Working in the 21st Century, its important that we keep our knowledge and skills up-to-date so that we are able to compete in the job market and to ensure we continue to be competent in our jobs. CPD is therefore something that everyone in the workplace should be doing. From a personal perspective, CPD is both something I have to practice in my professional life and that I teach annually on our professional HR courses.
In addition to employees and their employers considering CPD to ensure workers have the skills, knowledge and experience to perform in the workplace; professional bodies require their members to maintain CPD on an ongoing basis as part of their membership. It is also the case for some professions, that it is impossible to practice without membership and therefore CPD – such as doctors, lawyers, teachers etc. Personally, I’m a member of two professional bodies – one as a HR professional and one as a lecturer.
Generally I also believe its something that students would be wise to think about as they prepare to transition from study to employment, making sure they have the skills and knowledge that employers will be looking for.
Why is CPD Important
As outlined above, CPD allows us to be a member of professional bodies and in some cases to practice (in my case as a lecturer), cpd also allows us to ensure we keep up-to-date with the knowledge, technologies and practices etc required to carry out the duties associated with our work. For example, I try to be aware of recent technological developments – such as AI/ChatGPT and teaching practice as well as HR practices, emerging case law and trends in the field. In addition to these reasons, building up our skills and knowledge puts us in a competitve position if we wish to progress in our career, seeking advancement and promotion.
What does CPD look like
We will all have our own ideas of what kinds of activities and learning experiences will count as CPD. For some, and certainly some professional bodies, CPD will be made up of accumulated hours from formal, structured learning which can be clearly identified – maybe receiving a Certificate of Attendance at the end of the training course, seminar etc. But for others, including myself and my own professional bodies, we consider a wider range of learning and development opportunities which can include informal learning, such as reading blogs, watching documentaries, attending networking events etc. A more recent approach is that of reflective practice, where we are expected to take time to think about our practice; the experiences we have encountered and how we can use those situations to further develop our skills and knowledge.
Despite all of these different approaches to learning, a range of diverse approaches is the best way to gain a rounded learning experience. Our own desire for learning, and how we learn, may be best served sometimes through more informal approaches, but keep in mind the requirements of your own specific professional body’s requirements, particularly if you have a quota of hours to evidence that needs to be done through formal development approaches.
Benefits of CPD
Regardless of whether you belong to a professional body or not, being committed to lifelong learning is a good idea.
- Keep skills and knowledge up-to-date
- Awareness of new/emerging trends – eg how AI could impact on you in the workplace
- May give you an edge against colleagues and other potential employees
- both in current job
- if you’re made redundant and need to find a new job
- Enhance employment and promotion opportunities
From experience, I know sometimes people don’t want their employers to know about any professional development they undertake personally, but in today’s economic climate, you need to think about ensuring your own job security. You should ensure your employer is aware of all your skills to increase your employability. If companies are considering redundancies, they are more likely to retain multi-skilled employees who can be more versatile.
How to evidence CPD
Its great to go along to various learning and development events – attending courses, conferences, networking events etc, but the paperwork around CPD is also important. Any professional body (and employers nowadays) will want us to plan out what our learning will be across the coming year and then to keep a record (evidence) of our progress as we go.
A typical approach for CPD paperwork would be to create a plan of your learning and development needs – areas that you need for your current role but also consideration of areas where you might like to develop, particularly if you’re thinking about your own career progression. Once you have a plan in place you should be keeping a record of some form – this could be a reflective log – to record your experiences. Good practice would be to include some reflection in your record or log, thinking about how you got on, what worked/didn’t work and why; what you might do differently in the future, how you can use and apply your learning in the future. The final stage would be to identify, from your reflections the additional learning and development required and to then carry that forward into your next plan.
CPD is a cycle – you make a plan, you implement the plan and reflect on your progress and identify future learning needs and update your plan, allowing you to move forward. An example I use to illustrate this might be a student who is developing their time management skills. When they do their first assessment, they maybe struggle with time management and either feel rushed and unhappy with the work they submit or may have to ask for an extension. Once they’ve submitted their assessment, they should reflect on their time management skills – what worked, what didn’t – what mistakes did they make to mean they fell behind. They should then think about what they can do next time to try to improve and avoid making the same mistakes. When they come to the next assessment, they should test out their ideas. Hopefully they will submit on time and feel happier about their time management, but the likelihood is that they will still be able to see opportunities to develop even further.
You can see from the above example, that the student is constantly learning as they review their progress and work on improving their time management techniques. Their plan is constantly evolving. This is the nature of CPD – we should always be reviewing and updating our plans. There should always be scope to improve and enhance our skills and knowledge.
I’d love to hear your own experiences of CPD, either for work or because you’re a member of a professional body. I would also like to hear if the practices vary across different countries.
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