Gregor McPherson, who has worked with AXELOS and contributed to our new Professional Development Programme, is a consultant specialist in business solution design and architecture. He draws on 15 years of insight from senior roles in a wide a range of industries and disciplines, blending psychology and people development, process efficiency and technology and supply chain expertise.
As a qualified best practice practitioner, what have you got in your toolbox?
In the main, a qualification gives you a methodology. What it often doesn’t give you is the broader skills to effectively implement the methodology.
That’s why continuing professional development (CPD) is necessary to make best practice work properly, supporting practitioners to develop the whole raft of other skills they need to run alongside it. Unfortunately, that’s not universally understood or practised. Indeed, there’s a degree of wilful blindness among practitioners and employers/line managers funding the qualifications: methodologies are taken as a panacea and people neglect to invest in a greater breadth of skills – and that can damage their professional potential.
Equally, where some professions are regulated (e.g. accountancy), getting a job is dependent on having the right accreditation and typically these require some form of CPD to maintain their standing. This is not so in unregulated professions such as project management or IT service management (ITSM) and there is far less compulsion to do CPD.
Yet becoming a true professional in your field means being committed to life-long learning, and your CPD record allows others – colleagues, employers and recruiters – to differentiate practitioners on the breadth and depth of their skills and competencies.
Why an AXELOS Professional Development Programme?
Working with AXELOS to create a CPD solution – what is now the AXELOS Professional Development Programme – with the goal of supporting practitioners to get the fullest value from their qualification, we had to address a central question: Why should anyone care beyond gaining a qualification?
This is not a regulated profession scenario, so there is minimal external compulsion to do more. So we focused on what would motivate a practitioner personally. For example, what do Project Managers with PRINCE2® do next to make them better project managers? What would demonstrate to the market and their peer group that they’ve continued to develop their professional capability in a way that offers more value?
In many organizations the annual appraisal concludes with the employee asking “what’s my development path?” Really, the individual needs to accept responsibility for their own development and take the necessary steps to make it happen, but an organisation-wide process can be difficult to reconcile with personal, specific career goals or needs.
Organizational backing isn’t essential to CPD but – for it to really work – people need to be engaged with an objective that matters to them. They need to be in the right frame of mind to learn something new for a reason. Perhaps the best time to start is after obtaining a qualification when there is less inertia to overcome. However, in the absence of a clear path or progression, most people are liable to switch off after qualifying as they consider it’s “job done”; it’s less natural to think about what to move on to next and often hard to do so with a vast range of options.
Remaining current and developing a track record
Beyond gaining a best practice qualification it’s vital – in the years of professional working that follow – that you remain current and develop a track record in your field.
- Getting a return on investment for the qualification done
- As a consultant if you stop being current, you might stop getting paid!
- Employers tend to not look back on your CV beyond a couple of years – so what have you done more recently?
But what does being current mean?
That depends on your situation and your individual, professional journey. It might focus on improving what you currently find difficult. There’s also an element of keeping up-to-date with the new developments in best practice standards. Ultimately, CPD is about taking ownership and realizing your potential during your career.
Devising the tools and resources relevant to practitioners’ CPD
The AXELOS Professional Development Programme starts with identifying the generally accepted skills and competencies necessary your field. It then gives you the ability to self-assess and get input from others to build an impartial picture of your strengths and weakness; this gives you a framework for what you need to develop.
For example, if a critical competency in your work is communication skill - perhaps knowing how to influence people or deal with conflict more effectively – the programme provides tools to make identifying such areas simpler and this will help keep momentum and focus towards meaningful change; developing and improving the right competencies for the individual concerned.
The programme also presents extra learning resources relating to your particular best practice along with access to a network of peers to help improve capability. And the programme is not tied solely to the AXELOS portfolio of best practice qualifications; this is about an all-round, meaningful and ongoing development of your professionalism and recognizing that this can involve a wide range of other skills to be integrated into your professional life.
What’s in it for you?
In crude terms, with continuing professional development you only get out what you put in.
AXELOS is providing a framework for, and verification of, professional development that allows people to focus on what is important to them. Such a third party endorsement of your skills and competence is something that should interest and reassure a prospective employer.
Making the effort to do something about improving your professional capability and delivering better performance based on long-term learning is, I believe, a universally-accepted good thing. Some structure and support to aid this process can’t be bad.
See our Professional Development Programme section for more information.
Do you currently undertake formal programme of CPD activities or do you take a less structured approach and develop more personal professional areas of interest as they seem relevant. Please share your thoughts about how you keep yourself up-to-date or ahead in your profession or industry in the comments box below.