How to Strategically Target Your Continuing Professional Development Budget

If you have the right managers with the right level of self-awareness and the right mindset, you will retain the right people.

“You and your people are your greatest asset.”

“Nurturing and development is fundamental to sustainable progress.”

Its unlikely many leaders would disagree with the above statements. The CBI estimates that businesses spend £39 billion (U.S.$50.8 billion) annually on formal staff training and development, which accounts for only 10 percent of all training, with the rest being informal and so not recorded or measured.

When good quality training and development has been measured, CIPD research shows it has a 22 percent impact on the bottom line. Yet questions remain as to how much of this investment is wasted through a lack of sustainability.

Currently, exciting developments are taking place in the neurosciences that are offering “road maps” for change management at both the individual and organizational levels. The correlations between the mind and the organization are having significant impact on a new paradigm for leadership and organizational development. It is here we need to start in ensuring our continuing professional development (CPD) budgets are strategically targeted to lead to sustainability.

Starting with Self-Awareness

There are various approaches to reviewing performance and development needs, often referred to as the CPD cycle. The simplest form of a CPD cycle is the four-step approach:

1. Reflect

2. Plan

3. Take action

4. Evaluate

But if you are more conscientious, you might want to take a more in-depth approach, which often includes a skills audit, identifying gaps and competencies. Sometimes (although rarely), this might even include a mindset review. Yet more sophisticated models will elaborate on the element around learning itself, recognizing that the starting point is raised self-awareness (based on the “I”).

Self-awareness comes out of that old Greek aphorism, “Know thyself,” and has driven different strands of psychology and psychological development for centuries, including various psychometric tools. The key use of psychometrics is in raising awareness of our “default” personality traits and behaviors in different interactions and environments. We may all be different, but we are all predictably so. This is often difficult to accept in our rationally driven world. Not because we are so rational, but because we are so clearly not.

This is a key issue holding us back.

The belief in an unemotional stance to practical decision-making (which is left brain thinking) is an outdated mode of thinking that still prevails, yet we know that it is emotions—not the intellect or rational thinking—that drives most of our actions.

If we look at the connection between biology and the brain, we know that first and foremost, we are driven by our instincts through the reptilian part of the brain, while the main decision-making part of the brain is the limbic system, which drives our emotions. This is where our sub-personalities, our inner voices, our archetypes reside, and it is full of contradictions. The cortex is the area that handles learning and the development of logic. We like to believe this is the area that is in control, but actually this part of the brain is not put to any practical use until after the age of 7, by which time most of our beliefs and values have been set.

This is why it is of absolute priority that we clarify our values and beliefs, because if we don’t, we will not be in a position to bring awareness and a questioning stance to understanding (and subsequently directing) our “default” approaches in life—the first step in raising our self-awareness sufficiently to move beyond our emotional drivers. This is our most pressing strategic development need.

Strategies to Implement

So what is the best strategic approach to do this?

Invest in the personalities of your people. Know the personality of your people—individually, collectively, and holistically as an organization. Psychometrics are useful in identifying individual traits and when they might come into conflict, or team traits and which other teams they are likely to come into conflict with. This level of awareness, if shared with the teams, can lead to a greater understanding of all our default positions; blends; preferred ways of working and communicating; and how we can all adapt to meet our own, each other’s, and the organization’s needs.

Invest in coaching. Get the support and challenge you need to develop your self-awareness and the awareness of your key players. Self-awareness has two key elements: awareness of our thoughts—which is called metacognition—and awareness of our emotions—which is known as meta-mood. However, it is difficult to step outside our own image of the “self” and so defeat our own self-deception. Our thoughts and emotions drive our behavior, so raising self-awareness of those thoughts, emotions, and behavior through support and challenge is fundamental to the change process.

But we need to go far beyond self-awareness. Knowledge without action is pointless.

Anyone, or any organization, that is interested in improvement, development, or excellence needs a systematic way of supporting change and sustainability for transformation. The key is to remember that small changes can result in big transformation, especially in relation to motivation and communication. When people are motivated and communicating effectively they produce greater results. Indeed, the CIPD has suggested an impressive 88 percent impact when development interventions include good quality coaching.

Invest in cultivating the right culture. While most providers and organizations will already have a core set of values, these are inevitably idealistic values. But very few organizations take the time to consider these idealistic values in relation to the organization’s operational values. Indeed, few organisations are aware that there are two sets of values, and that usually our idealistic and operational values differ (sometimes considerably), which can create a real sense of dissonance. This can be one of the main barriers to progress, and one that is unlikely to be resolved unless the time is taken to do value elicitation with your core team/s who will be the key conduit for improvement and development.

The problems are compounded when we then take into account individual and collective beliefs and limiting beliefs—the things that tell you what you can and can’t do, which is the main territory of many coaches. Progress is further supported or undermined by our mindset. Just how far along the continuum from a fixed to growth mindset we sit (and then are willing to shift) will determine how much we will embrace the notion of progress and development.

Bringing It All Together

It is well known that people do not leave organizations, they leave managers. If you have the right managers with the right level of self-awareness and the right mindset, you will retain the right people. This will have an impact on reducing recruitment, induction, and retraining costs; boosting employee engagement and satisfaction; and significantly increasing performance and productivity.

Robert Adams is the author of “DISCover the Power of You: How to cultivate change for positive and productive cultures,” a licensed DISC trainer, mindfulness and spiritual coach, and organizational learning partner at the University of Leeds.

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