Is CPD a complete waste of time?

by Viv on December 21, 2007

It’s the time of year that I, like many other professionals, have cleared my desk enough to think about whether I have met with my Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements. And I wonder just how necessary it is for me to have to meet these requirements and document them.

Do highly motivated professionals really need the burden of a compliance framework to ensure that they continue to be competent?

In essence the debate is one about the fundamentals of human nature – do we need there to be an external pressure before we will do what is clearly in our long term interest? (think about all those New Year’s resolutions to go to the gym more…)

At its worst, CPD is a :

  • Tick the box exercise that wastes competent professionals’ time in order to make a small number of the least competent professionals raise their game;
  • Legal sleight of hand that exonerates a professional institute from the adverse consequences of an individual member’s negligence; and
  • Cost that is passed onto the client, which does not actually provide the assurance that the client might reasonably expect.
  • Like Churchill’s 1947 quote “…democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…”, a CPD framework does have the following benefits that alternatives would struggle to emulate:

    • As you would expect, professionals tend to focus on urgent and important client work. A CPD framework stops the firm from maximising short term profit by making the firm give each individual permission to take enough time on personal development. The clout of the regulator provides sufficient urgency for CPD not to be put off indefinitely;
    • Once the need for CPD is accepted as a given, L&D can focus on ensuring that development activities are as useful and interesting experience as possible; and
    • It creates a culture where it is expected that even the most experienced professional will make time for their own development – it allows people to tread that fine line between feeling confident, but admitting enough weakness to recognise that they still have something to learn.
    • Like much of human behaviour, the answer depends on the situation. Effective CPD is all about providing the right amount of external motivation whilst nurturing internal motivation.

      A few years back the ICAEW introduced what I consider to be a very sensible approach to CPD, the plan-do-review approach i.e. each person documents the CPD necessary for their current/ next job role in the forthcoming year, does it and evidences it and then reviews it to ensure that there are no gaps. This seems a lot more sensible than the more rigid Law Society approach of having to meet a set number of hours regardless of what they’re about, although the CPD skiing holidays sound like great fun 😉

      So my small challenge to all of you training and e-learning professionals reading this is: without there being a widely recognised authority that demands that you evidence your own CPD, what will you be planning for 2008 to maintain your own eminence?

      Wishing you and yours a very happy festive season.

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