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Bid burnout: The dark side of the bid management industry and how technology can reduce it

August 16, 2021

Office war zone

For weeks at a time Jane* would work 7 days a week to maintain her grueling bid schedule. As a freelancer, her livelihood depends on the work.

Meanwhile, towards the end of his company’s major bid, John* pulled an all-nighter to deliver the final draft in time for the internal red review by company executives.

Mounting pressure and workloads for people involved in the bid process is resulting in more time being dedicated to the profession, with less time spent on themselves. A scan of job descriptions reveals the prominent use of keywords such as “fast-paced, deadline-driven environment” as if it is a key selling point to lure the industry’s top workers.

Those who work to secure must-win business are especially at risk of burnout, and companies must take steps to look after them.

The annual cost of burnout to the global economy has been estimated to be £255 billion. Such costs have led to the World Health Organisation including burnout as a workplace phenomenon, and predicting a global pandemic within a decade.

Burnout is real, and bid workers face a plethora of demands in the role. Bid people often juggle multiple and competing priorities, and have high self-expectations. Bid management is built on teamwork and collaboration, but the model can be exhausting for introverted people who need their own space, where they can think and write purposefully. These are all contributing factors for workplace stress and burnout in the industry.

Over 50% of workers now report that they work outside the main office 2.5 days a week or more. Technology has made working solo and remote working possible, but like a double-edged sword it has also led to workers being ‘switched on’ and connected to their workplaces 24/7 from their smart devices.

Companies need to support people to work alone, where their productivity increases and their creativity flows. Similarly, companies also need to provide more agile working conditions to support work/life balance to reduce the risk of burnout.

Technology does have a role to play in employee stress and happiness, and for bid workers it must be used for good, not bad. Technology can reduce the levels of stress and accelerate work but it can also add to stress when it gets in the way of productivity – such as communication overload, poor usability and lack of visibility across different applications.

So how can technology be used for good? Companies can start by focusing on the processes they can improve to maintain worker satisfaction1

  1. Reducing data and information silos: When teams operate off different sources of information, use slow or clunky systems and have untracked tasks or versions then productivity is lost and frustration-fueled stress kicks in. Technology can turn all of this around when it is used to make information for bid teams structured and accessible.
  2. Improving visibility of bid team resources: Unrealistic deadlines and expectations on bid teams has always been a struggle. And, with procurement side failing to budge on turnaround times, companies have inevitably had to expand team capacity. This in itself presents new challenges for management in gaining visibility into their team’s workload. By adopting technology we can now gain a clear picture of resource capacity for delegating tasks, setting deadlines, prioritising work and use it to plan the opportunity pipeline and keep bid assignments balanced across a team.
  3. Informing strategic and operational decisions: Predictive analytics is a valuable tool to accurately forecast a number of scenarios that also have direct correlation to worker wellbeing – from win probability to assessing staffing needs weeks in advance of a bid. Crunching historical bid data and other metrics to look for trends and patterns that recur over time can help with bid/no bid decisions, identifying success and loss factors, and scheduling and optimising performance by assigning the right mix of resources to an opportunity.

Making the change is no longer an expensive, complex initiative. New generation cloud technologies are far more affordable and intuitive than their legacy predecessors. The rise of platform ecosystems make integration between systems more seamless, while automation tools and emerging artificial intelligence applications are reducing manual functions to give people back time to focus on more impactful work that drives results.

Systemic practice is equipping bid professionals with the skills to respond to the demands of procurement departments, but the tools they are given to do their job are not matching up. In an industry that is always evolving and frantic for resources, companies must be forward-thinking in their technology choices and how they support their workforce management strategies beyond the bid submission.

Companies can act as a catalyst to this change by taking action to support their bid workers.

This is highly motivating for them to do a great job, and with this heightened emotion, their perceptions of their work and the company they work for will improve. Being innovative with a view to optimising workforce wellbeing will clear the path to continued growth. This is a vital step to addressing industry burnout.  Not only will it keep bid professionals satisfied in their work, but it will also ensure that the right people are there at the right time to deliver their best work. And that’s a win-win for everyone.

* names have been changed.

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