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Rethinking your CPD: ‘What gets measured gets managed’


Do you count your daily steps?

Along with many other organisations, the NIHR recently participated in the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge. Awareness of our physical activity, combined with team-working and competition, (hopefully) helped improve both our health and productivity.

So what should our target be? Ask most people and they are likely to say 10,000 steps a day. But this is a completely arbitrary figure; one that originates from a successful Japanese marketing campaign in the mid-60s. Such counting of steps takes no account of the intensity of exercise.  Were they achieved during an evening stroll or on your personal best 10K run?

There are clear parallels with how we measure our CPD (Continuing Professional Development). Many of our professional bodies translate the need for sustained learning into a requirement to count the hours spent. A minimum number of hours are required to be logged to maintain our professional standing. This gives little insight into the intensity or value of the learning.  

If I was a serious runner, then GPS location data and heart-rate monitoring may go some way to convince my team-mates that each step was earned the hard way. As a learner I can point to the relevance of each learning outcome in courses studied. I can also make connections between newly developed skills and the impact they make to my workplace productivity.

Counting steps and counting CPD hours may well be a rather crude measure of value-adding activity. But as the saying goes ‘what gets measured gets managed’. And this is the real impact. The most important consideration is not the number of steps or hours, but deciding on how often to measure them. At best our professional bodies request our CPD hours are measured annually. For some they focus on a three or five year cycle. Is this really going to help sustain our ongoing professional development?  

I suggest that you consider counting your CPD hours monthly (and keep counting steps daily). There is no need to aim for a specific number. Rather focus on the trends month-on-month, and quarter-by-quarter. If the hours drop were you already aware of this? To sustain the impact of your day-to-day work will it be appropriate to set a higher (or lower) target for the next period?  

Counting your CPD hours monthly will also make it easier to compile the total figures for your professional body. It may even turn this reporting activity (which can be about as much fun as doing an annual tax form submission) into a more interesting reflective exercise about how you have approached your learning.  CPD is much more than logging the hours spent training. In an ever changing world, life-long learning ensures we make the most of our skills in the workplace.    

John Castledine, Head of Learning Development and Design, National Institute for Health Research


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR, NHS or the Department of Health and Social Care.