Deep dive into our CPD Gold award

The IPA’s CPD Gold award scheme recognises companies that “demonstrate a genuine culture of learning; bettering the professionalism, development and reputation of the industry, enhancing clients’ brands and agencies’ worth as a result.” Put simply, you have to design a kick-ass development programme that not only helps people to learn and grow, but has a demonstrable ROI. That means we could prove that our learning efforts resulted in more money for the business.

Here’s how we did it for creative agency Gravity Road…

Learning that leads to business outcomes

An essential part of CPD Gold is demonstrating how learning can help achieve business objectives. We wanted to show how the culture of learning we had built around Gravity Road’s core value of curiosity was an essential part of their success.

We started by working with the Managing Director and CFO to identify a number of overarching business objectives for the year ahead.

Our CPD plan listed all the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to help achieve each objective; the learning activities we could design to support the development of these; and, crucially, how we would measure and know that our learning activity had been useful in achieving the objective.

Department heads inputted into the plan, breaking down business objectives into departmental objectives and identifying individuals for specific pieces of activity. These then fed into development discussions with their direct reports and into individual objectives.

Departmental domains of expertise

The CPD plan was a top-down approach specifically aimed at achieving business objectives, but we knew there would be important development areas that had been missed by this. Our next step was to drop down a level and look at department needs.

We created a framework called GROW that sat behind all development. There were two core GROW pillars which were relevant to everyone in the agency: Creativity and Technology. These were disciplines that Gravity Road wanted everyone to be an expert in, regardless of department.

Each department expanded on this framework with their own specific departmental pillars (represented in blue on the image above). Core competencies were then devised around these department pillars, designed to help people understand what is required of them in their role and to inform progression. We wanted everyone to understand what they needed to do in order to progress in their career.

Departmental training plans were designed around the core competencies. This simplified things for employees as it meant that the departmental training generally fell into one of these themes.

Bringing it to life

Okay so enough of spreadsheets and frameworks! What actually happened?? Well we can’t go into too much detail but, needless to say as a creative company, there was a wide range of interesting learning activities. Or as the judges put it: “brilliant examples showcasing creative and innovative thinking to encourage their team to learn and grow.”

A lot of the work Gravity Road do is at the bleeding edge which means there aren’t always formal training courses for new technologies. For these areas, we activated Gravity Road’s value of playfulness to learn through play and experimentation.

We ran Games Nights where we played video games together to encourage people to explore gaming, we hosted virtual hangouts to get people familiar with Discord, we set internal creative briefs around Twitter; gave prizes for employees with the most TikTok views…

There was also still a need for formal learning opportunities. Some of this looked like self-directed learning, such as the Studio team setting up their own learning discussion groups for Skillshare courses they had opted into. Other times this took the form of a course, or inviting experts in to talk about a certain topic.

Hybrid talk from best selling author Bruce Daisley with a book for each employee

What we learnt whilst doing it

  • It’s never too early to start – Even if it’s just a rough idea, get something down on paper. Start the conversations, tee people up, talk about what you’re going to do in leadership and company meetings… Because whilst this might be your priority, it won’t be other people’s. They still have their day job to do and you don’t want to be asking the CFO to calculate YoY data with a few weeks to the deadline!
  • Everything is not equal – Whilst it would be incredible if all your learning activity resulted in a demonstrable ROI, the reality is that some parts of your plan will be easier to measure and prove than others. So don’t expend all your energy on everything equally. Choose where ‘good enough’ will do and where you’re going to over-invest energy to find the amazing CPD story. We earmarked a number of stories up-front that we thought would be Gold-worthy.
  • Stay flexible – We didn’t know how some parts of the plan would play out and we found that new areas of interest emerged that we couldn’t have predicted. We set up monthly chats with different teams across the business to discuss how certain projects were unfolding. This allowed us to adapt to new CPD stories and ensure that we were collecting the data we needed along the way.
  • Uncover informal learning – When you’re in an internal role like HR/People/Culture you can be slightly disconnected the work. We went department-by-department, individual-by-individual and discovered that there was lots of learning happening informally which people didn’t realise counted and hadn’t been picked up by our plan. People were starting discussion groups around new technologies; pro-actively attending talks in their spare time and watching online tutorials to find new ways to do their job better.

Interested in how we can take your learning to the next level?

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You can’t manage what you don’t measure

A final piece that’s worth mentioning is measurement. A lot of planning around measurement happened upfront to ensure we were capturing the right data points along the way and to ensure we had benchmark comparisons from previous years.

Alongside each piece of activity, we determined which Kirkpatrick Evaluation Level was appropriate. This allowed us to devote our energy to collecting Level 3 and Level 4 on the activity we thought would yield an ROI, whilst capturing enough feedback on the other activity to at least determine if it was useful, effective and interesting to inform future planning.


“An impressive first submission from Gravity Road. They show solid, goal-oriented commitment to DE&I and sustainability, and brilliant examples of showcasing creating and innovative thinking to encourage their team to learn and grow.”

Business objectiveDepartment objectiveNew knowledge, skills, or behaviours needed to help meet this objectiveLearning activityHow will we know our CPD activity is successful?
Generate £XM new revenue from Web3.0 work Account Management: Pitch Metaverse and XR
opportunities to clients based on suitability

Production: Provide estimates for a range of Extended Reality
(XR) executions

Studio: Develop in-house expertise on new technologies such as 3D and AR

Creative: Explore the creative possibilities within the metaverse

• Understand the creative possibilities within the metaverse
• Learn how to provide estimates for a range of Extended Reality (XR) executions
• Become capable of providing a full range of suitable partners to deliver Augmented Reality (AR) executions
• Understand how to pitch Metaverse and XR opportunities to clients based on suitability

• Develop internal capabilities to deliver 3D model designs in 3D Spaces

e.g., Game Developers Conference, NFT.London,

GRxr learning program
Curated programme with internal and external speakers ranging from industry experts through to XR companies

Skills courses e.g. Skillshare, Linkedin Learning, GreyscaleGorilla, Maxon and Unity, Unreal Engine Workshops

An increase in new business revenue from a Web3.0 project

Testimonials from staff that attended the training linking their learning to delivering the to the new business work

Demonstrable ROI from the training