CPD – what is it, do we need it?

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is the term used for the framework of learning and development activities undertaken to ensure your continued effectiveness in your job. It is not a passive activity, it does not stop with the acquisition of a qualification and it does not mean just keeping existing skills fresh.

For example, in the care sector you will usually be required to have a particular level of education and training such as an NVQ. There will be a programme of regular assessment and observations to monitor your performance and ensure that you comply with the current standard, in addition to mandatory refresher training or skills workshops.

In other sectors, for example in Human Resources you may be required to attain a certain number of points, relating to formal study, which will allow you to obtain a particular level of professional accreditation. These will be set out by the accrediting body for the profession, although you may agree with your employer a framework for how and when you will undertake the required modules. Additional learning and training may also be involved to ensure that you can operate at your very best – plus better understand and share ideas about how this new knowledge can be used in practice.

In organisations and professions which do not have regulatory requirements for CPD, you may at least have a CDP plan which documents the technical expertise and knowledge it would be desirable to have and which you commit to maintaining or developing. Achievements could be measured through the acquisition of “points”, or more commonly through the simple act of completing the activities agreed with your line manager or professional expert. Some organisations may offer a coaching or mentor programme to support you in your CDP and the acquisition of your longer term objectives.

Whatever the profession and the organisation you work for, there are broadly three categories of CPD which can be undertaken: structured professional learning, work based professional development and unstructured development activity.

It’s important to note that CPD requires the active participation of the individual. It’s not something that’s done to you. It benefits both the individual and the organisation. Ultimately, it benefits those who receive your service and those who you are accountable to for the quality of provision.

There are several ways to encourage CPD. Firstly; its importance should be stressed during induction. Increasingly, a commitment to continuous professional development is appearing on job specifications. But we have to make it easy for people to access these resources. We can’t just tell people it’s important – we need to give people mechanisms for planning their CPD and we need to ensure that we provide resources appropriate to the objective.

One of the most effective and cost efficient ways to help professionals refresh their knowledge and skills is through the exchange of information and ideas between professionals in their own organisation. This can take the form of regular meetings and events to share best practice, seminars, speaker-events, conferences or more simply a group email address which allows colleagues to share ideas and information to a broad set of people relatively quickly. In large or multi-site organisations, simply finding out that does similar work to you in your company can be a difficult task. Many companies overcome this by making effective use of their internal websites, allowing colleagues to find each other easily, identify resource, share useful articles and even blog about their work.

But while it’s important to collaborate and share best practice with your immediate colleagues, it is just as important to improve communication with professionals operating in other organisations. By meeting colleagues from other departments and agencies, professionals can remain in touch with new ways of working, social and political developments and technological advances in their field of expertise, e.g. teaching, medicine or policy making. Sharing ideas, experience and good practice helps raise the expertise of the profession as a whole and supports the promotion of best practice more broadly.
A formal curriculum of CPD training can achieve good results, particularly in technical areas where accreditation to practice or obtain professional membership is a mandatory requirement. Cross organisational training courses give delegates the opportunity to meet those in similar roles, share experiences and expand their professional network.

Where there is not a mandatory requirement to complete specific training, it is important that individuals are allowed to choose a course that they think will help their professional development the most. In order to do this, it is important that real consideration is given to current capability, changes in the professional landscape and the individuals longer term career development, and not to the acquisition of an arbitrary set of “points”.

So should we all be planning our CDP? The short answer is yes. But we should look at it more broadly. I prefer to think of Continuous Personal Development.There is a lot to be said for identifying the people who have a skill you want and asking them to have a chat with you about how they developed it and what they can do to help you get it, be that the knowledge to improve your golf handicap or learn to speak effectively in public. You don’t have to be a corporate high flyer for this, it cam apply to anyone and any aspect of your life. For example, say you aspire to become a writer, approach authors you admire and seek their advice. Network with others. Read articles and industry news. Research training that may be available.

CPD doesn’t have to be a major undertaking, but do something to make sure your skills are fresh, whatever they may be, and ensure that they are relevant for you, your work and the life you want.

Useful Links:
CIPD Article: http://www.cipd.co.uk/NR/rdonlyres/82D1068E-95E3-42B2-8314-71BDA4631298/0/9781843981664sc.pdf

Helen Treharne

I’m Helen Treharne, fiction author an creator of The Sophie Morgan Vampire Series. I live in South Wales with my husband, young son and rescue cat.
My books are available at all major digital retailers with soft back copies also available from Amazon, Createspace and other stores.
When I’m not writing fiction, I blog at www.WelshMumWriting.com, sharing my experiences of being a busy parent jugging working, writing, and more. Follow me there for my personal insights.

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