According to the CPD Standards Office , there are over 1400 professional bodies, institutes and membership associations in the UK that require members to conduct annual continuous professional development (CPD).
The intent of CPD is to maintain and develop the knowledge and skills needed to perform in a professional context. Yet, while most employers and professionals recognise the need for CPD, research has continually shown that professionals feel that traditional CPD learning options (conferences, seminars, online courses or webinars) are uninteresting, too long, heavily academic, inconvenient and poor value for money.
What is causing this?
One of the main reasons is that there is a clear contradiction between the wish of an professional to log enough CPD to satisfy their regulatory body by attending the course or seminar, the training provider’s desire to include as much content as possible within a course so they appeal to as wide an audience as possible, and yet the simple wish from the attendee to learn in as short a time as possible just what they need to know to perform so that they can “get back to their job”.
Some employers feel that satisfaction of CPD requirements for professional institutions is an issue for the employee and does not have a direct bearing on the design or application of employer driven Learning and Development (L&D). This can make it hard for the professional to directly link the training they receive from an employer to the qualifying CPD as set out by institutions.
Another critical issue is that, while professionals need to keep current with changes in legislation, regulations and guidelines, there is rarely an objective single source of information to refer to. This can mean an individual spending considerable time and effort filtering through content to determine what they need to learn and to what level. Where employers and training providers try to deliver content, by the time they have collated and conveyed the information, it can be out of date or less important.
Even where traditional CPD options (conferences, seminars, articles) have been replaced or complemented by online courses or webinars these courses are too often replications of seminar/lecture activities in their duration and content and fail to keep the learner engaged.
Finally, the market has been slow to adapt to the changing way that professionals get access to relevant information and the methods of learning outside of employer managed programmes. In today’s connected world, a professional is as likely to pick up details of a new regulation or standard from a supplier email, an e-textbook, a TEDTalk, a YouTube video or any of a multitude of new online and offline resources, as they are from employer arranged activities.
So what does the future of CPD look like?
- Adoption of New Learning Methods
Progressive companies are increasingly using means such as e-learning, micro-learning and content aggregation as a way of delivering appropriate content to professionals. By way of example Grovo helps employers deliver structured training in 60 second videos and Looop collates internal company resources into bite sized learning.
Processes such as Spaced Repetition are also being introduced. This incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material in order to improve knowledge retention.
- Increased Use of Mobile
The growth of mobile and tablet technology is making it possible for anyone anywhere to learn on the go. Deloitte’s 2015 annual mobile consumer survey found that ‘76% of UK adults now own a smartphone’ and ‘collectively, UK consumers look at their smartphones over a billion times a day’.
By using online micro-learning tools for mobile technology, organisations can update and deliver content quickly to keep current with rapidly changing information, not always possible with classroom or seminar based materials.
- Improved Systems
Around for some time, the complexity of the systems used by (mainly large) employers to manage learning for staff has increased rapidly over the last ten years and Learning Management Systems continue to evolve. Unlike previous versions, new systems allow for training pathways to be customised for the individual and feature elements such as gamification and league tables to increase employee engagement.
- Employee Ownership
Forrester Research predicted that graduates in this decade would be likely to hold twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime. Combined with the trend towards the freelancer economy, and the resistance of SME’s to manage CPD recording, many individuals are recognising the need to not only stay current but to take more ownership of their CPD. This not only means collating formal attendance, certificates and awards, but likewise planning pathways and documenting informal education.
- Measuring Outcomes
Traditional training attempts to equip professionals with new knowledge or additional skills, but in many respects it is an educated guess whether the teaching methods being used will have the desired effect. As far as measuring corporate training outcomes, organisations will focus more on practical performance metrics instead of attendance statistics and satisfaction levels.
An American Society for Training and Development study found that some 90% of information learnt by adults in traditional training environments was forgotten within 12 months. By using personalisation and learning management systems, employers can focus on the training that is required by the professional and can similarly improve knowledge retention rates.
But what about relevance of specific training to job roles? Well, one approach being adopted is to create tables that map current and required skills to personal roles. Some firms are already good at this from the perspective of soft skills and behaviours but it is likely that we will see this method increasingly used for technical skill levels as well. These competency tables allow firms to better relate skills to job-performance assessments.
- Pushed Content
Combined with the personalisation of learning techniques, in light of the challenges around collating appropriate data, it is likely that we will see much more emphasis on systems and platforms that push the correct topical content to professionals. Some of this has already been achieved, e.g. by corporate intranets and SharePoint systems, but professionals in sole practices and SME’s rarely have access to such platforms and new solutions are offering alternatives.
While the adoption of new methods and better learning management systems are to be applauded, they are still usually failing to solve the integration of informal education. Where companies try to capture informal education, using for example platforms such as Pathgather, these are often orientated towards a specific employer’s performance management or compliance regime rather than a genuine (and transferrable) knowledge tool for the professional.
This is where independent continuous assessment and “credentialing” will be key products in the future of CPD and learning. Continuous quiz-based assessment platforms such as ComPeDence and EdApp deliver expert derived content in bite sized pieces while additionally assessing an individual’s knowledge. Compared to traditional attendance learning records, continually analysing skills during an individual’s career provides important personalised guidance for needs and demonstrates evidence of progression so keeping the individual engaged.
In terms of corporate training outcomes, continuous quiz-based assessment can enable an L&D department to plan training and importantly to benchmark current pathways and on-the-job experience. Moreover it allows businesses to accurately and precisely understand their workforce’s capabilities at any moment so improving revenues and linking the effect L&D has on overall business success.
Continuous quiz-based assessment also reflects that one element of training that is often overlooked - the natural loss of knowledge over time. Finally, it allows for topical, relevant content to be pushed precisely to professionals as needed.
In short, while frustrations with CPD and professional training persist, there is light at the end of the tunnel and the new tools being introduced offer promising ways of harnessing today’s technology, reengaging employees and ensuring ROI for employers.