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CPD: Meaning, Examples, Benefits

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7 min read
A conference room full of employees listen to CPD learning provided by their organisation.

More and more, factors other than pay are becoming more important to employees and job seekers. Research shows that 92% of candidates use L&D opportunities as the deciding factor when weighing up two job opportunities, showing just how vital personal and professional growth has become.

As industries evolve, acquiring new skills and knowledge has become essential from both an employee perspective and for companies.  Continuous development means that employees will become better versions of themselves, and organisations will gain that coveted competitive edge in a saturated marketplace. 

An employee demonstrates CPD continuing professional development through learning activities such as self directed learning.

What is CPD?

CPD, also known as ‘continuous professional development’, ‘continued professional development’ or ‘continuing professional development’, refers to the process of enhancing and expanding an individual’s knowledge and skills. As it says on the tin, the process of CPD is a ‘continuous’ one, meaning it is an ongoing process. Employees are armed with new knowledge, practical skills, and understanding and awareness of best practice in their field.  CPD is essential for professionals in all organisations as it allows them to remain competitive, adapt to evolving industry trends, and meet the changing demands of their roles.

CPD can take many forms. It could look like attendance at webinars and conferences or gaining formal qualifications. CPD can also refer to self development through reading books. Regardless of its guise, CPD is ultimately a way of becoming a better version of yourself at work.

The Importance of Continuous Professional Development

Employee’s Perspective

From an employee’s perspective, building a continuous development culture brings many advantages that enhance their professional growth and overall job satisfaction.

  • Boosting Professional Growth and Performance

CPD offers employees opportunities to expand their knowledge, acquire new skills, and stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends. Engaging in ongoing learning allows individuals to enhance their expertise and broaden their skill sets. This not only boosts their confidence in performing their current roles but also prepares them for future challenges and career progression, and promotion opportunities.

  • Increasing Job Satisfaction

According to a survey by SRHM, 94% of employees would stay longer with a company that invests in their professional development.

When employees are given a chance to develop their skills and pursue continuous learning to support future goals, it positively impacts their job satisfaction. They feel more fulfilled in their roles, as they can see their personal and professional growth progressing. The sense of accomplishment from gaining new knowledge and mastering new skills contributes to greater purpose and satisfaction in their work.

  • Enhancing Career Opportunities

Continuous development plays a vital role in expanding an employee’s career prospects and opening up new opportunities in relation to career development. By investing in their own professional growth, individuals become more marketable and attractive to potential employers. They can demonstrate their commitment to self-improvement and their ability to adapt to changing demands within their industry. 

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Employers’ Perspective

Professional development is undoubtedly great news for the individual, but let’s take a look at why CPD is also essential for organisations:

  • Gaining a Competitive Edge

An Association for Talent Development report found that companies offering comprehensive CPD programmes have 218% higher income per employee than those without such initiatives.

Providing opportunities for employees to learn and upskill within the organisation enhances their competence and effectiveness in their roles. This increased proficiency improves job performance, enhancing productivity, efficiency, and high-quality work. Developing skills in-house gives the company a distinct competitive edge in the marketplace.

  • Boosting Employee Engagement

Investing in employees’ professional growth and development demonstrates a genuine commitment to their wellbeing and success. Employees feel valued when they are given opportunities for continuous development, leading to increased motivation and empowerment. This creates a positive work environment where employees feel invested in, creating higher engagement, productivity, and innovation levels.

  • Reducing Recruitment Costs 

Enabling growth and advancement opportunities within the organisation encourages employees to stay for the long term, therefore boosting retention. This retention of talent saves costs associated with recruiting and training new employees. Additionally, promoting from within allows companies to identify and nurture top performers, creating a talent pipeline and fostering loyalty and commitment.

Employees gain learning experiences through a conference offering education in their particular field.

Examples of CPD Activities and Approaches

CPD isn’t just attending a one-off training session. Continuous professional development could include a wide range of activities and approaches that professionals can engage in to enhance their knowledge and skills. Here are some examples:

Gaining Formal Qualifications

A great way to develop is to pursue structured learning through formal qualifications such as degrees, certificates and diplomas through a professional body. Accredited CPD training providers are also popular CPD choices and offer valuable training courses. These formal routes provide in-depth knowledge and recognised credentials, furthering professional growth and opening doors to new opportunities.

Attending Webinars And Conferences

Webinars and conferences focused on specific topics or areas of interest are valuable CPD opportunities. These events often feature expert speakers, thought leaders, and industry practitioners who share insights, trends, and best practices. They offer a platform to stay updated on the latest developments in the field and expand knowledge in targeted areas.

Gaining Licenses

Some professions require licenses or certifications to practice legally or to work in specialised areas. Obtaining and maintaining these licenses often requires individuals to undertake CPD activities. These activities can include attending mandatory training sessions, workshops, or seminars to stay compliant with industry regulations and standards.

