The growing importance of continuing professional development

The tough economic climate is creating pressure on HR professionals to perform well and achieve quick results while demonstrating evidence of an ethical approach and high standards.

Careers can be adversely affected by this stressful environment. Gains can be ephemeral, with professionals so busy dealing with short-term issues that they don’t pay attention to their own career development or keep track of how they have learned from their experiences. Continuing professional development (CPD) can fall by the wayside.

“In these interesting times we can be neglectful of ourselves,” says Maureen Scholefield, managing director of HR consultants Cullen Scholefield.

“We can be dashing around to prove our worth, but ignoring our own development, which will ultimately devalue our offering”.

Code of conduct

The revised CIPD Code of Professional Conduct will be effective from 1 July 2012. It states that it “requires a firm commitment to continuous professional development” and includes sections on professional competence and behaviour, and ethical standards and integrity.

A new incentive to maintain CPD is on the horizon, however. A revised Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Code of Professional Conduct will come into effect in July (see box right). With the maintenance of professional knowledge and competence given even greater prominence in the new code, and “a clear commitment to CPD” required from members, the requirement for CIPD members to actively engage in their own development, as well as that of others, remains as important as ever.

“As a professional, you have a responsibility to keep your skills and knowledge up to date,” says CIPD membership development manager Tina Russell.

Unlike the tack taken by some institutes, the CIPD’s approach to CPD is not measured in terms of hours or points, but, as Russell says, by members showing that their commitment to developing their own competence is indeed continuous, professional (with outcomes reflecting the HR Profession Map), and developmental, which, as CIPD literature requests, is “owned and managed by the individual, learning from all experiences”.

CPD is measured on output, with members focusing on the outcomes of any development activity and how their day-to-day practice has changed as a result. Members are expected to show how they planned and identified which areas needed development, and evaluated learning opportunities. It is expected that the benefits of this learning will be noticed by line managers and others in the organisation.

Link between CPD and workplace effectiveness

The impact of CPD on the organisation should be apparent and, for job-seekers, this final point is essential. “Make the relevance of your CPD immediately obvious to anyone who is reading your CV,” says Paul Duffield, director of Better Placed HR.

This means showing the link between CPD and your workplace effectiveness. It is far better to include the targeted “continuous learning in employment law and updated the company’s policy on absence management”, for example, than “attended a day course in employment law”.

Younger candidates, however, should highlight all of the CPD steps they take. “It is useful when applying for junior roles because it shows the applicant is willing”, says Duffield.

Scholefield adds that evidence of CPD shows that the HR professional will tackle new thinking or projects and is proactive. It can be worth recording evidence of all your activities and editing them later.

“The flipside is that people do some CPD and don’t formally record it,” she says. “There are templates, but even a voice recording could be useful. Audit your CPD. Even if you can only spare half an hour a month on updating your CPD records, it is useful.

“In tough times people have to show that they are fit for purpose, and if you are the HR expert then you have got to invest in yourself.”

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