Continued Professional Development (CPD) isn’t just about looking for the next promotion or enabling you to spread your wings elsewhere.
It also makes you more satisfied and content with your current role.
‘CPD is a constant process of evaluation, which is something I think a lot of people overlook,’ says learning and development specialist David Thorp, Executive Director of the Business Continuity Institute. ‘The core of any good CPD is self-reflection. Yes, it ensures your skills are current and up-to-date, but the benefit of seeing it as a rolling learning process is that you understand yourself and your motivations better. This enables you to enhance strengths, minimise weaknesses and become a more rounded person.’
CPD is truly holistic, Thorp says. ‘It’s a constructivist process. You put yourself at the centre of your learning. So while some of it is prescribed, a lot of companies will use that learning in next year’s appraisal.’ In other words, you can shape your future career, by thinking carefully about the CPD you engage in now. ‘That’s the real benefit of CPD. It’s relatively easy to go on a course, absorb the learning and tick the boxes. What really makes the difference for you as an individual is when you come back to work and you have advantages that you didn’t have before.’ As Thorp points out, ‘facts only become valuable when you can turn them into insight, and the right attitude to your development will foster than insight-building approach.’
‘Taking your CPD seriously enhances day-to-day job satisfaction,’ says Paul Stevenson, Managing Director of marketing and advertising agency Wall to Wall Sunshine. ‘It can be helpful to see it as analogous to going to the gym. It’s not the one session last May that made you fitter; if you semi-regularly train, then without a doubt you will come back stronger. It’s virtually impossible to avoid it – if I go to the gym regularly, then I cannot help benefiting.’ Regular CPD is exactly the same, Stevenson says. ‘It keeps you match-fit and makes your brain agile.’
There are knock-on benefits that make you feel more valued in your present job and help you recognise that you are being invested in. ‘As your company is giving you both time and money, it shows you are being treated with respect. It helps you appreciate your current role more; you might even reassess your current job and realise you like it more than you thought you did.’ It’s a compliment to your skills to be offered CPD, Stevenson says; ‘it sends a message to you that you’re worth being trained, it offers commitment and it offers a certain level of security.’
And there are satellite benefits that you don’t necessarily think of when you sign up for a course or go to an event. ‘It energises you; you come back with new ideas and stimulation aside from the specific learning outcomes you went on the course for, and this can be shared with colleagues when you get back to the office.
‘We all know there’s a skills shortage,’ Stevenson says. ‘To the employee, that’s actually an advantage. If I make myself a desirable, knowledgeable, experienced and qualified professional, I will be in demand – I can fill those gaps that are so needed by companies.’
For any regulated profession, it’s a requirement to demonstrate your CPD commitment. So employers should always be on-side with you when it comes to requesting time for development. ‘For the employer, it always comes down to whether or not courses are helping grow the business, says Wayne Reynolds, Director of Atriarc Planning & Construction. ‘As long as the training is relevant to business – and that includes most courses that are not entirely leftfield – your employer will see the benefits all round and be supportive.’
Show genuine interest and commitment to the training, Reynolds says, and employers will then support you ‘because they know that a disengaged employee will be less motivated and therefore less productive. It’s mutually beneficial to develop related interests that benefit both individual and company.’ The course doesn’t always have to be precisely aligned to the job. ‘You can always pick up new skillsets that will be relevant further down the line.’
For Reynolds, regular CPD can ‘break the 9 to 5 habits – and this is important. As a director, you want new ideas for business growth. Where do those ideas come from? If your employees get out there and talk to people, see what the competition is doing and come back with new thinking – that’s what leads to innovation.’
If CPD can help on so many levels, why do we not always take full advantage of what’s on offer? Why do we often get to the end of the year and find we need to quickly fill up our CPD card? ‘The trouble for both employer and employee is that whilst we all recognise CPD is important, it’s never the urgent priority,’ says Paul Stevenson. ‘There’s no one particular incident that triggers the need for training.’ This is why the continuous approach is effective. Make it part of the fabric of your working life, Stevenson says. ‘Over a few years of improving yourself you will be more employable, better able to contribute, more skilled, and have more self-esteem. It’s exponential.’
Stevenson also points out the advantages of seeing CPD as a long game. ‘Some people expect instant promotion; the world doesn’t work like that. But the key to remember is that if you’re not noticed the first or second time round – you will be third time. Sooner or later, you will get noticed, and by then it’ll be for the right reasons.’
‘Learning never exhausts the mind,’ said Leonardo da Vinci. So there are no good reasons not to engage wholeheartedly with CPD. To make things happen, however, take personal responsibility for your own development – look around for what’s on offer, plan your own CPD strategy and don’t leave it to the end of the year to get those points on your record card.
Mark Blayney Stuart is Business Journalist of the Year, Wales Media Awards 2017 and Former Head of Research at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.