CPD - a guide to goal setting

CPD - a guide to goal setting

20 Jan 2023

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Learning to effectively set goals is a fundamental part of achieving fulfilment and success both personally and professionally. The following article looks to outline the different types of goal setting, how to set good professional development goals, and the importance of goal setting in Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

What is goal setting?

Goal setting is an individual or a group establishing something they want to achieve in the future. It is a plan and commitment to reach a desired result or outcome. The goal could be either personal or professional. Within goal setting, objectives will be set which are steps towards attaining the overall goal.

The American psychologist and pioneer in goal-setting theory, Edwin Locke, identified through studies in the 1960’s that the most productive goal setting is challenging and specific as opposed to easy and generalised. A common easy and generalised example would be “look to do better in the future” which does not define a specific outcome.

Much academic, psychology and personal development study since has established criteria for effective goal setting, the most well-known being SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Based).

What are the best ways to set goals?

Goal setting begins with fundamental understanding and thought – what are an individual or group’s values, desires and ambitions. This identifies a potential goal and then criteria like SMART can be applied to effectively set this goal. The SMART criteria defines the following requirements in goal setting:

The SMART criteria

Specific - Goals should be well defined and unambiguous so that it is clear what is being aspired to.

Measurable - A goal and the objectives within should have clear ways of identifying if they have been achieved. For example, “looking to increase sales by 20% in 3 months” is more measurable than “look to have more sales”.

Attainable - A goal should be challenging but also realistic. It must be within skill set, talent and resource limits. If it is fundamentally impossible to achieve, it will quickly lead to demotivation.

Relevant - The goal and the objectives must be relevant to values and aspirations. They should align with overall career and life plans or they will prove unsuccessful.

Time Based - Goals need deadlines so they can be tracked. This is crucial to maintaining motivation and creating a sense of purpose. It also supports and ensures measurability.

Applying criteria like SMART forms the basis for effectively planning and building towards a goal, and ensuring the right objectives are adopted. It is also important not to set too many goals. Some Psychologists refer to this as “Goal Competition”. Too many goals battle for time and attention and will end up cancelling each other out and will all ultimately fail to be achieved. It is most effective to set no more than 2 or 3 specific goals.

Setting goals using the SMART criteria

Are there different types of goal setting?

All goal setting is unique to the individual or group and can apply to the personal and professional, therefore, in this sense there are many different types of goals. A goal may range from buying a first home or getting physically fit, to looking for a work promotion or starting a new career.

Equally, some goals may be smaller and short term that hope to develop to a longer term goal. For example, the goal could be committing to walk for an hour day, in order to start running every day a month later, to run a marathon a year later. However, in all types of goal setting, the fundamental insights and principles of criteria like SMART still apply. Goal setting must adhere to these basics if it is likely to be successful.

What are professional development goals?

Professional Development goals are usually specifically focused on developing a career or increasing skills and knowledge in the workplace. Professional development goals are crucial in fulfilling career aspirations and achieving success in the workplace. A professional development goal will range from the establishment of a long term career ambition, to short term goals which aim to gain the necessary skills to improve productivity in the workplace.

How to set good professional development goals

As with all goal setting, establishing good professional development goals first requires the fundamental understanding of overall values and ambitions. This will provide the basis for identifying the right learning and CPD to progress and improve professionally. It is also about acknowledging skills and knowledge gaps and ways these can be improved. Once professional development goals are established, it then requires the adoption of criteria like SMART to ensure that the goals are effectively achieved.

Simple examples of professional development goals

There can be many and varied professional development goals, and they will be unique to the needs and ambition of an individual. However, a simple example would be having the overall goal of achieving promotion to Senior Management within an organisation. An individual may set the professional development goal and objective of completing a CPD certified course in Management and Leadership so they have acquired the relevant skills and knowledge to facilitate the wider goal of promotion.

Alternatively, it could be focusing on CPD in IT skills, with the goal of being more productive in the workplace and more effective in the midst of new and developing workplace technology. It may also be as simple as regularly reading relevant industry literature or attending industry events, with the goal of staying informed about market trends and industry developments. In any example, the key is that professional development goals align with wider ambitions and adhere to the fundamentals of SMART criteria.

Why is goal setting important in Continuing Professional Development (CPD)?

At its core, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a commitment to ongoing lifelong learning and has huge benefits for both personal and career progression. Goal setting is crucial to making the most of CPD activities undertaken, and finding the types of learning which will be most beneficial to achieving any wider goals.

Active CPD learning and goal setting can, therefore, become the objective and basis for building towards further development. CPD also aligns with the insights of SMART in that it can be both measurable and time bound – in particular CPD encourages the documenting and record keeping of the increasing skills, knowledge and experience gained throughout a career.

How can goal setting help you with your CPD learning?

Effective goal setting can be a useful tool and help to increase motivation, encourage action and productivity, and generate a positive view of the future. Along with finding the right CPD learning objectives for specific aspirations, goal setting helps an individual to fundamentally gain more value from CPD as part of their ongoing professional development.

Participating in CPD as part of a broader goal is therefore likely to increase overall learning motivation and focus. This increased productivity and motivation that goal setting has been shown to create, also aligns with a basic CPD principle of individuals searching for constant improvement. It can be found then that goal setting should be at the core of an individual’s further learning aspirations.

Effective goal setting in CPD learning

Where can I find goal setting CPD courses?

If you are interested in attending suitable CPD courses and events focused on understanding and learning more about goal setting, please visit the CPD Courses Catalogue. Here you will find thousands of training courses and events across industry sectors and learning types, which would be beneficial for fulfilling wider personal and professional goals. If you would like to learn more about goal setting, please read our CPD tips on ‘How to set smarter personal and professional goals.’

All of the certified providers, courses and training have been reviewed and recognised as meeting the required industry standards and benchmarks. To find out more about a particular CPD course listed on our website, you can click on each course and there is an enquiry form that will be sent directly to the relevant CPD provider.

CPD accreditation for your professional development courses

We hope this article was helpful. Established in 1996, The CPD Certification Service is the world’s leading and largest CPD accreditation organisation working across all industry sectors. If you are looking to provide training courses, workshops, eLearning or virtual events that may be suitable for Continuing Professional Development, please contact our team to discuss in more detail.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a free online CPD record tool to help manage, track and log your ongoing learning, as well as store your professional training records and attendance certificates in one simple place, go to the myCPD Portal page.

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