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How to get the most from CPD

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Zoe Whitman from the 6 Figure Bookkeepers calls on accountants and bookkeepers to get organised and get the most out of your continuing professional development to develop yourself and grow your business.

3rd Oct 2022
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It always creeps up at this time of year, I’m just a few months away from annual renewal time, and how much “formal” CPD I’ve done usually comes down to which events I happen to have attended or the training I’ve specifically sought out by this point in the year.

We’re learning every day in this profession, but if you have a mental block about “getting your CPD done”, I get it.

When I qualified as an accountant in the early 2000s, the only option to achieve my CPD quota seemed to be to attend a seasonal update at a country hotel. 

In fact, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend a four-day local authority VAT event in Torquay many years ago. It set my expectation for every CPD event forever more: VAT, soft custard creams, Torquay. 

As we will discuss on this week’s Bookkeeping Show, it doesn’t have to be like that anymore. 

Here are my five tips for achieving your CPD requirements this year without a custard cream in sight.

1. Set a goal

It’s easy to fall into the trap of letting CPD be an afterthought but needing to invest time in training is a fantastic excuse to purposefully throw yourself into training. Think about how you want to advance professionally and in business and put your CPD hours to good use.

Adding a professional qualification can be a great way to achieve a large amount of CPD from one activity, so consider whether taking your professional training to the next level will be beneficial for your goals in the next 12 months. 

2. Break the year down

The idea of completing 40 hours of CPD might sound like a lot on the face of it, so break the year up. Of course not every hour needs to be completed at a formal event or training, but consider how many hours of what type of CPD you’ll realistically be able to complete each quarter. 

If you’ve already identified a professional qualification to work towards, you’ll find you’ve already got a much more manageable target for CPD for each quarter. 

3. Use conferences to your advantage

This time of year is packed with conferences - both in person and virtual. If you’re likely to be attending one you can easily complete six to eight hours of CPD. 

The challenge is that with so many sessions, it’s easy to find yourself bouncing from theatre to theatre without real focus, so go back to your strategy. 

Where do you want to develop yourself and what do you want to learn from the event? Attend the sessions which make sense for your goals, and plan time to reflect on and implement what you take away.

AccountingWEB Live Expo will be a great opportunity to top up your CPD, with a number of CPD-accredited workshops on tax to building your practice and everything in between. The in-person event will be happening again this year on 30 November to 1 December at Coventry Building Society Arena (and there will be better food there than custard creams, too!). 

4. Document CPD in the moment

If you don’t want to find yourself desperately trying to complete your CPD records in the last week of the year, you need to be proactive. 

There’s so much we do in this industry which is considered CPD if only we document it, so we need to get into the habit of seeking out training and recording it as we go. Schedule a monthly appointment to review your CPD for the previous month and to make a plan for the month ahead, it will soon become a habit.

5. Make a go-to list of resources

When you’re making a plan for the month ahead, it helps to have a list of CPD resources to review rather than feeling you’re scouring the web for anything that might be relevant. Make a list of great CPD resources and add them to your internet bookmarks. 

Include the best pages for technical articles, news and webinars. Get yourself on mailing lists for conferences and events (such as AccountingWEB Live Expo), bookmark training pages for software providers, industry press, and of course your professional body, and set up a mail rule to categorise those emails in a CPD folder so you can review them each month. 

Getting the most out of CPD isn’t about attending a weekend-long event. It comes down to identifying where you need to develop yourself, taking a structured approach and building good habits. 

Get organised, and you’ll no longer see your CPD requirement as a box-ticking exercise, but instead as a great opportunity for growth.

Zoe Whitman, alongside 6 Figure Bookkeeper Jo Wood and AccountingWEB editor in chief Joanne Birtwistle, will be discussing the importance of continuing professional development on this week’s episode of the Bookkeeping Show, which is brought to you in association with FreeAgent.  

