A training site that’s not conducive to learning, such as a crowded office space, poor lighting, or distractions around the classroom or conference room
  • Dated information or training on a process or topic that is irrelevant or inaccurate
  • Bad timing—for example, training is scheduled for too many employees or at a time when most employees are engaged in other necessary activities

Summary

  • Sustained training and development activities are keys to success in today’s rapidly changing work environment
  • Organization-wide training should be encouraged from the top down and should be interactive and engaging for employees
  • Professional certifications, such as APMP certification, are an effective way to learn industry best practices and gain credibility among colleagues
  • Modern technologies offer new methods of training delivery, such as online courses and webinars
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