Given the rapid turnover of professional skills common in today’s workforce, Continuing or Continuous Professional Development (“CPD”) is more important than ever. Some professions require Ongoing Professional Development, for example, in order to maintain qualifications. For other professions, it can be optional. In both cases, customizing the Continuous Professional Development program is essential in order for employees to focus on the skills that are individually relevant to them.
What Is Continuing Professional Development?
Continuing Professional Development is the ongoing process of developing and maintaining professional skills. A Continuing Professional Development program might be conducted as formal courses, or in a more informal manner, through coaching, mentoring, or on-the-job observation. Every professional should be given access to Ongoing Professional Development programs, both for the benefit of the organization, and for the satisfaction of the employee.
Why Is Continuing Professional Development Important?
Continuing Professional Development is advantageous both to companies and their employees.
On an organizational level, Continuous Professional Development allows the maintenance, and sometimes the increase, of competitiveness. Clients expect a certain level of performance, and CPD enables a company to stay within the current professional standards related to their operations. Plus, the regular implementation of Continuous Professional Development by qualified instructors keeps an organization aware of developing skill trends and new strategic directions.
For individual employees, Continuous Professional Development provides the skills they need to remain productive. This can lead to advancement, a sense of competence, and greater value in the job market. An employee with an extensive skill range is a positive influence on coworkers and can even be used as a mentor. Finally, Continuous Professional Development ensures that people are accustomed to making development a regular part of their professional lives.
How to Create a Continuing Professional Development Program
Continuing Professional Development is not like other types of development programs because it is, by nature, continuous. Therefore, CPD programs occur in cycles.
Prior to building a Continuous Professional Development effort, management must agree to:
- Funding permanent program cycles
- Accommodating any scheduling disruptions
- Recognizing employee efforts with some type of compensation
In addition to obtaining managerial buy-in, those in charge of learning and development programs should build a Continuous Professional Development cycle with the following stages:
Analyze Skill Gaps
This step can take a while, but it is a practical exercise because skill gap analysis is the means by which many L&D programs are initiated. In this stage, the organization looks at the pool of skills held by the existing workforce; identifies areas of weakness; and projects additional skill requirements based on strategy, industry trends, and employee recommendations.
A vital aspect of this process is to boil down skill requirements into elements. For instance, if a lack of managerial skills is recognized, the exact nature of ‘managerial skills’ should be defined. This can include verbal communications with superiors, team workflow scheduling, and critical thinking. Anything more generalized risks a lack of focus on areas of weakness, and/or a waste of time in areas where the employee is already proficient or does not require instruction.
Once a list of skill requirements has been created, Continuous Professional Development program goals should be set. The basic method of establishing objectives is to:
- Grade the employee’s current skill level. This is particularly challenging for soft skills, and it might be necessary for clients, managers, or coworkers to provide a subjective assessment of the employee’s competency.
- Create and define a goal that determines success. This will serve as a benchmark for progress when the Continuous Professional Development program is evaluated. Again, soft skill development will require a subjective assessment.
- Build a feedback schedule. At a minimum, feedback from the employee and associated stakeholders should be recorded at the midpoint of the CPD program, and again at the end.
The manner in which Continuous Professional Development programs are mobilized highly depends on the skill being developed. Instruction can range from a one-hour session about using billing software to a full year of on-the-job leadership coaching.
The key here is to match the skill instruction to the best possible expert. As stated above, a quality CPD program will first identify skill ‘elements’, which of course should be provided by an expert in that element. Organizations should consider the value of holding online programs led by a renowned specialist, compared to in-person instruction from a conveniently-located trainer, coach, or mentor.
Last but Not Least: Scaling Continuing Professional Development
A Continuing Professional Development program should ideally be unique for every professional. Each employee has an individualized set of skills to be maintained, as well as personal goals for development. Yet it is a major challenge for organizations to accommodate customized Continuous Professional Development at scale. It is difficult to identify the precise Continuous Professional Development needs of each employee in terms of ‘elements’, as described above. Plus, finding experts in those specific fields is not common practice in the L&D industry. Still, despite these hurdles, organizations that are dedicated to implementing successful Ongoing Professional Development will use a method of analyzing skill requirements in a way that is granular and employee-specific.
GrowthSpace’s talent development solution and L&D platform is changing the world of employee learning and development with a scalable, technology-based approach unlike any other. If you want to finally see what employee L&D programs can really do for your organization, contact us.