Professional Development Is a Differentiator Government Contractors Can’t Afford to Overlook

Investing in learning and development for your staff is a critical discriminator that your company can’t overlook when pursuing Federal government contracts (new business and recompetes).

Professional development (e.g., online learning and other training opportunities) is always one of the first talent-related expenditures put on the “chopping block” during budget negotiations. And, if I may be frank, that decision is just plain stupid—particularly in today’s crazy talent market.

Company leaders are often flabbergasted when an employee decides to resign and accept a new job somewhere else for a small annual salary increase. Well, maybe the employee isn’t leaving just for the money. The question to be asked (and honestly answered) is: “What has XYZ Company done to ensure the employee is growing as a professional while he/she/they was/were here?”

Leaders may respond by stating that “XYZ Company has an internal training program” or “XYZ Company offers a mentorship program,” for instance. These answers are valid, but don’t necessarily mean that L&D is a priority across the organization. Let’s be honest, you and I know that many government contractors don’t prioritize training.

Yes, these decisions are driven by budget, but they are also determined by the flawed logic that if a company makes investments (notice I didn’t say expenditures) in upskilling/reskilling, their employees will then leave and take their new knowledge somewhere else. That is always a possibility in any industry. However, another possibility is that staff will stay because they appreciate the growth opportunities the company provides and feel valued.

I’d like to offer one other possibility for you to deliberate: _What if a company doesn’t invest in upskilling/reskilling and its employees stay?

_Don’t think that because your company has won a five-year contract, it will easily win that recompete. In conversations with Department of Defense and Intelligence Community agencies, program leaders say they are experiencing the same frustrating mistakes made by government contractor analysts—and they are tired of dealing with this issue. Analysts don’t know how to think critically, use structured analytic techniques, write to the dreaded analytic tradecraft standards and beyond.

Why is the Federal government continuing to see these mistakes? In short, because government contractors are not investing in the professional development of their most important asset: their employees.

FedLearn has been a member of numerous government contractor teams pursuing DoD or IC work as the online learning provider for reskilling/upskilling their contract workforce. For the teams that won, customers consistently highlighted that part of the reason the companies were selected was their professional development plans (including our online learning solutions) to ensure employees receive regular training so their skills and knowledge remain current.

In conclusion, its “no-brainer” that L&D isn’t something “soft” that can be discarded during budget discussions. Professional development impacts your company’s bottom line. Period.

What are your thoughts about L&D in the government contractor market today? I’d love to hear. Let’s start a discussion.

Dr. J. Keith Dunbar
Founder & Chief Executive Officer