Why CPD matters amidst a year of unprecedented pressure

Ross Farquhar is Chair of Judges for CPD Gold 2020.

Ross Farquhar, Marketing Director, Little Moons and Chair of Judges for CPD Gold gives his thoughts on this year's CPD Gold and Platinum agencies, and why he's glad 2020 wasn't a ‘forgotten year’ for professional development.

What an honour and a privilege it’s been to be this year’s Chair on the CPD Gold Accreditation. And what a year to find myself in the position!

The creative and media industry lives and dies by the talent, skills and capabilities of its people. At its best an agency career is part rigorous, professional discipline akin to law or architecture and part magic and wonder more frequently encountered in entertainment. Achieving that doesn’t happen by accident, but rather through the dedication of the people moving through the industry’s ranks and the commitment to professional development shown by the agencies stewarding those people’s journeys.

This is difficult enough at the best of times. Agencies no longer enjoy the margins that once handsomely funded personal development, and yet client expectations have never been higher. I know first-hand the way the industry has historically adapted to deliver excellent opportunities for learning, supported by the IPA and through the CPD Gold process in particular.

But at the risk of straying into cliché, this past year was unlike any other for those agencies endeavouring to demonstrate excellence in CPD. The opportunities for in-person learning were suddenly largely eliminated, and the margins for funding it even more challenged.

It’s that context that made this year’s crop of CPD Gold agencies’ submissions astonishingly impressive. What became clear from the entries I read and the discussion amongst the judges was that this was a year where unprecedented pressure was applied and yet the industry passed with flying colours.

Some agencies adapted by making greater use of technology, from Zoom learning to AI chatbots. Others doubled down on the personal touch, finding that if they couldn’t offer the same informal learning opportunities available in the office then they would take advantage of their senior folk being stuck at home and give their junior teams greater access to their experience. Either way, the commitment shown by agencies to not allow 2020 to be a ‘forgotten year’ of professional development was beyond admirable and I suspect might lead to even further innovation once we find our way to whatever our future normal turns out to be.

It would also be remiss of me to not to call out the exceptional work the judges and I saw in ensuring CPD opportunities were used to address the need for change in terms of diversity, equality and inclusion. Several agencies recognized that many of these challenges are systemic and that CPD has a critical role to play in equipping a more diverse cohort of stars to lead the industry in the future.

Finally, what has really struck me in being a part of this process is the extent to which I as a client benefit not just from the efforts of CPD Gold agencies to develop their teams but also to all of those involved in the CPD Gold Accreditation process to keep this agenda so high even in the most trying of circumstances. The quality felt in every creative presentation and media recommendation is thanks to the sterling efforts of so many behind-the-scenes heroes and it’s been a pleasure to hear their stories. Thank you to everyone involved.

2020 may not have been a year any of us would ever want to repeat, but Chairing the CPD Gold Accreditation process has given me hope that sunny uplands lie ahead for the agencies who submitted and the clients who enjoy the fruits of their labours. Congratulations to all who have been recognised, and accept my gratitude on behalf of all involved in the judging process for giving us so many reasons to celebrate.

Find out how you can achieve CPD Gold accreditation at our free workshop on 25 May.
Last updated 10 November 2021