Keeping on track
Wright, N. (2006) ‘Keeping on Track’, Training Journal, Fenman, February, pp39-41.
Key learning points
Organisations employ a significant number of staff who are qualified and experienced members of formal professions. An increasing number of professional bodies now expect their members to demonstrate evidence of on-going professional development. Continuous professional development (CPD) helps staff remain at the cutting edge of their respective fields of expertise. This applies to staff who are members of professional bodies as well as those who are not.
A professional workforce enhances an organisation’s internal capability and external credibility. This article proposes that an organisation does well to clarify:
Its own understanding of ‘professional’.
What support it will provide to enable CPD.
How CPD will be recorded, evaluated and rewarded.
I would recommend that, as a general principle, CPD is encouraged and available for all staff throughout an organisation, irrespective of whether they belong to a formal profession, as a useful tool to motivate and support on-going professional development.
What do we mean by professional?
The term ‘professional’ tends to be used in two different ways, to describe either:
· A qualified and experienced member of a recognised body or discipline.
· Work that meets specific, high quality standards.
In principle, the first definition above should lead naturally to the second. The second, however, does not lead necessarily to the first. This is because the first definition implies a person has studied formally and been validated by an independent body. It is, of course, possible to work to high quality standards without having been so.
CPD in general is concerned with the former definition but with the second implied, i.e. how a person builds on previous learning and how new learning is reflected in his or her practice. This will be the focus of this article in order to avoid confusion. I would like to recommend the following definition of a professional, consistent with that published by the Institute of Training & Occupational Learning[i]:
What support will the organisation provide?
The table below offers proposals for support options, including those that are already being provided by many organisations.
How will CPD be recorded, evaluated and rewarded?
Many professional bodies provide their own proformas on which to record evidence of CPD. Those staff who belong to professional bodies should be, therefore, encouraged to record their CPD according to their respective prescribed formats.
Learning & Development specialists should provide general guidance and a generic proforma for staff who do not belong to a professional body. This will enable staff to record evidence of development according to, for instance, chronology of events, types of events/opportunities or learning themes.
I would recommend a basic CPD format that includes in simple table form: date, type of learning opportunity or event (e.g. seminar), role played (e.g. participant) and key learning points. Staff should be encouraged to update their own CPD records on a monthly basis.
Staff should be encouraged to self-disclose details of professional qualifications and expertise, e.g. on the organisation’s intranet, to enable others to benefit from their learning and experience.
CPD forms are usually designed to enable self-reflection and self-evaluation. They provide an awareness of development by surfacing learning and how it has been applied and, thereby, increase professional confidence and capability.
Learning & Development specialists should encourage staff to share their CPD records with fellow team members to gain feedback and enhance personal accountability as representatives of their respective professional disciplines.
CPD should be assessed as part of the organisation’s ordinary performance appraisal process, e.g. against the 6 criteria listed above, to monitor on-going professional development throughout the organisation.
CPD can provide it own rewards in terms of increased development awareness and consequent motivation. It also provides evidence for CVs and a record of experience and learning for those who wish to apply for new jobs in the organisation or elsewhere.
Some organisations may provide internal certificates of endorsement for staff able to demonstrate evidence of development against specified criteria. This requires a formal assessment procedure.
CPD can be used as a basis for formal reward, e.g. a salary increase that reflects increased professional value to the organisation and motivates others to follow suit.
CPD is a valuable practical tool for developing and assessing an organisation’s human capital. If your organisation does not already have a policy for or commitment to CPD, I would recommend the following steps:
[i]Wright, N. (2002) ‘Six Pillars of Professionalism’, Training Technology & Human Resources, Institute of Training & Occupational Learning, November-December, p18.