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Recession-proof your career


Having extra skills in your employment arsenal has never been so important. The Chartered Management Institute's Ruth Spellman argues the case for CPD.

Against a backdrop of rising unemployment and fierce competition for the jobs that are available, it is important that individuals ‘stand out from the crowd’ and are able to prove the positive impact that they make to an organisation. To ensure you are able to impact on an organisation's performance you need to constantly look at how you can develop and improve. A key way of achieving this is by undertaking professional qualifications. After all, individuals have a responsibility to keep their knowledge and skills up to date.

Professional development should be ‘open access’ no matter what your previous level of formal qualifications, everyone has the opportunity to build the transferable skills that organisations are looking for. So, it is worrying that just one in five managers in the UK are professionally qualified. How are we supposed to successfully emerge from the recession with organisations full of ‘accidental managers’?

"Obviously the recession is hugely negative, but if we are to draw a positive, it is that it can provide the perfect opportunity for professional development..."

These are people who are leading a team as a result of meeting targets, not because they have the skills and knowledge to manage effectively. Whilst there are elements of management that can and should be learned and developed on the job, for managers to be successful in the long term, this experience needs to be complimented by continuous professional development (CPD).

Obviously the recession is hugely negative, but if we are to draw a positive, it is that it can provide the perfect opportunity for professional development and it seems that managers are beginning to recognise this. Research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) published in late 2008 shows 74% of individuals think qualifications are growing in importance and 35% are planning to take up a new qualification to help them survive the recession. A further 22% have resolved to build transferable skills, move jobs or prepare for redundancy. This means that despite the economic conditions it is clear that individuals are not only prepared to move if the right opportunity presents itself, but are increasingly realising the benefits of continuously developing their management skills.

Transferable skills and the portability that they offer are of huge benefit to both individuals and the organisations they work for. Individuals with management qualifications have a broad base of management knowledge, applicable in a wide range of contexts. This means that they are able to transfer their skills between different jobs and challenges both within and across organisations. This proves to employers that individuals are adaptable and capable of taking on broad new roles. So, it is unsurprising that such qualifications are becoming a fundamental way in which employers choose between candidates. After all, managers with professional qualifications are more likely to be noticed by potential employers because of the positive impact on business they are able to demonstrate.

The benefits of CPD

The benefits for individuals of CPD are huge. Not only does it provide a ‘career passport’ because of the portable skills developed, but is also has substantial financial rewards. Labour Force Survey data from 2008 shows that individuals that hold a professional qualification can expect to receive £81,000 in additional earnings over the period of their career. The same data also found that those with both professional membership and qualifications are 9% more employable.

So, CPD is extremely worthwhile as it goes a long way to ‘recession proofing’ individuals. This is because professional qualifications are not just about learning in isolation. They focus on the practical application of the skills learnt to enable them to be taken straight back to the workplace. Something that is clearly evident from the Labour Force Survey data. However, it is not just individuals that benefit, CPD can play a vital role in an organisation’s talent management programme. Those organisations that offer professional development are more likely to retain their top talent and build for the future, which in the current climate is of great importance.

"The benefits for individuals of CPD are huge. Not only does it provide a ‘career passport’ because of the portable skills developed, but is also has substantial financial rewards."

Further CMI research found that one in five managers describe themselves as not very motivated, with 37% blaming this de-motivation on the lack of opportunities for progression within their organisations. It is also worth noting that 23% are dissatisfied with the training offered by their employers. So, by giving managers the opportunity to undertake recognised professional qualifications, organisations will be helping to motivate their staff. CMI research has found that 60% of employers think that giving employees the chance to study will improve motivation. This ultimately translates into improved efficiency and productivity. Also, because managers are being exposed to ‘best practice’ techniques, their confidence in their abilities will increase, which again will have a positive impact on organisational performance and their standard of management.

It is clear that continuously developing management and leadership skills reaps numerous personal and professionally rewards. Employers also stand to gain by encouraging CPD amongst their staff. Professional development makes an individual’s working life more interesting, which in turn increases job satisfaction, meaning that the organisation benefits from highly motivated and productive members of staff. Something that is priceless, especially during times of recession. Yes, there is an issue of financing qualifications as they are an expensive commitment, but wider research shows that they are a valuable addition to remuneration packages. Organisations have a key role to play in helping manager’s up-skill and if they can help these individuals dig deep and develop their skills it will drive productivity. Now, more than ever is the time to invest wisely, especially in professional development because if organisations think the cost of competence is expensive, then they should consider the cost and implications of incompetence.

Ruth Spellman OBE chief executive Chartered Management Institute

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