Are Podcasts Effective for Professional Development?

Are Podcasts Effective for Professional Development?

I’m a member of a Chartered profession, busily working towards achieving Chartered status. I was delighted to see the Continued Professional Development (CPD) programme I’m working through was recently extended to include a range of podcast episodes.

To be honest, I was delighted because I’m already addicted to podcasts. I listen to them while driving; gardening; ironing – in fact any chore I have to complete that prevents me from reading, writing or taking in information in another way. Lots of my conversations seem to start with, “I was listening to this podcast…”

I first learned how to make podcasts while studying for a qualification in distance education. Their contribution to my positive learning experience led me to believe they are a great solution for professional development. Now that my professional role includes making podcasts for clients, it’s important to me to understand why they are an effective medium.

From my experience and from the information I’ve found so far, here are some of the advantages of podcasts for professional development.

Ease, Speed and Efficiency

These days, you can create a good quality recording quickly and easily, with relatively inexpensive equipment. That makes it both cost effective and timely. You can record, edit and publish some CPD material within a number of hours, as long as you understand the key elements of the content and how to get those points across effectively. That’s ideal if you’re working in a dynamic occupation where keeping on top of fast-changing information and skills is essential.

You can reach your audience much more easily now too. It’s simple to tag and upload a podcast to an online directory where listeners can subscribe and receive each new episode effortlessly. If you want to share confidential information, you can set up your own in-house channel, using an employee app. Alternatively, you can use a host service that offers enterprise solutions.

In line with the ease of making and distributing podcasts, it’s become much simpler for listeners to access podcasts and listen to them on-the-go. It’s no coincidence that podcasts have become more popular as smartphones have become more ubiquitous. More than 90% of working age adults in the UK own a smartphone. The latest RAJAR/IpsosMori data indicates that 65% of podcasts are listened to on a smartphone.

Man with headset listening to a podcast in the street

Podcasts are gaining in popularity

Podcasts have grown in popularity quickly over the past four years. The RAJAR/IpsosMori data tells us that 6.2 million UK adults report listening to podcasts on a weekly basis. That figure seems set to increase, as audiences gradually move to on-demand forms of entertainment and access more audio content through smart speakers.

Importantly, podcasts retain their listeners’ attention for longer. People tend to turn to a podcast in order to listen while doing something else, such as commuting, exercising or completing household chores, (just like me). This means they are more likely to stay with a podcast than they are with other forms of visual content, like videos or articles, which they have to take time to watch or read. In fact, 89% of people who download a podcast episode listen to the majority of it, with a little less than 70% listening to the whole episode. What’s more, the relative intimacy of the medium, where episodes are mostly listened to through a headset, encourages a greater sense of connection with the podcaster.

Podcasts are considered more educational than other forms of media

Most listeners consider podcasts to have a more intellectual tone than other forms of digital media. In her excellent exploration into the effect on the brain of intense podcast listening, Sirena Bergman captured the views of a fellow podcast addict: “Podcasts feel like a way to educate myself, a positive use of my time”. At any given time, the list of most-listened-to podcasts include a high proportion of non-fiction, informative topics.

icon of headset with podcasts for learning quote

The ability to ‘tune into’ learning or information, at a time that suits the listener, is an ideal scenario in today’s busy, on-demand life. It also accords with new types of learning behaviour sparked by the rise of mobile technology. 

For example, ‘seamless learning’, a term defined by the Higher Education Academy as “The ability to maintain a continuity of learning across situations (formal and informal contexts) and scenarios (individual learning, small groups, online communities, etc.) mediated by mobile technology. Seamless learning is self-directed, driven by curiosity and is a key skill for the 21st century.”

The portability of podcasts makes them an ideal way for listeners to take learning with them as they go. Your podcasts might be a simple recap of important points you’re sharing through different channels, but with the added interest of the presenter’s personality. They can provide your audience, learner or team member with the opportunity to pick up content in a way that suits their preferences. Listeners can access them at a time that’s convenient for them. Enabling people to obtain new information when they are ‘driven by their curiosity’ means they are already intrinsically motivated to take it on board.

The power of podcasts

Some organisations have recognised the power of podcasts and are starting to tap into their potential. For example, the Marriott group recently led a successful recruitment campaign by issuing a series of podcasts called “The Wandernaught Show” to showcase their values and employment benefits. Other globally recognisable brands like Disney and Netflix are podcasting for their employees as part of their mix of Internal Communications channels.

There’s increasing regulatory pressure on organisations to ensure their employees or members can demonstrate continuing learning and competence. For example, in a short time, any company selling or advising on Insurance policies in the UK will have to comply with a Financial Conduct Authority directive . This requires all employees to complete 15 hours of relevant CPD annually.

Employees, customers and stakeholders increasingly expect that organisations will provide learning and other types of content in more accessible ways. Podcasts can be shared globally, instantly. They can suit the needs of the increasing numbers of remote, or non-desk-based workers. 

The time is right for organisations and professional bodies to find quick and effective methods to engage constructively with their employees, learners and communities. Podcasts are an ideal way to tap into the curiosity-driven need to find timely and engaging professional learning resources.

We believe in the power of podcasts and we love making them! 

Here’s some information about our podcasting services.

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