Guide to Continuous Professional Development
Improving your professional development skills means becoming the best you can be in your current role. It also requires some focus on your future career, because you’re looking to develop the professional skills you need in order to move to the next level. Sounds great in theory, right? But how do you go about it?
Continuous professional development is the ongoing process undertaken by professionals to continually develop and maintain skills related to their role and business. Continuous professional development (CPD) benefits not only the professional themselves, but their workplace, employer and team.
Here, we’re going to discuss some continuing professional development best practices for individuals and businesses, as well as advantages of continuous professional development. Are you ready to take the next step in your professional career?
Benefits of Continuing Professional Development
Individuals that participate in continuous professional development can bring a whole new energy to a workplace. There are a wide range of benefits of CPD, which include:
- Keeping employees engaged and interested in their role and the business
- Encourages new opportunities and career progression for employees
- Increased competency in employees
- Employees achieve career goals and have satisfying professional lives
- Employees can be more efficient and productive
- Keeping up to date with best practices and industry standards
Continuous professional development is an important part of lifelong learning. Lifelong learning relates to both personal and professional learning, and is self-motivated. Lifelong learning gives skills which make a person more employable, such as personal development, self-sustainability and people skills.
Continuous Professional Development Cycle
It’s all good and well to identify that you want to undertake continuous professional development, or encourage CPD for your team, but how should you actually go about it?
The CPD cycle breaks down CPD activities into four sections: planning, learning, documenting and reflecting.
Sitting down and drawing up a CPD plan is a good way of identifying your goals and career ambitions, and putting steps into place to achieve them. A CPD plan should outline learning activities you intend to undertake, as well as particular topics you plan on learning more about. Having a plan will help you gain clarity on your career goals and the new knowledge you want to gain.
Sometimes workplaces will have CPD requirements in place, and employees will be allocated a certain number of CPD hours. Employers may be able to sit down with an employee and draw up a CPD plan together, so that both parties are on the same page about what professional development activities and formal training they will undertake, and in what timeframe.
There are informal and formal learning techniques that can be utilised for continuous professional development, which we will delve into deeper below.
Documentation is a vital aspect of keeping track of your professional development. Don’t rely on your memory – it’s best to keep a physical record of your professional education. Keep hold of any formal qualifications you acquire, and make a record of online courses or in-person training courses you attend. Make notes about what you learned to refer back to. Record any shadowing you complete, or any similar informal learning. Make note of any professional reading you complete, as well as a summary of what you learned.
Reflecting on your learning is a good way of retaining what you’ve learned, and identifying how you can apply it in your current role or in your future career development.
Some industries have CPD requirements that need to be met in order for an individual to keep up with professional knowledge. There may be a specific number of CPD hours that have to be completed every year, or a certain amount of industry reading. Each industry is different, and each workplace may have an additional CPD policy or CPD program. Make sure you are aware of the CPD requirements in your role and your industry, and set up a CPD plan to ensure you meet (or exceed) them.
Barriers to Continuing Professional Development
Barriers that may inhibit continuing professional development include:
- Lack of motivation from employee
- Lack of support from employer
- Workload or conflicting roster
- No or limited access to new technology within the industry
With options for both formal and informal learning pathways out there, as well as self-paced online courses, it should be possible for individuals and businesses to mitigate these barriers in order to participate in CPD in some capacity.
By continuing professional development throughout your career, you can ensure you always follow best practices and have the skills required for you to do your job well. In the case of a formal development course, you will have the documentation to show your qualification in case you decide to change jobs or positions.
Active learning, such as formal training courses, has the potential to be flexible to meet your needs, such as an online course or self-directed learning which employees can complete at their own pace.
Professional Development Courses
From an employer’s perspective, it’s vital to have well-trained staff, so employers should never shy away from sending their people on courses to regularly develop and maintain their professional skills. Well developed staff are happier, more productive, and deliver better results. It also ensures there is a range of suitable staff to step into roles as they become vacant.
Professional development courses cover a wide range of topics that are relevant in all types of industries. There’s a common misconception that professional development is just for office executives and professionals, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Professional training courses can relate to any industry. Some will be common for all types of careers, such as leadership courses. Project and time management courses are also going to be useful in most jobs. These courses will help employees develop skills that can be applied at any stage of their career, regardless of position.
However, continuous professional development courses can also be specific to your industry. Builders may want to learn more about construction project management. A person in retail customer service may want to study retail management. Essentially, it’s all about setting yourself or your team members up to take that next step.
CPD providers can offer professional development activities for you or your employees, so that you can ensure CPD is a key component in your workplace, but outsource the actual training.
Some industries may have access to regular educational events, such as conferences, seminars or expos. These have the potential to offer networking opportunities as well as further education in your professional field, and give you a chance to look at different methodologies for learning and doing things within your industry.
Career development and career progression can also happen more organically through informal learning techniques. Informal learning allows continuing professional education without the rigidity of a formal learning outline.
Find a Mentor You Respect
Mentors can be a great source of professional development. You could arrange to meet as frequently or infrequently as you like, and you can talk about whatever you need to. Your current situation, your future career goals, and how you’re tracking towards those goals. Mentors can provide invaluable advice and encouragement.
Mentors can be someone in management within your own company, a former supervisor, or even someone completely outside of your industry. It really depends on the type of advice and help you need. Choose someone you respect both professionally and personally and get the support you need.
Remember, There’s No Right Way to Achieve Your Goals
When you consider continuous professional development, it’s important to remember there’s no right or wrong way to achieve your goals. When it comes to developing yourself professionally, everybody’s path is different.
Likewise, you may even need to leave your company altogether and start at a lower level in different business areas. While these may seem like sideways or even backwards steps on your way to career progression, they may be the best path for you to become the leader you want to be.
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Leading on from the previous point, it’s difficult to achieve real professional development without stepping outside of your comfort zone.
This applies to all professional development. Sometimes it’s necessary to try something new in order to develop your skills. If you’re not a good public speaker, attending a course on presentation skills could be just what you need. It might feel uncomfortable, but it’s a chance to fill one of your professional skill gaps and take you to the next level.
Become a Master of Time Management
Time management is a skill that everybody should learn. We’re all busy, and it often feels like we’re being asked to do more with less time. Often, you’ll find there’s plenty of time to achieve all of your tasks if you could just manage your time more effectively.
There are formal training courses to improve time management, and it can benefit you in more than just your daily work tasks. Time management also encompasses goal-setting, both short-term and long-term. If you want to remove some of your time pressures, consider time management courses to increase your productivity, or the productivity of your team.
Be Open to Opportunities
Above all, being open to opportunities is crucial to continuous professional development. Make a point never to immediately say no to an opportunity. You should always be open to at least consider any opportunity that comes your way.
This applies to training opportunities also. At first, you may think a training course covers a topic you already know, but that may not be the case. Immerse yourself in training courses, seminars and conferences if they come your way. Even if you learn one valuable thing that benefits your career, it will be worth it.
No matter how you choose to pursue continuous professional development, just make sure you’re always trying new things. There’s no limit to the new professional skills you can develop throughout your life, and you can always keep learning.
Need Help With CPD?
Whether you want to gain more from continuous professional development, or you want to include more CPD opportunities in your business, we can help. Get in touch with us today.