Strategic People Management


Personal Effectiveness, Ethics and Business Acumen

Learner Assessment Brief

Level 7 Advanced Diploma in

Strategic People Management

Strategic Learning and Development


Personal effectiveness, ethics and business acumen CIPD’s insight




The learning plan, learning journal and portfolio of evidence

What characterises the best professionals you have worked with? A range of behaviours come to mind such as reliable, brave, rational, supportive, open, and inclusive, influential and well- connected, appreciative and ethical. These types of behaviour are often mentioned before knowledge, such as well-informed or up to date. Our profession map therefore places behaviour alongside knowledge as key characteristics of an impactful people professional. However, behaviour can be much harder to teach and is certainly more difficult to assess in people professionals.

The CIPD recognises that this is a demanding assessment for level 7 learners. It deals with broad senior-level behaviours because this is a strategic qualification at postgraduate level. It stretches across a longer period than most units because we want learners to have full scope to develop and then demonstrate their professional skills. It involves planning as well as summative assessment because the behaviours demanded in the profession map are largely self-developed or coached rather than taught in the classroom. Finally, learners and centres are afforded wide discretion over the first two elements of this tripartite assignment because we want learners to do things in ways that work for them; that requires autonomy.

Experience with this assessment has shown that it is discriminating in that it is clear who has taken the development of their skills seriously and can evidence the results. It is inclusive by providing opportunities for learners to be assessed on behaviours from the widest possible range of environments, not just in their workplace. And for some learners, it has been the springboard into lifelong habits of reflection, planning and execution of self-directed learning.

This unit consists of three tasks:

At the start of your programme carry out a self-assessment of your competence in each of the unit’s fifteen assessment criteria (for ease, these are listed in Appendix A) and from this develop a personal learning plan. Then,

During your programme keep a learning journal to monitor and adjust your progress and record evidence of your growing competence. Then,

At the end of your programme, you will submit a portfolio of evidence of your competence covering six of the unit’s fifteen assessment criteria. (You will be told which six assessment criteria nearer your submission date for moderation.)

For this unit you will be assessed only on your portfolio (task 3). However, you must carry out a self-assessment (task 1) and maintain a learning journal (task 2). Without these you are very unlikely to pass the unit.

Preparation for the Tasks:

For task 1 you will need the CIPD Profession Map.

Refer to the indicative content in the unit (see Appendix A) to guide and support your planning, learning and evidence gathering.

You will also benefit from:

Recognising that this level of planning, reflection and recording of self-development is something new to most people. It will not come naturally. You will get faster and better at doing it as you progress through your programme. At the same time, you will find journaling growing in impact on your thinking and behaviour. So, experiment and expect to change the way you do things – that shows that you are developing.

Putting aside a realistic amount of time at the beginning of your programme for your self- assessment and planning. Go slow to go fast.

Reflecting on experiences or other courses outside of work that may be relevant to this unit.

Gaining an understanding of the theories underpinning this unit and research into real people and organisations.

Reading the CIPD Fact Sheets and related on-line material on these topics.

Clearly separating your work from that of others.

Including a wide range of sources of both learning and evidence – reading, observing, shadowing, internet research, experimentation, secondment, mentoring or coaching, volunteering, regular personal reflection and so on.

Paying attention to how your evidence is presented in your portfolio.

Task One Initial Self-Assessment and Plan

At the start of your programme carry out a self-assessment of your knowledge and skill in each of the fifteen assessment criteria (listed in Appendix A). Then formulate your development plan for each one. This plan must take you to the required standard in each assessment criterion by the time you submit Task 3.

The purpose of this task is to:

Identify your current strengths and the competencies you must develop during your programme.

Enable you to plan and deliver your development and monitor your progress towards your learning goals.

This document will be an essential foundation for your learning.

Helpful advice:

A template to help you is found on the course site.

Identify any modules, lectures, webinars, fact sheets, case studies, CIPD website, visits, activities etc. that might be relevant to this unit. Then build them into your learning plan.

In the plan, try to make your learning goals SMART.

Consider how you will reward yourself for reaching each of your goals.

Any mark or grade given will not form part of your final assessment for the unit.

Task Two Learning journal

During your programme follow your development plan and record your learning in a journal. This journal will then provide you with the rich source material you need to compile your final assessment portfolio.

Identify real evidence of your competence in each of the fifteen areas and record these in your journal. Apply relevant theories and models to help you critically evaluate your performance.

By the end of your programme, you should be able to report on, have critically evaluated and show evidence of your competence in, all fifteen assessment criteria.

You choose the format for your journaling. You might keep a chronological journal – carrying out regular reflection – rather like a diary – perhaps on a weekly basis. Or you can divide your journal into the fifteen sections and record your learning as it arises, under the relevant heading. Or you may combine these formats.

Helpful advice:

Take care. There is a lot to cover in this unit and you are strongly advised to start work early, gradually developing your knowledge and behaviour, and assembling your portfolio. If you leave your portfolio until you know which six assessment criteria to cover, you are very unlikely to pass.

