Education

What is continued professional development and why is it important?

In a world where everything is constantly changing, it is important to keep up with the changes in professional settings. The best way to do that is by opting for continuing professional development programs. With continuous learning, an individual can experience superior growth opportunities and greater success in their professional career.

What is continued professional development? 

Continued professional development or CPD is all about commitment to lifelong learning. It encompasses all the learning activities undertaken by professionals to improve and enhance their skills and knowledge. With participation-based or interactive learning experiences, professionals can expand their knowledge with the help of certified courses.

CPD is all about identifying new opportunities to learn, refresh existing knowledge, enhance skills or simply remain updated about the latest developments in one’s own profession. It can involve taking a certified course, attending a conference, getting a certified degree or relevant qualification, or even learning new aspects of the assigned job.

Types of continued professional development

Continued professional development is one of the most powerful tools in the professional industry that can steer your career to different heights. The types of CPD can generally be defined by their learning or teaching methods.

  1. Formal or structured CPD: This CPD involves interactive learning where individuals actively take part in the training. As a type of participation-based learning, it can include online or offline training, seminars, conferences, workshops, events and lectures. It is a proactive type of learning and can also involve assessments and career-oriented examinations.
  2. Informal or self-directed CPD: Informal continued professional development is when professionals carry out a development activity without a formally structured syllabus. An individual can choose according to their preference as it is totally self-reliant. Ranging from activities such as reading articles, books or other publications to following industry-specific news and podcasts, everything is included in informal CPD. There is no time limit for this type of learning, and the duration can vary for each individual.
  3. Reflective or passive CPD: This type of continued professional development is similar to a structured CPD format where there are specific timelines, but they typically lack any participant-based interactions. It is a more unidirectional approach to learning that usually includes watching training videos, attending pre-recorded lectures, listening to podcasts and following industry updates.

Different ways of continued professional development learning

There is no standard way to approach CPD learning. Instead, there are several different approaches an individual can take, and incorporating a variety of them in a program can increase knowledge retention. A CPD program can combine all three types of CPD to help improve engagement and information retention and may incorporate any of the following.

  • Training courses: These training courses are usually defined for one subject or a specific skill set in the industry. The duration of these courses can vary from one day to several days. A course can include multiple forms of learning, such as seminars, lectures and workshops. In today’s world, these can be delivered in-person, online or in a hybrid setup depending on the selected course provider.
  • Seminars: Usually, a seminar lasts for a few hours, or up to a day at maximum. Seminars can focus on one specific subject in much more detail and are conducted in a group setting. They involve activities like group discussion, group work and interactive sessions so that individuals can contribute, resulting in better information retention. Seminars also offer an opportunity for networking as most others attending the seminar belong to similar industries.
  • Workshops: A workshop refers to an interactive group session where individuals receive learning opportunities. It runs for anywhere between one to three days. They are somewhat similar to seminars, but unlike seminars, workshops are less theoretical. Professionals get to learn through a hands-on approach, which can include practical exercises, role play and other activities. A workshop group is usually smaller than a seminar as it is more hands-on. It gives an opportunity to apply theoretical information in a more practical setting.
  • Webinars: Webinars are online lectures that are organized for a virtual audience. The main objective of a webinar is to inform and educate the professionals in a concise manner while sharing the latest relevant information. In a CPD webinar, professionals can ask questions, interact with the host, complete surveys and even share documents with other attendees. There is no requirement for in-person attendance in webinars; therefore, a larger audience can attend from all over the world, giving them an opportunity to interact with different people.
  • Events: There are many events that can be considered for continued professional development programs – for example, a live speaker session in the form of a panel discussion, a conference, seminars and even workshops. If an organization hosts a trade show, even that can become an educational CPD learning opportunity for the employees.

 

  • Online courses: Online CPD courses are becoming increasingly popular among professionals and employees as they offer the best convenience and are quite affordable. There is no requirement to attend in-person training, and the course materials are all available online or provided by the course. Online courses are also flexible in terms of when an individual wants to schedule the classes so that no personal or professional commitments are affected. In many online CPD courses, participation can be spread over many days instead of sitting and completing the course in one day.

Importance of continued professional development

Professionals typically choose continued professional development programs to increase their skills and knowledge while on the job. While they are working, they are already academically sound in terms of credentials and are working in their favored professions. To further boost their knowledge, professionals opt for a continued professional development program so that they can learn in a structured yet practical format. CPD programs also help in identifying which skills they need to work on in a short time period so that an improvement is visible in a professional setting. A planned CPD approach will let professionals take charge of their careers, professional development and future aspirations. Increased confidence through increased knowledge can translate directly into enhanced professional performance.

If you are a working professional who is interested in keeping up with the latest updates and changes in your industry, opting for a CPD course can help improve your career and employment prospects. Carson-Newman University offers a variety of continuing professional development courses that are suited for many industries, such as nursing and healthcare.

When it comes to CPD, most of the responsibility comes down to an individual’s own motivation and interest. It shows initiative on their part, and it will also help employers notice them from among their peers. However, with changing industry practices and skill gaps, even employers are encouraging their employees to take part in CPD.

Benefits of CPD

Continued professional development provides benefit to both the employee and employer. While it is common to assume that a degree certification will suffice and that individuals will bring ample skills to their job, CPD can elevate your working profile. An individual can prevent any skill gaps with professional development and help reduce any losses faced by the organization because of it. By continuing professional development, you can develop and learn new skills while keeping your knowledge up to date.

