The Leap Team have had one of those spontaneous, lateral thinking sessions. This time we were thinking about

things that are good for you and what they have in common. For whatever reason, onions sprung to mind. Continuing professional development is similar to this humble yet versatile vegetable in many interesting and unusual ways. So this article was written to make you think differently about your own development.  Feel free to comment if we missed any good similarities, or if you come up with your own!


  1. There are many, many layers

This similarity applies in many ways. Onions have several layers including the skin, the various edible layers and the core. All the layers have their own different properties and textures. Similarly, Professional Development applies to each industry, each organisation, each time and each individual. Just like the layers of an onion. If you are looking to develop your CPD,  consider whether you have thought of it from the multi-layered perspective that it merits.

Another way that onions and CPD both have many layers is the diversity of CPD itself.  Professional development is a whole variety of activities, and throughout a typical working year you will engage with many different forms of learning, These could be training days, seminars, safety updates, online learning, even the simple reading of trade publications. The point is that these are just some of the many layers that make up CPD.

2.They can be crispy, diced or cut into larger chunks

Onions can be cut and cooked in a whole plethora of ways. CPD can be delivered in a whole plethora of forms. Educators can deliver content and development that is crisp and exciting or that is basic and under-stimulating. Lecturers can deliver seminars that are specific or general depending on the topic. Some CPD may only take half an hour out of your working week meanwhile other professional courses can take over a few weeks.

The important thing to know is that you -to an extent- have the freedom to choose what you want to learn. You can learn small bits every few days or weeks, or large chunks every month or so. It is up to you and your unique situation, one of the key ingredients is your commitment and engagement with any learning opportunities.

3.They are extremely good for you

As has been discussed in our articles previously, well-executed CPD can be life-changing. It can improve organisations beyond recognition. This is not an exaggeration. Onions have also been recognised as a superfood and are well known to be a very healthy food. Similarly, cultivating a strong personal development plan specific to you will have short, medium and long term benefits to you. Just like the consistent and frequent consumption of a vegetables does. Onions have iron, vitamins and minerals, like CPD leads to promotions, self-fulfilment and engagement.

4.They can be very tasty

CPD can and should be fun, there is absolutely no reason for having the default attitude of negativity towards your development. The more control you have over your own direction, the more likely it is that you will enjoy every moment of it. Events can be extremely informative and enjoyable as you often meet delegates from similar as well as diverse backgrounds. This opens your mind to new perspectives all while having a good time. Onions can be tasty depending on the meal, it all depends on how you make them. It is up to you to make CPD fun.

5.They are very versatile

Onions can be used in many different savoury dishes as well as several sweet dishes. As has been mentioned, many different meals can be prepared and many completed dishes may be produced using other ingredients with this one vegetable. CPD can be applied to many workplace scenarios and is a great way of updating knowledge. CPD is a very versatile activity because of the range of what it can include, such as the breadth and depth of knowledge. The real gem of it are the lateral applications. 

6.There are bad ones and good ones

In any purchased bag of onions there is usually one, may be two bad onions. Even if you checked them before purchase. CPD is the same. Not all CPD is equal. Doing it purely for its own sake is as good as doing nothing. You should be selective with the CPD that you commit to, so that you do only the most fruitful courses and activities. Obviously you will not always be sure about learning days until you’re on them. This is why it’s important to do your research and encourage HR teams to thoroughly investigate whatever courses their teams will be sent on.

7.They come big and small

Some of those responsible for delivering courses and programmes may be stars in their industry. Others not so much. Either way, some educators have a wealth of knowledge and some do not. Those responsible for CPD are all very different.  In all cases it is once again up to you to discern those that you should trust and those whose word should be taken with a grain of salt.  You must be wary of any CPD providers that seem too good to be true. Sometimes less well known providers can be excellent in terms of course customisation and tailored solutions, with more flexibility to work in different ways with their clients.

 8.They can be burnt

Sometimes CPD is overdone. This is no better than not committing to CPD at all. Other times CPD can be ruined by organisations cutting their professional support programmes.  Lastly, professional development can be wasted. What are the consequences and lost results from not reflecting on and/or applying what has been learned? Often, quite huge. Part of the research of The Leap Team is to see how much lost revenue, value and intangible value businesses lose out on by not doing CPD and wasting the CPD that is done. Similarly, burnt onions might have to be thrown out and not used even though time was spent preparing it. This is wasteful in terms of time, cost and value .

9.They can be thrown out

Bad onions can be thrown out, this is a perfect reason. Sometimes, you may buy onions and you end up not using them or else you forget about them. Not giving any attention to CPD is the parallel here. This is a huge mistake. Do not forget about your professional development if you care for your career, even if you are happy in your position and have no thoughts of climbing the ladder. In the complex world of today, even just to secure a stronger chance of retaining you position you should be doing CPD regularly. Being ignorant about CPD is a not an excuse.  Take the time to educate yourself about what constitutes CPD and how you can apply it to your own career.

  1. They can greatly enhance any dish- if used correctly

Some CPD may not be right for you or your team. CPD should be used with intent, especially if large amounts of resources are being committed to it and time. Some programmes may be too extensive and others not extensive enough. It is really important to apply customised solutions to the situation in your own organisation. That way CPD will greatly enhance the success of the organisation or entity. If it is applied properly by those qualified to apply it. The incorrect application of CPD costs many organisations millions of pounds a year, time which staff could spend doing ROI-producing work. Onions should be used in the right dish and not when the combination clashes with everything else. Do CPD plans wisely, thoroughly and dedicate the time to ensure effective. Use CPD correctly.

So there you have it. 10 reasons why CPD and onions are quite a bit more similar than you think.  It is worth investing your personal time, effort and energy into the right kind and amount of professional development for you. That typically means keeping and sticking to a plan for frequent, quality and relevant development. Leap here.

Check out the online CPD Hub or stay informed with our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.

Thanks for reading and please do comment and share, should you have anything you want to ask us, please do get in touch here:

Karen Waite


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