CPD Continuing Professional Development and businessman working with modern technology

What is continuing professional development?

Ever-evolving, competitive work environments mean professional development has become a necessity for professionals across all industries.

Advancing knowledge and learning new skills should be a priority for business leaders, managers and individuals. As the European Commission report, currently, more than 75% of EU companies say they have difficulties finding workers with the necessary skills – and only 37% of adults undertake training on a regular basis.

How do you stay ahead of the competition in your career? Is there more you could be doing in terms of addressing personal skills or knowledge gaps?

What is continuing professional development?

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development define continuing professional development (CPD) as ‘learning experiences which help you develop and improve your professional practice.’

As well as building on existing strengths, CPD focuses on identifying and addressing any gaps in your skills, knowledge and competencies. It may require upskilling – or reskilling – and is an ongoing process that should be factored into an individual’s professional career regardless of age, occupation oreducation level. CPD doesn’t follow a one-size-fits-all approach; rather, it varies depending on the person, their specific needs, and their career goals.

While the activities will differ from person to person, CPD often look like:

  • peer coaching, mentoring or shadowing
  • joining training programmes
  • studying for formal professional qualifications or accreditations
  • joining professional bodies
  • networking
  • volunteering
  • reflective practice
  • online learning and CPD courses
  • giving presentations or developing course material
  • attending relevant industry events, seminars and webinars
  • reading relevant articles, books or journals
  • participating in professional networks, forums and special interest groups.

CPD falls into three different categories:

  1. Structured CPD (also known as active CPD/active learning) is proactive and participation-based. An example of structured learning is a marketing professional studying over a period of time for a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) qualification.
  2. Reflective CPD (also known as passive learning) is generally not participation-based. An example of passive learning is an entrepreneur listening to podcasts, reading case studies or watching e-learning material about securing start-up finance.
  3. Informal CPD (also known as unstructured learning/self-directed CPD) is unstructured and generally doesn’t adhere to a specific timeframe. An example of self-directed learning is a healthcare assistant reading the latest health sector-specific news or research.

Any learning activity which supports your professional development can be considered CPD. However, the best approach is to tailor the type of learning you are doing to enhance your current practice and add value to the service you provide..

Why is continuing professional development important?

Why should we all be harnessing the power of CPD?

While CPD is undoubtedly an investment in yourself, its benefits extend far beyond personal growth and carving out competitive advantage. It has the potential to help all of us to stay effective, relevant, and adaptable in our roles and careers.

Regardless of sector or job role, CPD is instrumental in terms of:

  • adapting to changing demands
  • career development and advancement
  • ensuring knowledge and skills are up-to-date and informed by the latest thinking
  • professional skills
  • increased confidence
  • effective decision-making
  • better job performance.

For business leaders, creating a culture and community of lifelong learning and lifelong learners among employees – that transcends roles, levels and departments – is hugely beneficial. As well as being important in terms of employee performance and motivation, it can support legal compliance, help your business increase its competitiveness, raise brand profile and, ultimately, boost profits and business sustainability.

What is the CPD cycle?

How can we ensure CPD remains regular and delivers measurable improvements?

While appraisals are a great time to benchmark and reflect on achievements, challenges and development objectives, CPD should not be limited to bi-annual or annual formalised check-ins.

The CPD Certification Service regard the CPD cycle as ‘a practical tool that helps structure your annual CPD plan, learning objectives and outcomes so that the training you undertake is suitable and worthwhile for your ongoing CPD requirements.’

The CPD cycle provides a framework of five logical and systematic steps:

  1. Identify needs. What knowledge or skill gaps need addressing? Conduct a straightforward needs analysis or assessment to highlight any learning needs. You’ll need to identify existing weaknesses, as well as any skills, topics or areas that will support your future professional expertise.
  2. Plan. What objectives need to be set to structure your learning? This includes looking at the specific development activities, skills and subject areas that align with overall development needs and goals, and designing a CPD plan to meet these goals.
  3. Act. Are you ready to engage with the development plan and CPD activities? The learning tasks – for example, completing online courses or attending educational workshops – will depend on your needs analysis and objectives.
  4. Reflect. How successful were the CPD learning activities? Examine what you learnt, how knowledge has increased, the skills you’ve acquired, and where the learning could be applied in your existing practice.
  5. Implement. Have you applied your new knowledge or skills in your role? Using your learning in practical ways completed the CPD cycle.

The CPD cycle can benefit all of us with its well-rounded approach. In addition to providing a structured learning path, it offers clearly defined goals and promotes the inclusion of relevant, diversified learning methods.

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