We spend a lot of time at Solo, talking to clients and colleagues about how they can grow and improve their business; how they can stay abreast of current developments and ensure that their organisations remains current and effective and how they can develop themselves and their staff to be as effective and productive as possible. Key to much of this is the approach to CPD, or continuing professional development. HR professionals have, for some time, been advocating this approach and emphasising the benefits that a positive and supportive approach to CPD can have. The following excerpt from their website, demonstrates the approach of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and can be found at http://www.cipd.co.uk/cpd/aboutcpd/whatiscpd.htm
What is CPD?
CPD is a combination of approaches, ideas and techniques that will help you manage your own learning and growth. The focus of CPD is firmly on results – the benefits that professional development can bring you in the real world. Perhaps the most important message is that one size doesn’t fit all. Wherever you are in your career now, and whatever you want to achieve, your CPD should be exactly that: yours.
What is the process?
CPD isn’t a fixed process, although we do lay down certain basic processes. Fundamentally, it’s a question of setting yourself objectives for development and then charting your progress towards achieving them. It’s about where you want to be, and how you plan to get there. Our approach is based on reflection that focuses on outcomes and results, rather than ‘time spent’ or ‘things done’.
Is it time consuming?
We’re not concerned with how much time you spend on training courses or how many boxes you tick on a form. CPD is about capturing useful experiences and assessing the practical benefits of what you have learned. There is one decisive question that you should ask yourself to evaluate every piece of learning: what can you do now that you couldn’t do before? Similarly, when you record your CPD, it’s the value of the activity that counts. It’s not what you did, but how you can use what you learned.
Why should I keep a CPD record?
As a professional, you have a responsibility to keep your skills and knowledge up to date. CPD helps you turn that accountability into a positive opportunity to identify and achieve your own career objectives.
At least once a year, we recommend you review your learning over the previous 12 months, and set your development objectives for the coming year. Reflecting on the past and planning for the future in this way makes your development more methodical and easier to measure. This is a particularly useful exercise prior to your annual appraisal!
Some people find it helpful to write things down in detail, while others record ‘insights and learning points’ in their diaries as they go along. This helps them to assess their learning continuously. These records and logs are useful tools for planning and reflection: it would be difficult to review your learning and learning needs yearly without regularly recording in some way your experiences.
So, in order to ensure that we also demonstrate our belief in CPD and ‘walk the walk’, Solo consultants spend time and energy thinking about CPD and ensuring that our own professional practice is up to date and in line with current thinking. We do this in a number of ways, including:
• Reflecting on our own experiences and learning lessons from what went badly, as well as what went well
• Group sessions designed to critically evaluate the team’s performance and the value of contributions made by everyone
• Networking with other groups of professionals and listening to a wide range of opinions and experiences
• Attending formal ‘taught’ sessions on specific subjects and then sharing the information with colleagues
• Reading professional journals, newspapers and internet information
• Knowing when to stop working and allow time for other things (family, reading, riding, gardening, yoga)- one of the risks of being self-employed is not switching off and neglecting other important areas of life!
• Recording in brief the learning that we have gained from each area of activity in a way that makes sense to us, and allows for periodic evaluation
The most common default on CPD is the lack of systematic recording and evaluation. It can be tough to keep records which require time, thought and some form of reflection and evaluation. Nevertheless, it’s also habit forming and once the discipline of recording on a regular basis has been established, it just becomes part of the usual weekly, or monthly routine. If you are having difficulty with this area of CPD, try scheduling an hour on a regular basis in the diary which is specifically for this purpose. And remember to put the reminder into your calendar too!
CPD is a genuinely powerful and effective tool for ensuring that you stay focused and effective in whatever line of work that you do. For us, it’s particularly important that we are also seen to be practising what we preach!