What is CPD? A Guide to Continuing Professional Development

July 20, 2017
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The progression of your professional career and organisation depends greatly on how often you and others engage in CPD: continuing professional development. Without it, you may struggle to keep up with the ever-changing world of work.

Ongoing learning enables a level of growth that separates the average Joe from the truly outstanding. So if you’re looking for a way to reach greater success, CPD is a proven route.

What is CPD?

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is the process of developing professional skills and knowledge through interactive, participation-based or independent learning. It enables learners to proactively develop their professional capabilities through certified learning or self-guided learning methods.

It involves setting objectives for short and long-term progression with a structured and goal-specific plan. People engaging in CPD need to keep records of any knowledge attained and progress made for the purpose of reflecting on their learning and for showcasing skills, and sometimes as evidence of having undertaken CPD.

Development should build on technical and non-technical skills, so learners gain the expertise and understanding required to approach professional situations from various angles.

Why is CPD Important?

Many professions have set requirements for ongoing CPD, where it is necessary for individuals to prove they are capable of adhering to current essential standards – such as legal, medical, and accounting roles.

But beyond that, CPD helps people retain a consistent set of high quality, relevant skills and knowledge throughout their professional life. The best part is that CPD puts learners in a favourable position to demonstrate new knowledge, work to impressive standards, and progress in their career.

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CPD benefits for the learner:

  • Refines your personal skills and intellect and helps to plug any knowledge gaps.
  • Keeps academic and practical qualifications up to date – keeping skills relevant is integral in today’s fast-moving world, where rapid progression can quickly lead to previous learning becoming obsolete.
  • Opens pathways to career progression or potential redirection, including achieving higher salaries and better job security.
  • Enhances your ability to regularly learn and improve – you’ll learn quicker as you become acquainted with the process and will become a better independent learner.
  • Demonstrates ambitiousness, aptitude, and a dedication to self-improvement to current and prospective employers and clients.
  • Provides valuable examples and scenarios for showcasing professional achievements and growth in CVs, cover letters, and interviews.
  • Reduces feelings of uncertainty or worries about change – CPD gives you a plan for future aspirations and the ability to readily adapt.
  • Promotes independence – self-directed CPD requires you to consciously engage in learning activities and follow your own plan, while some structured CPD activities can benefit from you engaging in further research and study.

Continuous professional development can also be an excellent self-motivation tool, as it reminds you of your achievements and progression. Plus, its flexibility and diversity – in terms of the different forms of CPD learning available – gives you an opportunity to find a learning approach that fits you best.

CPD benefits for the business:

  • Ensures that standards throughout the company are consistently high.
  • Improves efficiency and productivity with highly skilled and motivated staff.
  • Enhances the business’s reputation among customers and clients as well as potential employees.
  • Promotes a healthy learning culture.
  • Improves employee retention as employees feel valued and loyal to the company.
  • Provides a useful benchmark for annual reviews and appraisals.
  • Enables the company to positively react and move with current trends and shifts in the industry.

To achieve these benefits, businesses should always support employees’ continuous personal development and allow equal access to learning opportunities. Keep in mind that there are at least a dozen different types of CPD, so there’s always one form or another that suits your schedule and needs.

What are the Different Types of CPD?

There are two main types of CPD: formal, structured learning and informal, self-directed learning.

Formal CPD usually follows set curriculums, often approved by professional bodies such as the CPD Certification Service to prove they are effective and well-structured. Conversely, informal CPD involves learners engaging in independent professional learning by finding their own sources of information and activities.

what is cpd

Formal CPD: structured, active learning

The learner engages in interactive, participation-based learning, usually provided by somewhere other than the company for which they work. Structured CPD often involves more than one learner for the benefit of idea sharing and group activities, but it can be one-to-one.

Structured CPD includes:

  • Online and offline training courses.
  • Learning-oriented conferences and meetings.
  • Group events.
  • Workshops.
  • Online and offline seminars and lectures.
  • Other CPD-certified events.

Many structured CPD activities involve professionals taking career-oriented exams and assessments, which is useful for measuring a learner’s CPD progress: CPD can be tracked with attendance records, test results, written materials, etc.

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Informal CPD: unstructured, self-directed learning

Self-directed learning refers to any development activities that are guided solely by the learner, often without following a curriculum.  If you are going to engage in self-directed CPD, you should draw up a CPD plan that covers what you expect to learn.

Self-directed CPD includes:

  • Studying online and offline publications written by industry experts.
  • Reading articles and case studies.
  • Listening to and making notes on podcasts.
  • Following industry-specific news feeds.
  • Writing articles and essays for personal development.
  • Additional studying and revising for professional examinations.

Learners should aim to engage in both formal and informal CPD to achieve the benefits of both.

It’s also crucial that learners reflect on their CPD learning. It is the most crucial stage of the CPD process, as it enables you to determine what worked and where your strengths lie, and how you can plan and improve future CPD activities. Self-reflection is used by those who are truly goal-oriented and open to real growth.

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