In the modern business world, every organisation relies on technology. From global companies to the smallest local business, technology has become crucial to the day-to-day operation of the marketplace. This means that the UK’s 1.1 million IT specialists – whether they are carrying out the core function of a business or support those that do – are a crucial resource. And for this resource to remain effective, investment needs to be made in their professional development, both as individuals and as a team.

Having the right development opportunities available to employees can have a transformative impact on your organisation, keeping your workforce motivated and creating a culture of best practice to drive your business forward.

Technology changes quickly - knowledge needs to as well

Knowledge in any discipline is not static; it is constantly growing and changing. As a result, it is vital that professionals keep abreast of key developments, new viewpoints and best practice. For those of us who work with technology – my personal professional background is in the gaming industry – staying up-to-date with current thinking and best practice is more important than ever. Technology changes incredibly quickly, as new devices and practices emerge, develop and fade, and so undertaking ongoing professional development is essential.

For individuals, having the right knowledge and skills, reinforces their relevancy and capability within the organisation. It’s why so many IT professionals around the world invest their time and energy into ongoing professional learning and development. This starts with the initial qualification that is recognised as best practice. To ensure that they keep receiving the maximum benefit from this qualification and that the original investment does not begin to produce diminishing returns, the best practitioners will ensure that the skills they have developed stay relevant throughout their career through a combination of learning, training and experience. However, this has to be the right development, that relates to the role an individual is in and where they want to progress. The formal mechanism to support this is commonly referred to as continuing professional development (CPD).

Employers benefit from staff CPD

Having the structure of a CPD programme helps individuals to understand the skills they need and plan their development, but for this to be successful it also has to be supported by the organisation. The benefits for employers are wide ranging: CPD can help to identify and address skills gaps, it can feed into your own professional development programmes and it can provide the foundation in which to grow individuals, teams and business functions. It’s important to remember that CPD isn’t just about training, it’s about developing professional knowledge and skills using a range of activities including coaching, mentoring, networking, self-study and practical experience. Having this mix of development will mean that your employees can rise to meet new challenges and emerging business needs – and it is almost always more cost-effective to support existing staff than to hire outside the business.

This point about cost and return on investment is also true when it comes to staff retention and loyalty. Employees with structured development programmes that meet their needs, as well as those of the business, have been shown to be more dedicated and less likely to look for new roles. This is particularly important for small-to-medium sized technology businesses, where key team members often hold business-critical technical knowledge and skills. By not supporting professional development, organisations risk losing their best talent and as a result are unable to keep up with rising standards and deliver best practice.

Why have a formal CPD programme?

At AXELOS, we know that the millions of ITIL practitioners worldwide are crucial to the businesses they work for. From engaging with them, we also know that they feel having a formal CPD programme in place is becoming more and more important. It is not just about developing that knowledge, because for many this is already a part of their professional psyche. It is about having a mechanism to plan, record and evaluate that learning to help individuals make the most of their development.

Formal CPD programmes – whether provided internally or by external providers – also provide benefits for business. Recognised frameworks give structure to professional development, ensuring that employers are able to track the development of their team – and make certain that the whole team is growing in the right direction. By having a benchmark to evaluate against, organisations can begin to effectively manage their recruitment and development of the best talent.

Like any change programme, embedding ‘best practice’ CPD into a company culture and management style can be difficult, particularly where employees are used to a more ‘hands off’ approach.
Regardless of the approach used, I believe that supporting individuals in developing the necessary skills and knowledge to support their professional development goals is crucial for any organisation.

Increasingly, employees will be making career choices based on the CPD programmes on offer at specific employers – and the marketplace already favours those companies that develop their teams effectively. Ensuring that CPD becomes central to the values of your organisation will put you in a much stronger position to help your IT specialists grow their skillset and broaden their knowledge, putting your business in a much stronger position to drive forward growth and increase profits.

Peter Hepworth (pictured) is the CEO of AXELOS, which owns the Best Management Practice portfolio, including ITIL®, PRINCE2® and the other PPM products. Image credit: AXELOS