2002 - Continuing professional development
The acquisition of professional
skills used to be straightforward. First there
was a period of learning and training, mixed with
on-the- job experience and exams to secure qualifications.
Once equipped with the vital
"licence to practice", the subsequent
career path was clearly marked and visible for
Not any more. Today this once
familiar arrangement has been changed by change
New technology, the speed of
product innovation, changing working practices,
evolving social habits and the ever-present risk
of litigation have created growing demands for
continuous career-related learning, or, to use
the modern idiom, continuing professional development.
It is tempting to dismiss the
idea of continuing development as a piece of jargon,
one of those management-inspired fads for a fancy
phrase where a single word would suffice.
But the catch-all word, "training",
good enough for generations of employers, is no
longer adequate for those who draw a distinction
between the systematic tuition of skills and career-long
learning that keeps abreast of changing work demands.
Mike Cannell, adviser on learning
at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
(CIPD) says: "Training is what they do to
you whereas CPD is something you do all the time
The professions have been at
the forefront of developing the concept. For it
is their members who have the most to lose if
they fail to refresh their expertise.
"The movement has been driven
partly by a greater public awareness, on the back
of a number of high profile medical cases, that
a certificate on the wall can no longer be accepted
as a guarantee of competence," says Mr Cannell.
He identifies the broadening
use of office-based personal computers in the
early 1980s as one of the most visible examples
of a new technology requiring professionals to
upgrade their skills.
Other changes are often specific
to a profession : a new piece of equipment or
software, new procedures, new drugs, new laws,
new qualifications, the need to maintain public
confidence - all create the need for professionals
to update their skills.
Today, training and development
is moving in to the front line of corporate competition
as companies realise that the excellence of their
employees can give them an edge in the marketplace.
Development opportunities are
also moving up the agenda of graduates at the
start of their careers.
According to several recent surveys,
graduates seeking a job place the training and
development offerings of prospective employers
above all other factors.
But recent research, using HR
management methods, questions the bottom line
value of some development when applied in individual
The latest annual survey of HR
practices carried out by Watson Wyatt, human resources
consultants, points to a negative impact on shareholder
value from certain developmental training.
Evidence from a survey of 600
European employers suggests companies should buy
rather than grow their talent. The thesis goes
like this: if a company provides training for
managers, they will seek either promotion or a
pay increase at the end of it.
If there are limited promotion
opportunities, some are likely to leave for a
better job elsewhere. In these cases the training
has been good for the employee but has been a
poor investment for the employer.
Ruth Spellman, chief executive
of Investors in People UK, describes such thinking
She says: "Many organisations
have realised the benefits of helping, and even
encouraging, employees in their professional development.
The result is a virtuous circle, employees feel
valued and motivated and employers enjoy the benefits
of a highly skilled and loyal workforce."
But Mary Phillips, of the Professional Associations
Research Network, says it is important that professional
bodies recognise that employers may have a different
agenda to those of employees.
"Professional bodies need
to be aware of the limitations of active employer
participation in planning, providing and evaluating
CPD," she says.
The point is emphasised by Philip
Augar, co-author with Joy Palmer of Player Manager,
a book that highlights the need for financial
services employees to improve their management
"One of the good things
about the talent war in the late 1990s was that
if you didn't develop your people then they walked
out of the door. But after the downturn in the
markets, some companies have cut their commitment."
Bottom-line pressures, coupled
with increasingly sophisticated processes for
measuring the outcomes of training investments,
are being watched by companies that want to be
sure their money is well spent.
Past experiences with skill shortages,
bolstered by the belief that talented employees
will continue to be in demand, should maintain
training commitments in technical areas. But more
individually focused areas of personal development
are vulnerable to a squeeze on budgets.
Companies conscious of the movement
away from the concept of a lifetime career are
encouraging employees to become independently
"The days of the paternalistic
organisation that looks after the career development
of its employees are over. Average managers today
will have nine moves in their working lives,"
says Peter Thomson, of the UK's Chartered Management
This emphasis on individual responsibility
for personal development means that professional
bodies, rather than employers, have been at the
forefront of the CPD movement.
The CIPD is planning to extend
its newly chartered status to individual members
who can meet and maintain certain professional
The Chartered Management Institute
has already begun to pilot a chartered management
programme for its members that recognises practical
Compulsory requirements for CPD
are on the increase. The General Medical Council
is developing a revalidation programme that will
use evidence of CPD, gathered through appraisals,
to renew doctors' licences to practice.
The Professional Associations
Research Network estimates that more than 70 per
cent of the 400 to 450 UK-based professional organisations
have a CPD programme in place. Those that do not
tend to be small associations that cannot meet
Until now, much CPD has been
seen as voluntary. Some professions have made
it obligatory, arguing it is a professional duty
to maintain skills and competence.
But professional indemnity insurers
increasingly expect evidence of professional development.
And with scandals such as Enron creating a renewed
focus on professional ethics, pressures for compulsory
CPD, demanding evidence of newly acquired knowledge,
is growing in a broader range of professions.