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Developing an effective CPD programme – not just a quest for a badge

Realising that people are the most important part of his business, Rob Hunter explains how he put together an effective CPD programme for staff, and what it's helped achieve so far.
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Over the last six years, I have been on a long-term journey of investment in our staff. I put myself back into education in the form of the Institute of Directors’ Chartered Director programme and found myself confronted with the fact that, surprise surprise, I didn’t know everything. An effective CPD approach has been one result.

Having realised that “people mean business”, we have committed heavily to ensuring Hunterlodge fosters a collaborative environment based on excellent people leadership, staff engagement and a continual drive for knowledge and development.

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True and effective CPD (continued professional development) is not just a quest for a badge, but should be something that is built into the very fabric of an organisation. This year, I have purposely built my company on highly-trained, effective people and awesome creativity where we all get a thrill out of coming to work. We actively encourage an environment where our people have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and love showing off how their new learnings have helped clients be more successful.

Leading from the top

Embedding a deep commitment to continuous improvement needs to be led and driven from the top down and requires strong, active involvement from board level. This month has seen our board and senior management enthusiastically drive our values and focus on effective CPD, from sharing ideas for the forthcoming company business plan, planning company-wide “hackathons” and conducting monthly one-to-ones and shared knowledge sessions, to facilitating group training sessions and promoting our new “red thread of effectiveness” approach through weekly effectiveness meetings with all teams. With many of our staff currently sitting a number of exams in November, October has seen then utilise our “CPD programme bonus days” – the opportunity to take three CPD days off work dedicated to study and improving their industry knowledge.

This dedication to CPD right from the very top sets precedence, shows the importance and value of CPD, as well as ensuring that a culture dedicated to CPD is embedded throughout the entire agency. Any new course that is identified as beneficial to the agency’s success will always be sat by top management before being introduced across the rest of the agency. This ensures that management can offer the right level of support and explain the benefits from a working perspective.

More regular appraisals

Although yearly appraisals are more likely to be the norm, these can in fact be detrimental to driving an effective CPD programme. With a number of direct reports, I often find it difficult to remember what I did a couple of weeks ago let alone chart the yearly progress of all my staff in terms of their own personal development. Although initially a big culture shift, good managers should be thinking about their department on a weekly or monthly basis and working collaboratively with individuals on developing, training and improving their knowledge and its application to the job role.

Hunterlodge implement this through its unique monthly appraisal system which has received high level praise from the IPA, BSI, IIP and Growth Accelerator for its thoroughness and quality. Instead of a yearly review, staff are appraised every month by their line manager – an all-encompassing way to ensure that everything we do to develop our people is measured at all times throughout the year, not just at the end of it.

It is this system that allows us to identify on a monthly basis how we are moving, both individually and as a whole towards achieving the company objectives. It allows you to apply metrics not just to numerical type objectives but also to feelings, behaviours and skill sets. This collaborative approach ensures managers are constantly thinking about and developing their staff on a monthly basis and fine-tuning their leadership skills whilst creating an engaged workforce who have a direct influence on their personal development and can openly contribute to business success.

Each individual has their own personalised CPD objectives within their one-to-one and last month being the start of the new quarter, each manager takes the time to evaluate whether these objectives have been met, are still valid or need tweaking to incorporate new training goals and strategies.

Don’t forget to measure success

Implementing and driving effective CPD can be expensive and time consuming with no guarantee that your staff won’t take their new found knowledge to another company and the lure of higher wages. However, I truly believe that the benefits of employing a highly trained and engaged workforce outweigh any pitfalls you might occur. We invest heavily in CPD and record over eight times the accredited agency average on CPD hours across all staff.

However, we also pay close attention to how this is applied and implemented across the company and evaluate how each individual has contributed to the success of Hunterlodge. This helps to both quantify and justify how our investment has directly impacted on Hunterlodge’s finances as well as providing a visible “high five” for each individual staff member.

This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.

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About Author

Rob Hunter

Rob Hunter founded Hunterlodge Advertising in 1987. He has significantly grown the company over the years, and Hunterlodge is now rated as platinum by the IPA, sharing the enviable position with a select few other agencies in the UK. He also sits as Co-Chair of the IPA’s Professional Development Group.

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