Continuous Professional Development

In our journey through life from birth to old age we engage constantly in different learning experiences that equip us to look after ourselves, and to engage effectively in society

Continuous professional development (CPD) is the conscious updating of professional knowledge and the improvement of personal competence throughout your working life. Conscious implies that CPD is a state of mind, more than a set of rules; it is a commitment to keeping up to date and continuously seeking to improve with the changing circumstances. Its fair to say at the same time that not all our learning is conscious or intentional! We can also engage in learning unknowingly or through painful experiences when things have gone wrong.

The key principles are:

  • Professional development is a continuous process that applies throughout an individuals life; learning can come from study, reading and attending conferences and training courses, as well as countless other sources available to people. The experiences can be good or bad!
  • Individuals are responsible for controlling and managing their own development; this is increasingly the case with both individuals CPD and their long term career development, and there is less emphasis on what could be seen as the possible paternalism of the organisation to inevitably provide individuals with appropriate learning experience
  • Learning targets should be clearly articulated and should reflect the needs of the Employer and clients as well as the individuals.

An example might be an issue/development area around people management and becoming a Manager of a team of people: the activity could be a people management course, but there are other interesting and creative ways like shadowing an experienced Mentor, receiving some Coaching to support the change, or being part of a Learning set for Managers that includes looking at approaches to working with teams, and gaining support from a group of like minded people.

Professional requirements for CPD

Many professional in different walks of life who have gone through long and complex training regimes in relation to professions like Teaching, Social Work, Personnel and Development and Psychotherapy have a robust requirement within their professional area to maintain CPD beyond newly qualified training through a mixture of:

  • Discussions in meetings with Managers in supervision and appraisal
  • The maintenance of CPD logs
  • Sometimes for some professions, membership of Supervision groups, or development groups that may be work specific or more generic development

“Sharpen the saw”

I like the Stephen Covey principle of “sharpening the saw”: his 7th habit of highly effective people relates to renewal.  Just as a motor car or any other sophisticated tool needs regular care & maintenance, so too do the human body and mind.

Covey uses the metaphor of a woodcutter who is labouring painfully to say down a tree. The saw is obviously in need of sharpening, but when asked why he doesn’t stop and sharpen the saw, the woodcutter replies, ‘I can’t stop – I ‘m too busy sawing down this tree.’

The warning is quite clear.  Everyone can become so engrossed in the task at hand that the basic tools are neglected:

  • The physical self – which requires exercise, a sensible & balanced diet, & management of stress.
  • The social/emotional self – which connects with others through service, empathy, and synergy, and which is the source of intrinsic security.
  • The spiritual self – which through meditation, reflection, and study helps to clarify and refine our own values and strengths, & our commitment to them.
  • The mental self-building on to our formal education through reading, visualising, planning, writing, and maintaining a coherent programme of continuing personal development.

So, Covey argues, the reflective quality inherent in CPD is about the whole person, and would benefit from being wider than purely the world of work.

A personal perspective on CPD


He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying: Friedrich Nietzsche

I think because of the nature of the work I do and the sort of individual I am (endlessly fascinated and curious about learning), I have done a variety of different formal training and more informal development over many years. Areas like CIPD (Chartered membership of the Institute of Personnel and Development) and membership of the Association for Coaching are givens in the field of Human Resources, and Coaching and Mentoring.

In addition in the last few years, I have completed the Institute of Group analysis foundation course over an academic year to deepen my understanding of working with groups, become a Psychometric practitioner that supports working with teams and with people 1-1 in coaching, and am a member of a couple of informal self development groups that meet 6 weekly to talk about work and life progress, which i find invaluable. These groups have been running over several years, and have got to a place of the lack of need for rigid structure, but some overall themes around our overall development as people, in the way that Covey talks about.

What you might consider

  • What is your personal vision and approach to CPD?
  • What does your approach to CPD look like in the last few years, and how do you see it going forward?
  • What is the level of professional requirement you have to evidence CPD?
  • How much of your ongoing development is work related and/or related to wider aspects of your life interests?

Example of CPD are available in an old example CPD log

Also see the article on career change