CPD Research Project

The CPD Standards Office has evolved from a comprehensive research project that has explored CPD in great depth.  Launched at Kingston University Business School in 2010, the CPD Research Project used an online questionnaire to survey over 1,000 project managers, PAs and occupational psychologists about their experiences of CPD. In addition, Amanda Rosewarne, the Project Director, conducted over 40 interviews with professional bodies, employers, academics and training providers.

One of the most striking findings of the first phase of the research project was that the quality of most training and learning activities that individuals undertake for CPD purposes is exceptionally low.  In addition, much CPD provision is inconsistent in its effectiveness.

This uncovered a demand for an independent accreditation standard that recognised high quality CPD activities, and ensured they were relevant to all types of CPD schemes, which led to establishment of the CPD Standards Office.

The CPD Research Project is now in its third phase, and is currently working with a number of professional institutes and training providers to establish effective ways to recognise and reward CPD.

Research Findings In A Nutshell

Everyone does CPD, mostly as part of their job (e.g. searching the internet for information, learning from formal and informal team discussions, and attending conferences and seminars). But often many of these activities are not recognised as CPD. The overwhelming majority engage in CPD because they think it helps them to do their jobs better. A smaller number also think that CPD can advance their careers. 65% of project managers, for example, were so convinced of the benefits that they had paid for some CPD out of their own pockets. Individuals who are more heavily engaged in CPD tend to be more committed to their work and to be ‘good citizens’ in the workplace (i.e. to go the extra mile for their colleagues and the organisation).

Might CPD be good for the employer, as well as for the individual? Despite this possibility, there is a widespread view that employers do not provide enough time and financial support for CPD.

Some respondents have had very positive experiences of CPD – for example:

  • “The do-reflect-improve approach proved what I did know, highlighted weaknesses and filled the gap.”
  • “Learning outside the organisation allows time to reflect on what you are doing and your role.”

But there are also many negative experiences:

  • “All I hear about CPD is rather woolly.”
  • “It becomes a case of trying to justify a CPD activity in order to be able to tick a box and allocate hours.”
  • “CPD is not rigorous and tested to ensure good learning.” Many respondents described poor training courses.

CPD works best for individuals when it is:

Relevant – ‘The best experiences are those that enable you…to use CPD at work to immediately improve on performance.’
Collaborative (i.e. done with other people) – ‘Presenting my work to colleagues produced positive feedback and lively debate on my findings.’
Recognised – ‘The trouble with CPD is that you have to do it, you do it on your own and it’s not recognised.’
Personal – ‘CPD works best if it is led by the individual.’

CPD has a poor reputation for rigour and value, it remains too biased toward technical rather than soft skills, many people equate it too closely with ‘going on a course’ and linkages are insufficiently strong between those with a stake in CPD (institutes, employers, CPD providers and individuals).

Yet if CPD is done well, it has substantial potential to improve performance, increase innovation and enhance the quality of working life.