March, one could argue, is traditionally seen as a time when professional development (CPD) is relegated to the bottom of the priority pile by many organisations. The end of the financial year usually equates to the tightening of budgets, resulting in the thought of paying for someone to travel to a training centre in deepest, darkest Slough*, for a paid course and a day of productivity lost at work, being about as appealing as Donald Trump turning up as a surprise guest speaker at your next AGM (bet you didn’t expect political satire to creep into this blog).
However, for most employees CPD in March (though what follows relates to any time of year) makes sense. December means Christmas, January is a busy start to the new year and February is a short month with a half term. So we are left with March and a possible impasse. The solution is an obvious and simple one, which both parties can contribute towards: internal professional development.
Internal CPD can come in many forms but the following are hopefully some suggested cost and time-effective ideas. From the perspective of the employer, why not consider the role senior, or long-serving staff could play as mentors. Every organisation has their teachers and experts but they aren’t always utilised. Starting a voluntary mentor-mentee scheme is a quick, free and easy way for all levels of staff to professionally develop in a variety of ways.
In a similar vein, organisations could consider cross-departmental learning. Coming from a teaching background where lesson observations across subjects is positively promoted, I benefited from the opportunity to learn new skills by simply spending 30 minutes to an hour observing colleagues’ lessons. This could be transferable to many other sectors, with staff spending an hour a week or month, sitting with other departments to not only learn what they are doing, but more importantly, how they are doing it.
For the employee, why not allocate time to read more. An hour a week, reading websites, articles or newsletters related to your job can have a dramatic effect on your professional development. If you’re not sure where to start, why not ask colleagues or managers to recommend some reading materials. Or perhaps think about a specific topic which may interest you and ask for recommendations on books. For example, I asked my manager for his top 5 recommended books on behavioural economics before searching a well-known online bidding website, and even asked family and friends to consider them as future birthday presents.
CPD in the workplace can be a hugely rewarding process for everyone. Hopefully these ideas will form a helpful start in professionally developing staff and importantly ourselves, without having to spend money, lose a day at work or even leave the office.
*No offence to Slough, it’s just I’m a big The Office fan so it was the example that came to mind.