Replies (8)

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By Hugo Fair
03rd Oct 2022 18:39

Actually, CPD doesn't stand for "continued professional development" (final para) but 'continuing professional development' ... which neatly encapsulates what I see as the central message of the article (it's not what you've done that matters but what you are doing & planning to do).

Personally I think it should be 'continuous professional development' (like a mash-up with Kaizen) ... but I was always marching to a different beat from the mainstream.

Thanks (3)
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By Philysis
03rd Oct 2022 19:02

I do enjoy reading the posts from educated people pulling up the poor scripts written by individuals who clearly lack an understanding of accounting and tax , time and time again, we see Poor grammar and use of words . The editor in chief of this website is not not fit for purpose and needs to be brought to task.

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By Paul Crowley
03rd Oct 2022 23:20

CPD is a state of mind
Ticking boxes has the value of a bit four audit programme. It can be done with the mind elsewhere, and proves nothing. We all know which of the boxes produces the desired result.
The best CPD comes from interaction with the unexpected unknown. As such it cannot be planned.

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By eppingaccountant
04th Oct 2022 10:17

With all due respect, I feel that this article doesn't tell us anything we wouldn't already know.

Thanks (2)
paddle steamer
By DJKL
04th Oct 2022 10:21

My tip is do some preparation work on the subject before attending the course, obvious but often omitted.

Starting any course from a low level of understanding tends to mean one learns the very basic nuts and bolts from the course rather than the more esoteric shiny bits that are not in the books, poor value for money, the gems wash over the attendee as he/she struggles taking in the basics.

If that is the outcome the course may be perceived as a waste of time and reading a book might have been a more efficient and cost effective approach.

Maybe this is just me and how I learn but it certainly worked at university (reading for tutorials before attending the tutorials) and I have adopted this approach virtually all my life.

Thanks (1)
Replying to DJKL:
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By Paul Crowley
04th Oct 2022 10:57

If I am looking for information, I want to read several versions of the same thing.
Preferably reading the idiot guide first.
I am also the person at the course that will ask questions. Not selfish, because If I did not follow it, then a good chance at least some of the others did not either. But they do not want to look stupid in front of their peers.

Thanks (2)
Heather Townsend - accountant's coach
By Heather Townsend
04th Oct 2022 16:53

In 2019 we had a look at the CPD requirements of the main accounting bodies. i.e. ACCA, CIMA, ICAEW, ICAS, CIPFA and AAT. (And yes, I know CIOT is missing off the list)

All, apart from the ACCA, had moved beyond the requirement for 'verified' CPD. I.e. the requirement to turn up to a training session which had been certified as 'good enough to qualify for CPD'.

Only CIPFA and the ACCA required a minimum number of hours. The remaining institutes were looking for a more forward-thinking approach to CPD, i.e. what learning needs did the individual have and how did they meet them during the year. The level of documentation required to 'declare' what CPD differed highly amongst institutes.

The ACCA required members back then (it may have changed now) to log a minimum of 40 units of CPD of which 21 units needed to be verifiable.

The key difference with verifiable was that typically members:
- needed to get a certificate to say they had attended the training event
- the learning outcomes needed to be defined to state what participants will be able to do as a result of the learning event and how it can be demonstrated. Being geeky, this typically means using the behavioural verbs in the upper level of Bloom's Taxonomy

What we realised when we did this exercise is:
- unless you are a member of ACCA or CIPFA the requirement to 'turn up to a live event' to get your CPD done for the year was not required
- the CPD accreditation service and its costs for getting a course certified for CPD was a mostly unnecessary exercise
- the importance for our workshops and member's training programmesto get the learning outcomes written to the correct format so our members could use them for their CPD records if they required verifiable CPD

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Replying to efficiencycoach:
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By Paul Crowley
05th Oct 2022 14:15

Brilliant response.
ICAEW is/was along the lines of Plan, Execute, Review.
For me
Plan: Keep up to date with changes
Execute: reading, researching. webinars, and in the old days the ACCA Saturday courses
Review: figure out if I am still up to date
It would never be
Plan; learn a new skill

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