The end of October marked my three year anniversary at Skills for Care. As you might expect, Skills for Care is pretty proactive in supporting continued professional development (CPD), so it’s been a very busy three years, but I’ve been fortunate to work for other organisations keen to support staff development.
Let’s jump back a few years to when I worked in supported housing. Although it wasn’t that long ago, the world of learning and development seemed very different then. Budgets and funding for CPD seemed plentiful. I only had to express a vague interest in a topic and I was signed up to a qualification or training course. At the time, I thought I needed to complete all these programmes to maintain and develop skills and knowledge to do my job well and to move on in my career.
Fast forward a few years, and just like many other organisations, Skills for Care has a tight (and tightening) CPD budget. Once upon a time, I would’ve thought this meant limited development options, but this simply isn’t the case. If anything, I think it can improve development opportunities. For one thing, any CPD activity that requires investment has to have an impact and show a return on that investment. So quality and relevance is crucial. And not being able to rely on funding for external courses means thinking more widely and creatively about CPD, finding learning where you wouldn’t normally see it, and working collaboratively with colleagues to support each other’s development.
My personal CPD experiences have not always been positive. Generally speaking, the less positive ones were either ‘tick box’ exercises, not relevant to my role or poorly delivered. I could write a very long list of factors that contributed to ‘good’ CPD experiences, but here are three that stand out to me:
A manager who realises that CPD is personal:
Reflecting back now on the heady days of comfortable learning and development budgets, it wasn’t the training courses that made a difference to my development (although they were valuable), it was my manager.
At the time, I used to joke that he acted like my ‘key worker’. Looking back, I realise this was no joke. He took the time to understand my abilities, interests and aspirations and tailored the CPD on offer to fit around me. Perhaps more importantly, he challenged me, pushed me out of my comfort zone and supported me to do things I didn’t think I could. He saw the best in me, and got the best out of me.
I’ve come a long way since then, particularly in terms of confidence, taking responsibility for my own development and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I don’t need a ‘key worker’ as a manager any more, however I do need someone to help recognise opportunities for me to develop and help turn those opportunities into action. Thankfully, my current manager fits the bill.
An activity that’s worthwhile:
This might seem obvious, but bear with me. Perhaps the best way to explain this one is describing a time that CPD seemed worthwhile, but arguably wasn’t.
I completed an interpersonal mediation qualification with a dozen colleagues through a previous employer. There was significant resource investment, both in terms of the cost of the qualification and the time to attend the course. We were emotionally invested too. The course was brilliant! We all felt we learnt a lot, thoroughly enjoyed it and were excited to be able to offer this new service and use our new skills.
So, why is this an example of CPD that wasn’t worthwhile? The service never took off. All that excitement and motivation quickly dissipated as referrals dried up and we all got on with our, already busy, day jobs. The company, clients and potential clients didn’t benefit from our new found mediation skills, and we were left feeling disappointed.
As a cohort, we did learn (or refresh in most cases) active listening skills and built stronger relationships as colleagues. But this outcome could have been achieved without the qualification and the associated investment, and instead through creative, collaborative learning.
For CPD to be truly worthwhile, it requires investment beyond the activity – someone needs to drive forward implementation to see the impact.
CPD is shared with others:
I mean this in two ways: we share in our experiences and our experiences are shared.
This has been particularly relevant in my CPD experiences at Skills for Care as a home-based worker. Coming together with colleagues from different teams across the country to take part in workshops has been something of a rare treat.
The most significant and worthwhile aspect of learning for me has been a renewed understanding of how different teams work within the organisation and the different challenges they face an unplanned outcome, but one that has had an immediate impact on the way I work.
We’re also very good at making sure our experiences and expertise are shared. Within my team for instance, we often share briefings from meetings and events we attend, email each other interesting articles, or present updates on projects, reforms or new developments. Across the organisation we deliver ‘internal knowledge transfer sessions’ – making the most of internal experts and sharing their knowledge and skills to support the development of others. All organisations are filled with internal experts, but Skills for Care is the first place I’ve worked where they really make use of those experts for the benefit of the whole workforce.
It really has been a busy three years, and a steep learning curve in many ways. What I used to value and recognise as CPD has changed significantly. I look forward to finding new development opportunities, and supporting others to do so.
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