Make CPD a choice not a chore

Carlie Cole explains how to create CPD initiatives that provide real benefit.

In theory, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a marvellously beneficial idea. But in practice, individuals often regard it as a tedious chore and some organisations question whether it adds any real value.

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When it’s successful, CPD builds the confidence and credibility of employees; it helps them not only to be more productive but also to further their own career goals. Organisations benefit not only from improved levels of engagement and morale but also from employees applying their learning to their role.

So how do you introduce and maintain a successful CPD initiative? The first thing to understand is that a ‘one size fits all’ approach won’t work. You cannot impose a fixed CPD programme for all staff. CPD learning has to be self-directed.

Employees have to be able to reflect on their own learning requirements and choose development interventions that will meet those needs. Success comes from enabling employees to learn relevant skills that they want to learn, so they can then apply their learning to the challenges they’re facing in their day-to-day work.

However, if you simply allow employees to choose any learning intervention that suits them, they can become bewildered by the infinite options that are available. So offering a varied yet specific menu of proven development choices is a good idea. It’s certainly more manageable.

One way to do this is to create a dedicated online catalogue of potential options. Employees can then self-select any of these options, following their performance reviews, to further their own development needs and their career interests.

Many different development options exist that will meet the learning needs of employees and help them in their roles. However, you can gain several advantages from including open programmes in your catalogue.

For example, this enables you to cost effectively offer a broad range of programmes on subjects such as people management, leadership, interpersonal skills, communications, sales, marketing, presentations, project management and finance and your staff will benefit from sharing experiences with their peers in different organisations. This often provides a more enjoyable and more rounded development experience for each individual.

One disadvantage of including publicly-scheduled courses in your CPD catalogue is that the price of each course is readily identifiable. In some instances, this can cause resentment amongst employees, because there isn’t a level playing field. Some programmes will be more expensive than others and individuals may feel they are being treated disproportionately.

However, this can easily be overcome. We have recently created a CPD programme for the UK and Ireland sales and marketing team at Olympus Medical Systems, which manufactures diagnostic products for the medical world. Their programme operates through a system of ‘credits.’

Employees are each given a number of credits – depending on their seniority or tenure, which entitle them to attend an open training programme. One credit equals one day of training. A considerable advantage of using credits is that this is perceived to be a fair system. It’s easy for people to understand how the training credits have been allocated. It also removes any comparison of the monetary value of each person’s training, so there’s no need to worry about different course prices.

Another benefit here is that Olympus Medical Systems has been able to brand its CPD programme, so that the initiative is instantly identifiable within the business. Their goal was to engage and empower employees so they could take greater responsibility for their own learning and self-select training that is pertinent to them.

But they also wanted the initiative to add value to their business. Creating an online catalogue of courses from a single provider saved them time and money as they no longer have to constantly book ad hoc training programmes with different suppliers. More than that, they benefited by creating an initiative that involves staff and enhances their experience at work. That, in turn, is helping their employees to add greater value to the business.

Another lesson learned by Olympus Medical Systems is that having an identifiable CPD programme enhances your employer brand. It provides a competitive differentiation and it’s an attractive benefit that you can promote when recruiting staff.

Essentially, the secrets to successful CPD are to remove any obstacles for staff by making the whole process as simple as possible and to keep people motivated at all stages.

If you can offer development options that are not only enjoyable and worthwhile, but which also enable people to apply their learning, so they benefit and so does the business then you’re well on the way to creating a lasting and successful initiative.

About the author

Carlie Cole is a development consultant at learning specialist Hemsley Fraser


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