Any professional role in any workplace requires a particular skill-set and knowledge base – and these are a crucial part of what makes an employee valuable to an employer.
But knowledge in any discipline is not static; it is constantly growing and changing. As a result, it is vital that professionals keep abreast of key developments, new viewpoints and best practice.
For anyone working in project management, staying up to date with current thinking and best practice is arguably more important than ever, but curiously appears to hold less weight than it does in other professions.
Approaches towards project management change incredibly quickly, as new practices emerge, develop and fade. A great example is how agile concepts and thinking have become important skills that organisations are seeking – businesses want managers who are willing to grow and adapt to changing environments. Yet for many in the sector, professional development is considered an optional extra.
For project managers, having the right knowledge and skills reinforces their relevance and capability within their organisations.
Staying up to date
Ongoing professional learning and development starts with the initial qualification that is recognised as best practice. To ensure that they keep receiving the maximum benefit from this qualification, and that the original investment does not begin to produce diminishing returns, the best practitioners will ensure that the skills they have developed stay relevant throughout their career through a combination of learning, training and experience.
However, this has to be the right development, relating to the individual’s current role and where he or she wants to progress. The formal mechanism to support this is commonly referred to as continuing professional development (CPD).
Approaches to CPD vary by industry. Some industries – such as healthcare – understandably make some form of continual training mandatory, ensuring that all practitioners keep their skills up-to-date. For others, such as teaching, some form of CPD is an accepted part of day-to-day life.
Having the structure of a CPD programme helps individuals understand the skills they need and plan their development, but for this to be successful it also has to be supported by the organisation.
The benefits for employers are wide-ranging: CPD can help to identify and address skills gaps, it can feed into their own professional development programmes and it can provide the foundation for growing individuals, teams and business functions.
It’s important to remember that CPD isn’t just about training; it’s about developing professional knowledge and skills using a range of activities, including coaching, mentoring, networking, self-study and practical experience.
Having this mix of development will mean that professionals can rise to meet new challenges and emerging business needs. It is almost always more cost-effective to support existing staff than to hire outside the business.
This point about cost and return on investment is also true when it comes to staff retention and loyalty. Research shows that employees with structured development programmes that meet their needs, as well as those of the business, are dedicated and less likely to look for new roles.
This is particularly important for small-to-medium sized technology businesses, in which key project managers hold business-critical technical knowledge and skills. By not supporting professional development, organisations risk losing their best talent and, as a result, being unable to keep up with rising standards and deliver best practice.
It is clear that, for practitioners worldwide, CPD is becoming more and more important. Employees at all levels – and in all types of companies – are beginning to take a more structured approach to their own development and demand that employers and training providers take the issue to heart as well.
Better CPD provision helps everyone in a business, from the boardroom down. It is vital for practitioners to expand their learning and develop their skills, and for companies to provide the time and structure to allow their employees to train themselves and drive up standards across the industry.
This blog first appeared in the Spring edition of Project Journal.