Exploring CPD: how different options work in practice

Continuous professional development allows those working in the accountancy space to keep their qualifications up to date and gain vital experience and expertise.

Continuous professional development (CPD) forms an essential part of accountants reaching their full potential, enabling them to keep their technical credentials, business skills and industry knowledge up to date.

Many qualifications, including AAT affiliate and professional membership, also insist on CPD.

What are the main CPD options?

There are a wide variety of options when it comes to how CPD is delivered. Formal qualifications are one route, with individuals undertaking online or classroom-based courses, attending conferences or studying towards other qualifications.

“Once someone embarks on CPD, they can take points from any relevant module and in any delivery method they choose,” says David Wilson, managing director of Qualification Central. “Hours are stacked over a certain period of time and often professionals are required to complete a set amount of hours per year to maintain their standing professionally.”

Professional activities, such as becoming involved with an industry body, mentoring or networking, can also count as CPD, while self-directed learning is a fourth area, which can include taking part in webinars, podcasts or undertaking reading or research into relevant topics.

What does good CPD look like in accountancy?

One accountancy firm which makes good use of CPD is d&t accountants, based in Swindon. “One of the big things that we have noticed is that although only qualified accountants are mandated to hit CPD targets, everyone within the firm should be undertaking CPD for their own benefit, and also to benefit the firm and its clients,” says Carl Reader, chairman of the firm.

The business tends to use external training providers, as its size of around 50 people means it’s caught in between relying on informal, on-the-job training and having its own dedicated training team in-house.

An important part of the process is that its individuals who choose the areas they want to develop in, although this is likely to be linked to the job or sector they are currently undertaking and there are obvious benefits to employers to invest in this.

Picking CPD that’s relevant to you

For those who have completed the AAT qualification, studying towards a higher-level accounting qualification will count as CPD. But there are plenty of other options for those who are not yet ready to embark on that, including some courses which are very specific to a particular industry or sector.

“It’s important to understand your own ambition and where you wish to proceed in the future,” points out Luke Robért, accounting and finance recruitment consultant at Acorn Recruitment.

“Double-check that any qualifications or other development pathways offered to you during the course of your work are relevant, either to the industry you happen to be working in at the time or those you may have an eye on joining in the future, official or unofficial. It’s also important to note that these qualifications often have their own optional modules that you might find more relevant so choose wisely.”

Examples of the kind of CPD courses that can be undertaken include insolvency, Making Tax Digital and cloud accounting, but others are more generic, such as employment law, selling a business or dealing with difficult people.

CPD advice for employers

Marilyn Devonish, owner of TranceFormations, suggests managers and team leaders speak to individual employees to identify the best areas to focus on to develop them, both professionally and personally.

“I usually suggest doing some kind of values elicitation to find out more about individual employees,” she says. When you understand employee triggers, drivers, motivators, and learning styles, you can offer training interventions and support which are specifically geared to each employee, and which address and meet a real need.”

For the employer, it’s important to have a system in place that allows the firm to monitor progress or improvement as a result of any CPD. “You can measure levels of productivity, task competence, confidence, resilience and improvements in problem-solving capabilities, critical-thinking skills and the ability to make more independent decisions,” says Devonish

In summary

There are many different options for firms looking to invest in continuous professional development for their staff. Some relate to pure accountancy knowledge; others to soft skills or sector-specific learning.

What’s important is that staff are continuously developed, both for the additional value this will bring them in their role and in their own sense of professional development. In turn, employers stand to benefit from having better-engaged employees, who are more likely to remain with the business for the long term.

Key tips

  • Make sure staff understand the need to engage in CPD
  • Work with them to identify the most appropriate options
  • Ensure they have the time they need to study and attend courses
  • Have in place some mechanism to measure outcomes

Further reading

Nick Martindale is a freelance journalist, editor and copywriter. He regularly contributes to a wide range of national and business media, including The Telegraph, Raconteur supplements in The Times and HR magazine.

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