Employer’s responsibility

Nina Paterson, CSP education adviser, discusses the benefits to an organisation of investing in staff development

CPD in Practice

We often talk within this Frontline CPD series about our own personal responsibility to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) but, as the recently released multi-professional principles for continuing professional development and lifelong learning in health and social care, CSP’s own Code of Conduct and even the NHS constitution attest, that’s only half the story. Your employer completes the second half. 

While you are responsible for demonstrating to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) that you regularly undertake activity to continually develop yourself professionally, employers have a responsibility to invest in their staff and support you to develop. How this happens will depend on the type of organisation you work for. So whether you’re working for the NHS, local government or in the private sector, the requirement to ensure that you are developed is the same – after all, delivery of cost-effective high quality patient care needs a highly skilled and motivated workforce regardless of the sector. 

Investing in a workforce costs money and, wherever you work, it is likely that these budgets have shrunk in recent years. If you work in the NHS in England you’ll have heard that HEE is planning to allocate an additional £50 million to this year’s workforce development funding. This, coupled with Simon Stevens’ (Chief Executive of NHS England) recent pledge to restore CPD budgets, should be welcome news after the cuts over recent years.

Funding is only part of the story and regardless of whether budgets are shrinking or increasing, it remains important for employers and managers to support their staff to develop.  So we’re going to concentrate here on just that: your responsibility as a manager to support those in your teams/services to develop themselves professionally. We’re going to consider several compelling reasons for doing this, and then we’ll turn our focus to the CPD activity which will help you identify and find solutions to possible barriers that might need addressing.  

Organisational benefits

The evidence is clear that, while developing the workforce requires investment, the rewards to a team, service or organisation outweigh the time, money or effort needed.

Consistency and compliance

When we talk about compliance, what we often mean is the statutory and mandatory training required to ensure that staff are safe, competent to practise, and compliant with latest regulations thereby minimising risk to patients. HCPC requires all registrants to ensure that they are compliant but employers have a legal responsibility for having an appropriately experienced/qualified workforce.

Put simply, investing in staff’s CPD demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to this.

By putting in place structured training and development you’re ensuring that your staff have a comparable level of knowledge and experience, giving you confidence that they have the required set of skills to carry out their roles safely and effectively. 


Alongside this, it also enables you to benchmark and measure individual and team performances. If the phrase ‘performance measures’ automatically sounds negative to you (as it does to me), it is worth bearing in mind that setting targets and addressing why targets haven’t been met is not an inherently bad thing. Even when it means that weaknesses come to the fore, that’s okay: working together with the individual or a team to put in place CPD opportunities to help them improve, change and grow ensures that they have the best chance to succeed the next time. One of the hardest lessons I have learnt as a manager was that by not highlighting areas for improvement or causes for concern, I wasn’t allowing my staff members to change. In effect, I was holding them back. 

Standards, innovation and efficiency

Let’s move beyond mandatory training to consider staff who are being invested in and developed so that they have the tools to do their current job and the confidence and ability to re-imagine their own role as well as the service’s function. You are now laying the foundation to reap significant rewards. Once staff are performing optimally and being invested in, evidence suggests that morale and engagement improve. Confidence, competence and high levels of engagement are prerequisites for any high performing teams so it’s worth investing in staff’s professional development to deliver service improvements. 


Whether you’re thinking about reputation externally or simply raising your team’s profile within your organisation, developing staff can play a central role in this too. Last time we focused on demonstrating the impact of an individual’s professional development.  By encouraging your staff to evaluate their CPD you’ll benefit as an employer. If they share their findings - formally or not - they’re also promoting your service or organisation. 

Let’s also address the elephant in the room…

What happens when you invest in staff only for them to move on? Even when they do head off to other roles there’s still an organisational benefit. You’ll have a colleague singing your service’s praises in different circles, potentially opening up new networks. They’ll be talking to new colleagues who might well want to join your team when you have a vacancy. And it’s not unusual for staff to come back later in their career, especially if you have invested in them well.

Things to think about

  • If the issues can be resolved by you, what examples do you have of best practice? Look for creative sustainable solutions by looking outwards to draw on others with more experience. In the same way you would for clinical expertise, what does the evidence say? Who can you get in touch with that might have been in a similar situation that you could learn from?  Don’t forget to involve your team, they might well have possible solutions ready to suggest.
  • If it is attitudinal, how are you going to bring about a change of culture? Developing and maintaining a learning culture takes time but needs to start with small steps. The change that you want to bring about needs to be role modelled. You’ll need to do some self-reflection before you start inspiring others. 

    'Who can you get in touch with that might have been in a similar situation that you can learn from?'

  • If the issues are around time and or you’re concerned about staffing implications if members of your team are away on workshops or courses, then don’t forget that CPD isn’t all about courses. The March 20 edition of Frontline has a useful reminder of what counts towards CPD. This might spark some ideas that can be built into day-to-day working.
  • If the barriers are outside of your control, for example if the IT budget sits within another department, or there is a lack of learning culture across the organisation, what can you do to make the case for more wide-ranging changes? Who do you need to influence, and how are you going to demonstrate that it is worth the investment? And once you’ve made the change how will you evaluate its success after implementation?

CPD activity

So, what stops us from giving our staff more development opportunities if there are so many benefits? Let’s look at some of the barriers.

Often, they’re structural such as lack of access to IT, or because of the way your service runs it is difficult to release staff. There might be a lack of local support in place, such as not having dedicated learning and development colleagues within the organisation, or even not having the underpinning policies and guidance to ensure that staff development is prioritised and prioritised fairly.

They can also be attitudinal. It could be that your staff themselves don’t see the value in their own professional development, or else they’re not seeing it valued by you as the manager or by others senior in the organisation. 

Unsurprisingly finances and a lack of a CPD budget will present a big hurdle. 

And finally – time. With increasingly pressured workloads it can often be tempting to de-prioritise what might be (wrongly) viewed as a luxury.  Given the benefits highlighted earlier in this article, while it might appear to be a short-time gain, it isn’t when you consider the medium to long term gains that have been highlighted. 

So, where do you go from here? This month’s activity is to put time aside to review your barriers and identify solutions. I’ve provided some pointers in the ‘things to think about’ section below to get you started. I’d recommend sketching out a project plan for each of the barriers you identify. If you don’t already have a project planning tool to hand, you’ll find the action plan template in the CSP ePortfolio will help structure your ideas.


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