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Why CPD is so important to employees and employers

Written by: Adam Bernstein
Published on: 23 Apr 2024


Image © corepics / Adobe Stock

Those who think learning ends when leaving school have a very narrow outlook. The best way to continue the process of learning in what is termed continuing professional development (CPD), and those who take this seriously, through their own efforts, put themselves in the best possible position to advance and succeed in their chosen careers.

It is for this reason that the professions require members to continually learn, so as to stay up to date with new developments.

Indeed, it is invariably a requirement that CPD is undertaken to maintain registration of a professional body.

But what is CPD? What advantages to the individual does it bring? And how should it be introduced into the workplace for all employees?

CPD’s importance

CPD has at its core the enhancement of an individual’s skills and abilities beyond what they have learned on the journey to being formally qualified. The real world is radically different to academia and is constantly in a state of flux; CPD is a pathway to keeping in line with those changes.

But CPD is much more than that, as it permits learning in a structured, practical and relevant way to both the individual and the job. It allows them to focus on what it is – whether that be skills or knowledge – they need to be able to recognisably improve their expertise and skillset.

Types of CPD

Three main types of CPD encompass a variety of different learning methods. The first is structured CPD that is typically proactive and includes participation in training courses, online modules, e-learning, seminars, conferences, workshops, group meetings and CPD-certified events. This involves a more formal approach to CPD, and those who undertake this type of professional development prove their participation to the likes of the RCVS in terms of CPD hours. Some organisations convert to points, units or credits.

An alternative is reflective learning. This is more passive and entails no participant-based interaction.

The third type is self-directed CPD, and this usually comprises activities that an individual may undertake on their own initiative, such as reading documents, articles and publications. This form of CPD can be more challenging to acquire evidence for, so it is helpful if individuals keep a record of participation in annual CPD learning.

Importance to employers

The responsibility for completing CPD lies with the individual, regardless of whether it has been mandated by any professional bodies that they must, or choose to, join.

That said, many employers see the benefit of lifelong learning for all staff, and so are becoming more proactive in offering appropriate support to those seeking to improve their knowledge.

However, the concern for some employers is that CPD may impose time burdens on those learning, which can impact productivity.

But as technology has developed, so it has enabled other forms of learning – such as online courses, online conferences or e-books – which as a result lessens the impact on the workplace.

Introducing CPD to a workplace

For employers wanting to formally bring CPD to the workplace, the first step will be to assess the need by identifying the skills and knowledge gaps within the workforce.

The second step is to consider what CPD should seek to achieve – what it is likely to mean for employees and their performance and skills, and what would be considered a success. Setting such goals will help those interested in bringing CPD to the workplace approach senior management for buy-in and, importantly, budget. They will need to demonstrate how CPD will benefit the organisation, how it will help instil a culture of learning and how it will help the employer in what it does.

Beyond this, it will be necessary to create a formal CPD policy that details how CPD is intended to work, what is expected of employees, and outline guidelines on how it is to run. Similarly, the policy will need to detail the activities that will qualify as CPD.

At the same time, timeframes for completion and any reporting or documentation requirements should be codified, too.

Learning requires resources, and so it will be necessary to allocate some time for employees to participate in CPD so their normal workload is unaffected. Tied to this will be the need to consider the financial implications for those undertaking CPD training. This could mean examining the reimbursement of fees or the direct expensing of the cost of resources, training materials and professional memberships.

The organisation will need to appoint an individual to oversee the CPD programme, who can help those wishing to take advantage of it. Again, this will need senior-level support and, most likely, might require individuals to mentor those wanting to learn.


Image © NIKCOA / Adobe Stock

The next logical step is to inform employees about the programme and the benefits of CPD, and how it could help their careers. This means communicating the programme, the policy that supports it and its guidelines, along with detail on the available resources.

It also means putting in place a means to track CPD, so that employees can record and monitor their activities. Various digital tools that can assist can be found online. Even so, employers need to audit their CPD process and the outcomes of CPD undertaken by seeking feedback from employees, and making changes to the programme where necessary. It follows that where learning has led to achievements, so these should be recognised and rewarded.

Managing CPD effectively

At the individual level, CPD needs to be managed effectively, and one option is to follow what the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) calls the “CPD cycle”. This is a simple framework that helps individuals structure their CPD training so their learning is suitable for their situation.

The CIPD details that the CPD cycle involves four steps.

Firstly, identify and plan where the individual identifies their own needs, and finds the tools they need to progress, whether this means reading research, reading an article online, listening to a podcast or learning a new way of working.

Next, learn where the individual participates in the learning experience, as identified in the first step.

The third step is to reflect on what they have learned and how it will improve their skills or understanding.

The last step is to apply and share the learning, and revisiting what has been learned. This can be done by undertaking a new piece of work, seeking comment and feedback from colleagues or by taking on new workplace challenges.

CIPD members can do all of this formally via a free CIPD learning hub, which offers tailored learning recommendations to meet an individual’s own learning needs. The hub also contains a tool, My Learning Plan, which allows users to create their own method.

An alternative is myCPD portal from the CPD Certification Service. It is free and does the same thing by allowing users to set annual CPD targets, and track their learning progress throughout the year. It helps users log and analyse progress, finds courses and events, and stores CPD certificates.


Learning is good. It keeps the mind fresh and the individual up to date with the latest skills, techniques and developments.

While it is mandatory for the profession, that does not mean that it is not applicable to other business sectors.