Monday, January 4, 2010

Getting the proposal writing skills to do the job...part one

Learning can be a funny thing. We’ve all experienced it with varying results during our school years and we have varying reactions whenever we have to undergo any form of work-based training. How many of us really want to site through another manual handling session?

These are of course, two very different parts of the learning experience. Learning suggests gaining new knowledge skills and experiences often without context. Training sounds more corporate – and it suggests learning a specific work related task.

Our desire to learn and take on new skills as adults is often directly related to our experiences in education earlier in our lives, yet the type of learning we do in the workplace is completely different. It’s usually a lot easier to contextualise the learning experience because job specific training is usually related to a specific task that either makes us able to do our existing job easier or helps us progress into a new job.

And how do we learn? It really depends on the role and type of organisation as well as the preferred learning styles of the individual. In larger organisations with a dedicated training department or training manager, it may be taken care of for you. But what about the micro-, small- or medium-sized business? Lot’s of learning takes place in smaller businesses and though some is formalized, much of it could be classed as informal learning.

Let’s give this some context. Many small businesses are familiar with having to develop proposals. Yet, when someone is introduced to their first proposal, and asked to get a response out to the client in two weeks the chances are they didn’t know what to do. Without worrying about the quality of that proposal, the chances are that the proposal will have made it to the client.

So where did the knowledge for how to write the proposal come from? Those same smaller businesses that don’t have dedicated training departments are unlikely to have dedicated bid teams either, yet the transfer of knowledge takes place. It may be that the first time proposal writer, who didn’t know where to start read some old proposals or asked an old hand in the office how to do it. Maybe they bought a book or did a search on Google for some help – informal knowledge transfer that helps but isn’t quantified in any way.

There’s often an assumption that big businesses know how to do things properly, so let’s ask ourselves what would happen in those businesses in the same circumstances? If a skills gap has been identified there needs to be a business case to spend money to fix it. That would usually be one of three options:

    * Sending the employee on an external specialist training workshop or course
    * Providing training on an internal program
    * Bring in a consultant to bridge the knowledge gap and leave a legacy of knowledge behind once they have finished

There may also be other initiatives such as mentoring programs r availability of a knowledge bank with support and training resources such as e-learning content.