How can directors expand their skillset?

Expand your skillset

What skills do directors need to see their companies thrive in the post-recession era? The IoD looks at how continuing professional development can help you boost commercial performance, retain talent and remain agile

Britain is “leading the way” in the global economic recovery, says the IMF’s Christine Lagarde, and with GDP growth of 2.6 per cent last year – the strongest since 2007 – the UK’s prospects are certainly looking bright. But although we might be out of the quagmire, the business landscape is not yet back to pre-recessionary boom times. So how can directors ensure their firms continue to flourish?

According to IoD research, 94 per cent of directors link continuing professional development (CPD) to improved business performance. “The business landscape has become more intense post-recession and directors need to be agile enough to respond to changes in the marketplace and disruptive technologies,” says Louise Gulliver, the IoD’s new director of professional development. “CPD is not just about learning, it’s about becoming a better professional – and that is in the interest of UK plc. Not only that, but directors have a responsibility to keep their skills and knowledge up to date because they are accountable for the future of their company. The law is evolving constantly, so it’s crucial that they are aware of their legal obligations, too.”

It doesn’t matter, she says, what age or how experienced you are. “People think CPD refers to formal qualifications and training, and although it does to a certain extent, there are also informal ways to learn, which don’t take up much time – social media, research and online forums, including LinkedIn, are good examples. It’s about knowing what might work for you. And that includes peer-to-peer learning and mentoring.”

Update your knowledge

So what are the benefits? “Improved business performance, stronger influence in the boardroom, and protection,” says Gulliver. “When you’re in a board meeting and you don’t understand what someone is saying or you get caught out – that’s a horrible feeling. Directors undertake a significant level of responsibility and they need to know what they are doing and how they should be doing it. They can improve their influence in the boardroom and protect themselves from legal pitfalls by refreshing their skills and knowledge.”

CPD is also vital when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent, adds Emma Hicks, the IoD’s head of learning programmes. “I’m not just talking about millennials, but Generation Z as well. They have grown up with technology and consuming informal ways of learning. As a leader, if you don’t have a learning culture you’re not going to keep emerging talent. Young people want to be invested in, and they want to see their senior leadership team doing the same.”

The IoD, says Gulliver, is focusing on making learning accessible for all directors. “We are concentrating on understanding the array of challenges our members, and the wider business community, face and providing them with access to expertise – it’s about sharing best practice and facilitating collaboration. Our goal is to be a conduit for learning for senior businesspeople.”

Elaine Clowes, chartered director and chief executive of national charity Children’s Links, says that undergoing CPD with the IoD has been hugely beneficial: “CPD stimulates the brain and has offered me opportunities. It helped me look at ways to assess the board against the code of governance and to create a process so that individuals could assess themselves and arrive at an action plan, which my board implemented. My board now has the confidence that our organisation is meeting best practice.”

CPD workshops for IoD members

The IoD is launching a CPD workshops project in response to member feedback, explains membership director Kate Brackenbury. “It’s a fantastic new benefit, giving members access to high-quality, learning-focused events across the UK. Each workshop is run by an experienced IoD training consultant and is 90 minutes long – perfect for time-poor directors as well as being affordable [£50 plus VAT for members]. It will also give people an opportunity to learn from each other and broaden their network.”

The IoD has pledged to support the development of directors’ boards and businesses, and Hicks says learning is a huge part of that. “The beauty of the IoD’s courses is that every participant gets something different out of them and is able to take back new skills to benefit their business.”

Find out more about the CPD workshops at

Workshops in 2016

Practical Tips for Becoming an NED

23 February 116 Pall Mall, London,

19 April Ashfords LLP Exeter

22 June IoD Yorkshire, Leeds

1 September Irwin Mitchell Birmingham

7 October BDO Manchester

29 November iPro Stadium, Derby


Step to the Top

26 Feb Nottingham Conference Centre

9 May 116 Pall Mall, London

20 May KPMG One Snowhill, Birmingham

12 September North East/Yorkshire Region, venue tbc

16 November Burges Salmon LLP, Bristol

1 December BDO 6th Floor, Manchester


Strategic Decision Making

2 March Smith & Williamson LLP, Birmingham,

1 June IoD North West, Manchester

14 September Smith & Williamson, Bristol

23 September Nottingham Conference Centre

2 November 116 Pall Mall, London,


The Top 5 Things Every Director Must Know

10 March BDO 6th Floor, Manchester,

12 May iPro Stadium, Derby

25 May Uplands Retail Ltd, Bristol

29 September 116 Pall Mall, London,

28 October North East/Yorkshire Region, venue tbc

2 December The Latitude Club, Birmingham

About author

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker is deputy editor at Think Publishing. Previously she worked as a features writer and sub-editor for Director magazine

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