Here are some of the benefits of CPD for employees:

  • Stay updated with constant changes in the world – The professional world is constantly changing. Especially because of the pandemic, work culture has changed drastically as working from home has now become a norm. As a result, people needed to adjust to a new online setting and get comfortable with several technologies and software. Keeping up with the changes and trends has never been more important, and failing to do so can have a negative impact on your professional growth.
  • Increase effectiveness in the workplace – With increased knowledge and a host of skills, a person can be more effective in the workplace. It will improve the chances of professional career growth, and with increased knowledge, leadership roles may also open up.
  • Provide better service with updated knowledge – Keeping up with the latest information and skills can make individuals stand out from their peers. Up-skilling will also keep your knowledge updated and allow individuals to perform better in their jobs.
  • Stay ahead of the competition – By updating skills and knowledge, an individual will be able to keep up with changes in their industry. For example, in the healthcare industry, new technology is constantly being added to routine procedures to maintain people’s health. Being aware and informed about these changes can help healthcare professionals keep ahead of their competition.
  • Less likely to become jaded – Everyone becomes jaded with the daily routine of the same job, but by engaging in CPD, professionals can learn new things and refresh their knowledge. It will help them maintain interest in their career and improve productivity and efficiency.
  • Increased understanding of your work – A CPD course can help in understanding the larger effects of the work done in their organization. This, in turn, will increase an individual’s engagement in their work and improve their overall performance.
  • Potentially increase your confidence in public – Increased abilities and skills can help in improving your confidence. Whether it is inside the workplace or in public, professionals will feel more confident about their skills, and it will reflect in their behavior.
  • Access to experts in the field – Interacting with experts in one’s profession is possible through CPD training courses.
  • Increase knowledge through peers – You can further enhance your skills by engaging with peers through continued professional development activities.

“The best way to drive performance in an organization is to create an environment in which information can flow freely, mistakes can be highlighted, and help can be offered and received.” – Simon Sinek, The Infinite Game

On the other hand, for an employer, continued professional development programs are all about improving productivity with motivated employees, setting a high standard within the company with a focus on staff development, increasing staff retention, creating a learning environment in the company and encouraging employees to keep up with the latest trends and changes in the industry. With CPD learning opportunities, there is better engagement and commitment within the workforce. A workplace that engages in continued professional development will certainly have a higher level of morale, and the company standards will be high and consistent. In addition, CPD courses can also be used as a benchmark for appraisals or any other planned career progression.

What are the challenges faced during CPD?

Although CPD is essential in most industries to keep up with changes and trends, the practice continues to face several challenges. These challenges include lack of motivation, financial constraints, absence of support, lack of learning opportunities and more.

It is important to remember that continued professional development is not just about attending training or certain lectures and gaining a certificate. CPD is about understanding and realizing that new skills or knowledge can improve an individual’s response to the usual challenges faced in the profession.

Another challenge faced by those trying to seek professional development is that they are unaware of what is actually included in CPD. It is unclear to them what counts as a CPD activity and what doesn’t. The importance of continued professional development also varies from organization to organization, despite being accepted in many industries. This difference in practices and procedures can also impact the effectiveness of a CPD program.

Lack of effective trainers is also a common challenge as companies usually bring external individuals who may or may not be sufficiently qualified. As they are outside trainers, after the training ends, employees cannot contact them, making the training slightly superficial.

Also, in a world where many events now occur on Zoom or other online video conferencing software, professionals will miss out on networking opportunities while attending virtual CPD activities. No matter the convenience of learning, professional networking just isn’t the same in the online working space, where a lot of CPD learning takes place. However, with all of this training becoming available online, professionals can get an opportunity to interact with a diverse set of people while sharing knowledge.

From an employer’s perspective, ultimately, the challenges in continuing professional development programs are associated with resources and money. If a CPD program is carried out during professional working hours, the company may require additional manpower to work on routine tasks. Secondly, CPD programs can be costly for a company, for example, if the company has multiple offices and needs to gather all employees in one location. Even if it is a smaller organization, employees attending training and classes will be unable to work while they are away. Overall, CPD can be a very costly affair for an organization.

How do you plan your continued professional development?

Before starting a CPD program, it is important to identify the end goals, the resources that are required and available, and the expected timeframe.

A CPD plan can help in identifying and keeping a record of what’s been learned, which can then be applied to your career and professional role. Having this plan can even help in identifying the critical skills required for your current or future prospective job. It is essential to analyze any skill gaps and then set objectives to overcome these missing skills and improve your existing knowledge level. By identifying these two things, you can then go about finding the appropriate CPD program and implement it accordingly to gain the most benefits.

If an employer supports continued professional development, making a CPD plan can also be a part of your job appraisal. Regardless, you can still use it as a personal plan when seeking a better role or even a change in career.

Continued professional development is both an ongoing process and a cyclical process. You will most likely continue to learn during your professional life. As a result, developing a method that works for you early in your career is an excellent idea.

Final thoughts

Continued professional development activities can ensure that an individual’s academic and practical qualifications remain up to date instead of becoming obsolete and outdated. Individuals can ‘up skill’ or even ‘re-skill’ irrespective of the industry they are employed. There are no limitations, be it age or educational qualifications, as learning is continuous. As each industry becomes more specialized, it is important to continually learn new things to remain competitive in a changing world.

Continued professional development is an ongoing process where individuals can improve skills, enhance their knowledge and remain updated with the latest changes in their industries. It will certainly enhance professional performance and even improve future career prospects, whether with the same employer or a new one.

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