Being Mentored

Sometimes unstructured learning is beneficial when it comes to development goals. Engaging in mentoring relationships is an effective CPD approach. Mentors, who are experienced professionals in the field, provide guidance, support, and personalised advice. They can help mentees identify areas for improvement, offer practical insights, and share their own experiences, contributing to the advancement of professional skills and development.

A line manager sits with his team to outline structured CPD opportunities available to them.

How Can Employers Enable CPD?

Although it’s essential that individuals are engaged and motivated to progress their own continuous professional development, it’s also important that organisations help employees progress their CPD and ensure they are able to access the CPD opportunities available to them.

Let’s look at some key steps to enabling CPD in the workplace:

  1. Assess Employee Goals Against Current Skills

Begin by assessing your employee’s current skill set and identifying areas where you believe they would benefit from enhancing their knowledge. Work with them to reflect on their professional goals, career aspirations, and the skills required to achieve them. This assessment helps both employers and employees identify the specific areas of focus for the CPD journey.

  1. Create a CPD Plan With SMART Targets

Develop a CPD plan that outlines the learning objectives and sets specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) targets. These targets provide clear direction and help track progress. Align your CPD goals with long-term career aspirations and break them down into smaller, manageable steps.

  1. Identify Relevant Activities to Support the CPD Plan

Research and identify suitable activities, courses, workshops, conferences, or resources that align with employees’ CPD goals. Consider both formal and informal learning opportunities, such as online courses, industry events, webinars, networking events, and professional association memberships. Select activities that address the specific skills or knowledge gaps identified in step one.

  1. Implement and Review the CPD Plan

Allocate time and resources to support an employee’s learning. Regularly review their progress against the CPD plan and adjust it as necessary. Assess the effectiveness of the activities they have undertaken and reflect on how they have contributed to professional growth.

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How to know whether CPD is giving you ROI?

When considering CPD, leaders often consider the question: “Is this activity providing a return on our investment?”. It’s crucial to remember that CPD is not solely focused on personal growth but also a business consideration. Organisations must strike a balance between individual growth and the tangible value that CPD can bring back to the organisation.

Assessing the ROI of CPD is essential to determine its effectiveness in supporting professional growth and achieving desired outcomes. Here are key strategies to evaluate the ROI of your CPD efforts:

Monitor Budget, Resources and Allocation of Time

Keep track of the financial resources, time, and effort invested in CPD activities. Monitor how these resources are allocated to ensure they are aligned with your CPD goals. Analyse the cost-effectiveness of the activities undertaken and ensure they provide value for the investment made.

Track CPD Achievements

Maintain a record of employee CPD achievements, including the activities completed, courses attended, certifications obtained, and milestones reached. This documentation helps evaluate the tangible outcomes of the organisation’s CPD efforts and provides a clear measure of progress towards the wider professional goals.

Measure Skills

Regularly assess and measure the skills employees have gained or developed through CPD activities. Compare the skill set before and after engaging in CPD to gauge the impact of any learning efforts. This evaluation can be done through self-assessment, performance reviews, feedback from colleagues or supervisors, or by participating in skill assessments or examinations.

An employee sits at a table at home to persue self directed CPD.

Ensuring Your Employees Have the Support They Need to Achieve CPD

So, you’ve identified where an individual needs to gain additional skills or knowledge and pinpointed how they will do that, but what happens next? Supporting employees in their CPD journey maximises their growth and development. Let’s look at how employers can support their workforce in achieving CPD:

  • Providing Guidance on Time Management

Balancing work responsibilities and CPD activities can be challenging. Employers can provide guidance and resources to help employees effectively manage their time and prioritise their CPD efforts. This may include time management workshops, tools, or coaching sessions to assist employees in finding a balance that allows them to engage in CPD while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

  • Ensuring Alignment Of Learning Style

Each employee has their own preferred learning style, which should be acknowledged to optimise each individual’s learning experience. Whether it be online courses, face-to-face workshops, or hands-on training, employers should consider the learning preferences of their employees when identifying CPD activities. By offering a variety of learning options, employees can engage in activities that align with their learning style, leading to enhanced engagement and effectiveness in their development efforts.

  • Providing Access to Resources and Learning Opportunities

Employers can support employees by providing access to a wide range of resources and learning opportunities. This may include subscriptions to online learning platforms, access to industry-specific literature or publications, sponsorship for attending conferences or workshops, or in-house training programmes. By investing in these resources, employers demonstrate their commitment to employee development and provide avenues for continuous learning.

  • Encouraging a Supportive And Learning-Oriented Culture

Create a workplace culture that encourages and values continuous learning and CPD. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable seeking support and guidance for their professional development. Encourage knowledge sharing, peer mentoring, and collaboration to promote a culture of continuous improvement and learning from one another.

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Amy is a knowledgeable People professional with over a decade of experience across a variety of private and public sector organisations. With a particular interest in employee engagement, Amy is an advocate for employee-centric approaches in all areas of HR which is reflected in her writing. Before a career in HR, Amy read English and Creative Writing at university and later studied for her CIPD, HR Management.

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