The Importance of Continual Professional Development (CPD)

Why a CPD strategy is crucial for both you and your employer...

According to Moz, Google changes its search algorithm around 500-600 times per year. This is just the tip of the iceberg for us marketers tasked with managing, owning or running digital campaigns. No doubt all of these digital trends will be familiar to you:

  • Availability of mobile technology globally and changing consumer behaviour - 2 billion consumers worldwide expected to own a smartphone by 2016
  • Marketing automation - globally this is already a $5.5bn dollar industry
  • Big data - expected to increase 30 times in the ten years from 2012
  • Internet of things - including wearable tech which will reach 28% penetration next year
  • Speed, speed, speed - in particular faster (immediate) loading times (under three seconds)

Learning doesn't stop when you leave higher or further education; particularly in an ever changing digital world. Maintaining and developing knowledge and skills relevant to your evolving job role should be high on your personal and organisational agenda.

There's a vast skills gap in digital marketing. This gap has grown because the rate of change exceeds the rate at which we can learn about those changes. Recent reports show that 88% of client-side marketers agree that the role of the marketer is becoming more complex, stating that two of the most in-demand skills identified are:

  • Using data to optimise campaigns
  • Use of marketing technology

If you are one of the 926,000 marketing or related professionals in the UK, to stay ahead of the competition and minimise your own personal skills gap, you need to be skilled in more marketing disciplines than ever before.

Where do you start?

Dr Dave Chaffey's (Managing Digital Marketing in 2015) research, published in June this year, highlighted that, despite many marketers citing they are confident in their knowledge, there is still a desire for deeper learning about certain digital marketing approaches: big data, CRM, strategy, SEM, content and social media.

The first step to effective Continual Professional Development (CPD) is identifying your own skills gaps relative to your current role and looking further ahead at the path you'd like your career to take. Constant monitoring of where you are against that roadmap (and assessing the map itself) is a core secondary element to successful career development.

By placing up-to-date skills requirements on the organisational agenda - and taking personal responsibility for developing your knowledge in the workplace - you'll not only further your own career but continually make a positive contribution to the organisation that you work for.

But what should you focus on? What type of learning should you "do"?

There is no consensus on what actually constitutes CPD. The truth is it could include a wide variety of things: training workshops, conferences and events, e-learning programs, best practice techniques or ideas sharing. The common purpose is that they are all focused on enabling an individual to improve and benefit from positive professional development.

At one extreme, ACAS describes how sabbaticals can play an important role in supporting continuing professional development - both for the member of staff taking the sabbatical and for the person or people who fulfil their role while they are away.

At the other end of the spectrum, in-house training, networking, free conferences and events or getting yourself a mentor can be effective methods of professional development.

These ideas go to show that you don't have to be enrolled on an official scheme. However, external courses where you can benefit from formalised learning and accreditation for that knowledge, as well as meeting peers and sharing experiences with likeminded individuals from a diverse range of industries, can be well worth the investment.

Barriers - what's stopping you?

  • Culture - does your company offer opportunities to learn new skills?

At Crafted, one of the aspects we measure in our annual staff survey is whether each employee feels they've had the opportunity to benefit from training opportunities in the last 12 months and we work hard to ensure that they do. Everyone's no doubt heard of "Google's 20% time". Very few companies recognise that giving employees time for personal development can create an organisation with a broad range of skills.

  • Budget - does the company you work for have a training budget?

You'd never expect a client to sign off a budget without knowing the potential ROI. In just the same way you might need to pitch to your line manager and lay out your business case for the training and the benefits it will yield for your employer. If the organisation you work for has a dedicated training budget, then you're already half way there as they have already bought into the concept of employee development.

  • Resource - this most often applies to smaller organisations

Time away from the office to attend a course, mentoring and coaching from senior staff members or study leave as well as using the tangible resources of your organisation such as printers and paper! The more support your employer can offer throughout your training, the more likely you are to get the very best out of your training opportunities.

Top takeaways

Constant, major digital marketing platform developments including changes to the Facebook newsfeed; Twitter tools; Google introducing mobile SEO-friendly site labels and, most recently, Facebook allowing data from its mobile app to show up in a Google search results; anyone who works in digital is forever running to catch up with the ever-changing digital landscape.

'Everything counts'

Whether it's in-house training, a lunch and learn, a free conference or three-day residential formal training, it all counts to CDP and is essential to keep up with the relentlessness of the changes in how brands can reach audiences (digital or otherwise). Secondly, it's up to the employee to take responsibility for their learning and development and have an obligation to seek out their own opportunities for continual leaning and adequately recording this. In an era when graduates are now in positions that didn't exist 10 years ago (social media manager for example) there's an opportunity for you to craft your own role by taking charge of your own learning and development to the mutual benefit of the organisation that you work for.

Four key tips

  • Keep it varied - from courses taught by industry experts to a lunchtime knowledge share
  • Keep it relevant - make sure you come away with one new thing to implement straight away
  • Keep it regular - frequent
  • Keep a log - remember to log the details of all your ongoing training and the outcomes

References

https://moz.com/google-algorithm-change https://econsultancy.com/blog/66645-how-to-bridge-the-marketing-skills-gap/ http://www.statista.com/statistics/319805/number-of-sales-marketing-and-related-associate-professionals-in-the-uk/ http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/7-game-changing-marketing-trends-to-tackle-in-2016 http://www.technologytransfer.eu/article/98/2012/1/What_Is_Big_Data_and_Why_Do_We_Need_It_.html

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