Areas of Improvement personal development
Learning and development budgets are being cut, people are under pressure, but real and meaningful personal development is a major part of being a professional. BCS Membership Director David Evans MBCS asks, how do we reconcile this?
Maintaining currency in our sector has always been challenging, and it is so important to our Institute that it is enshrined in the code of conduct that all members sign up to.
However, our research shows that the professional development of our members is being squeezed more than ever by financial and time pressures, and by changing attitudes amongst employers.
Over 50 per cent of respondents found time pressure a barrier to continuing professional development (CPD), with one in three stating they have less time in their working day for CPD activities now than in previous years.
There is a silver lining, however. For many their employer was the main instigator and driver of their personal development, but ideally this is something that the individual should really be in control of. The challenge is to make that a transition to individual ownership and control rather than just a rugby pass into the void by the employer.
Historically, professional bodies have not always managed to provide the structures that support meaningful personal development. Systems of points or hours done won’t reflect benefit; we all know that a ten minute conversation or article can be an epiphany while the wrong training course at the wrong level can be a waste of valuable time. What matters is the outcome.
Our survey last autumn highlighted that many IT professionals struggle to identify both personal goals and the activities to support them. As it happens this was particularly the case for software engineers and service team leaders.
The IT profession clearly needs help with this; help that recognises how people work, what their needs are, and what really makes a difference. That is the challenge we are taking on in the membership team.
A new view of CPD
Our understanding of CPD needs, we believe, to evolve a bit. We need to widen our gaze to include a lot of the activities and encounters that naturally occur, such as reading a blog article, conversing with a colleague or mentor, or taking on a project with some new elements. People may be developing themselves more than they think.
A simple way to shore up personal development then, is simply to reflect on what is already being done; developing a mind set of recognising development helps bed in the outcome, and can build a habit of looking for more.
Reflection on outcomes at the time when something took place helps, and also over a period that makes sense to the individual. That makes it easier to identify what is making a difference and any obvious gaps.
If on top of those habits a person goes that little bit further and sets some goals and plans some bigger activities to meet them, we have some momentum! I personally believe that simple habits of reflection and light-touch planning will for many lead to a new level of freedom and control over working life and career. Even for those who already plan and do a lot of CPD these habits can help shape personal development, enrich it, and increase the benefit.