Stages of the CPD cycle

  • Identify: Understand where you've come from, where you are and where you want to be.

  • Plan: Plan how you can get to where you want to be, with clear outcomes and milestone to track progress.

  • Act: Act upon your plan, and be open to learning experiences.

  • Reflect: Make the most of your day-to-day learning by routinely reflecting upon experience.

  • Apply: Create opportunities where you can translate theory into practice and put your learning to work.

  • Share: Share your learning in communities of practice to generate greater insight and benefit from the support of your community.

  • Impact: Measure the overall impact your learning has had on the work you do.

Watch our video to find out more

Play Video
CPD cycle video still

When starting your CPD journey, we recommend starting with the ‘Identify’ stage in order to gain perspective and ask yourself the fundamental question - '‘where am I and where do I want to get to?’. This will then allow you to 'Plan' your future course of action.


This requires an analysis of yourself: your past self, your present self and your aspirational future self.

The CPD cycle is a cyclical process and your learning is continuously evolving. However, its important to identify what learning you want and/or need, that supports your aspirations and plan how you’ll do this.

To understand your current position or assess yourself at a higher level, you can undertake a self-assessment against the professional standards through My CPD map.


It’s then a case of identifying how you can get there, and creating milestones or check in points in order to review progress.

The planning stage can be started at any point throughout the year, but you may find it useful to align it with your annual development or performance review.

It’s important to remember that a lot of learning will not be planned. This stage will ensure you have a guide to follow, not a strict plan you have to stick to. Focus on the outcomes you’d like to see realised, rather than the time spent on activities or a detailed plan of every activity you plan to undertake.

It's likely that your plan will include a mixture of keeping up to date with your area of expertise, learning about the external environment and developing new skills. You may also be considering a change in role or organisation. Whatever your plan involves, we have a range of resources that can help you get there.

Practical resources

From books and journals to podcasts and reports, we have a range of resources to practically support your learning objectives. Access our Knowledge hub now to find our more.

Learning new skills

If you've identified learning goals but you're not sure how to get there, the career hub could help provide the clarity you need. Whether it's developing leadership skills, managing your time more effectively or dealing with stress at work, the Career hub can offer a range of information, tools and advice to support you.

Learning at work

Don't underestimate the learning you do every day. Whether you've been working on projects, undertaking research as part of your role or recently started a secondment, make sure you make the most of day-to-day learning by taking the time to regularly reflect on your learning.

Play Video
Introduction to Reflective Practice

Reflective Practice is growing in use as a method for professional development. Why? Because it enhances critical thinking, deepens self-awareness and improves communication skills.

What is reflective practice?

Twenty-first century workplaces and working lives are busy. Without realising it we have a multitude of learning experiences every moment of every day. Reflective Practice can make sense of these experiences and transform them into insights and practical strategies for personal growth and organisational impact. For this reason the potential of Reflective Practice is hugely significant.

It is typically learned through conversation, writing and the use of metaphor. Both individuals, groups and teams can do Reflective Practice. The process involves deconstructing experience in order to externalise our thoughts, be honest with our feelings, analyse our patterns of behaviour, become aware of our values, question our assumptions and challenge our perceptions.

As individuals feel competent and confident with the basic principles and techniques, they can make Reflective Practice their own. This is encouraged and means the creative possibilities for enhancing one’s Reflective Practice abilities are endless. It also means that we can continually discover the filters through which we see and interact with the world.

Why should I reflect?

Regularly engaging in reflective activities can initially enhance your critical thinking, deepen your self-awareness and improve your communication skills. In time, it develops resilience, creativity and problem solving skills.

What do I need to do?

With the pace of working life being so fast it can be difficult to pause and reflect because our tendency is to keep moving. In fact, we have trained our brains to do so! Reflective Practice requires you to be persistent and proactive if you want this habit to become second nature. It requires space – physical and mental so that you can reflect deeply with few or no distractions.

As you develop the habit of reflective practice, you can consciously and intentionally translate your insights into practice and transfer your learning into the work place.

Download our guide for more information on how to develop your skills as a reflective practitioner.

If you’ve been following the CPD cycle, you will have been continually reflecting upon your learning. Now is the time to develop a strategy for how you will apply the learning.

Our CPD policy is focused on results. That means that we’re primarily focused on the output of your learning, or in other words how you’ve applied your learning in the work you do.

Embedding learning requires repetition, so creating opportunities where you can continually revisit learning through application will ensure the benefits are long lasting. This might mean starting a new project at work, volunteering for new challenges outside your comfort zone or simply a case of continually seeking feedback from those you work with.

You’ll also find that there will be aspects of your learning that aren’t quite ready to be put into action or applied to your work. It’s important to note that learning happens incrementally and so there will be things that will likely need to be revisited in your next iteration of the CPD cycle.

The application of learning will lead your CPD to become a shared experience with those you work with, which leads us onto the Share stage of the cycle.

'To learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.' - Stephen R. Covey

This stage involves sharing your learning in communities of practice in order to generate greater insight and benefit from the support of your community.

The great thing about this stage is that it’s a very natural progression from application, you most likely do it already. Think about the last time you had an insight; you probably shared it with a colleague, friend or family member, whether it was to benefit them or simply because you were excited to have learned something new.

Learning is an inherently social process, and the learning doesn’t end once we’ve applied it. There are still many lessons to be learned through feedback and iteration. Sharing learning is a great way to collaborate with others, build networks and exchange ideas.

Many HR and L&D professionals choose to share their learning within our thriving online communities on LinkedIn, Twitter or the Communities platform. But whether you use social media, blogging platforms or even collaborative learning tools, it’s a great way to showcase yourself to employers or clients and take control of your online identity.

Of course, you can also share offline. There’s a wealth of opportunities to do so through our branch network and special interest groups, or via conferences and exhibitions throughout the year.

Impact is created through having a robust approach to your professional development and building the habitual behaviours that support effective CPD. Take the time to celebrate the impact you've created and think about ways you can ensure greater impact in the future.

Our CPD approach focuses on outputs instead of inputs. With this stage you should focus on how you’ve actually applied this new learning and how this supports you, your team and/or organisation. Ideally these will be measurable outcomes e.g. how and what have you done to improve services, reduce costs, increase revenue, save time, etc.

It can also be helpful to evaluate progress against the objectives you set at the beginning of the year. To help you along, it's important to take the time to reflect upon your experience through each of the cycle stages. Some questions you might want to ask yourself are:

  • What have I learnt?
  • Did I achieve my learning outcomes?
  • What kind of unplanned outcomes or challenges arose from this experience?
  • Which barriers or blocks did I have to overcome?
  • How have I applied this this learning at work?
  • What was the impact of this learning to my organisation (tangible measurements, if possible)?
  • What lessons can I take from this experience?

Not all of your learning will get to this stage, as you may not have had the opportunity to apply it in practice, but this stage will help you to measure the overall impact you've created in order to understand whether the actions you've taken have led to meaningful change.

My CPD Map

​Providing you with a quick and easy way to assess yourself against the CIPD profession map and offering a variety of personalised development options

Read more