Learn from other learners. You may find it useful to work in an action learning set or similar group with fellow learners. This will enable you to share your areas of strength and weakness; learn from, challenge, and motivate each other; and enable you to find solutions to your problems.

Learn from a range of experiences. If you are developing as a result of experiences outside work and study, you can include that in your journal. Clubs, sports, voluntary work and even home life are sources of learning and therefore also evidence. If you are not currently in an HR/L&D role, you will need to draw more heavily on these sources of learning. Again, you will need supporting evidence for what you have done and what impact it is has had.

This unit is at Level 7 (post-graduate). It is not sufficient in your portfolio simply to describe what you have done. You must display a post-graduate approach. You will find it helpful to consider the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy – analysis, evaluation, and synthesis. For example:

Assessment criterion 1: Critically assess different ethical standpoints on people practice and the maintenance of high standards of ethical behaviour.





A challenging situation in which you sustained a high standard of ethical behaviour.

The model of ethics that you followed and why.

The shortcomings of that model.

How you would behave differently (better) in future.

How you might generalise this learning across different areas of people practice.

Lecture on ethics.

Critique of the different models or theories.

Situations in which you might apply this learning.

Asking yourself ‘So what?’ at any of these stages of your thinking will often result in usefulinsights.

Many commentators suggest that much of our behavioural development comes from practical experiences rather than formal teaching. Such learning is often emergent rather than planned; informal rather than formal; and unstructured rather than organised. Include these in your regular reflections. You might use a format for recording and analysing incidents from which you have learned, such as:





The event.

Who, what, when, where, how and/or why?

What worked well or could have been better. Any relevant model or theory.

What you learned and how you can use this elsewhere

You can use this document later as evidence in your portfolio.

Your journaling will need to reflect the contemporary work and working life environment, which is often volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.

Any mark or grade given will not form part of your final assessment for the unit.

Task Three Your portfolio

Your final task is to submit a portfolio of evidence of your competence in six of the unit’s fifteen assessment criteria. This will be the culmination of all your work in the unit and the mark for this portfolio will be your final mark for the unit.

Your portfolio should consist of:

An evaluation of your competence (knowledge and behaviours) in six of the unit’s fifteen assessment criteria.

Evidence to support your evaluation, clearly cross-referenced to each of your claims.

A brief continuing professional development plan in each area showing how you will continue to develop after you have finished your programme.

Six weeks before your submission deadline, you will be told which six of the fifteen assessment criteria you should cover in your portfolio. The six assessment criteria will include at least one from each of the unit’s four learning outcomes, but no more than two will come from any single learning outcome.

Excluding evidence, your portfolio should consist of 4,000 words ± 10% (about 650 words for each assessment criteria). The bibliography, list of reference and essential background material should be put in an appendix; they will not be included in the 4,000 words.

You must support the claims you make in your portfolio by providing evidence.

Helpful advice:

Include hard evidence where you can. Feedback sheets and marks, handouts, or journal articles that you have annotated, a link to a video of you doing something that demonstrates your competence (e.g., leading a training session or conducting an appraisal meeting), a certificate, a letter, a document from your work and even a written testimonial from a fellow learner, work colleague or manager.

Asking the question, ‘How do I know that I am competent?’ might point you to some evidence. Two examples:

How do you know you are getting better at making decisions? Are you spending less time? Or making better quality decisions? What hard evidence is there?

If you understand something, you can probably explain it to someone else. Hence, teaching someone else can be evidence of your learning. If they write a note to testify that you have helped them, that would be hard evidence. If you have written a piece of coursework or passed an exam, that is evidence. So are summarised notes of key points from a lecture, book, or journal article – they suggest you have got some understanding.

Handouts on their own are not sufficient as evidence because they do not show how and what you may have learned. For example, you may own a book on Quantum Theory, but that is not evidence that you understand the theory. But if the book contains pencil notes, it is beginning to have some evidential worth. Only include handouts or journal articles if they provide real evidence of your knowledge and understanding.

Appendix A – The unit’s fifteen assessment criteria and indicative content

Learning Outcome 1: Be able to model principles and values that promote inclusivity aimed at maximising the contribution that people make to organisations.

Assessment Criteria

Indicative content


Critically assess different ethical standpoints on people practice and the maintenance of high standards of ethical behaviour.

Different versions of ethics; taking the lead in challenging all levels of the organisation to give balanced responses to the different ethical standpoints both internally and externally, maintaining high standards of ethical behaviour.


Justify business improvements in relation to:

the promotion of fairness and transparency


employee voice


Promoting a unified purpose for individuals, the organisation and the profession; championing better work and working lives by creating fair and compassionate organisations; valuing people by giving them a voice, supporting wellbeing and career-long development.


Self-evaluate personal and professional integrity in relation to ethical practice, professional courage and influence, and valuing people.

Role-modelling consistent personal and professional integrity; challenging decisions and actions which are not ethical, explaining the organisational risks; challenging constructively and confidently in the face of opposition; demonstrating compassion, humanity and fairness in your approach; requiring others at all levels to do the same; promoting transparency.


Assess the impact of collaboration across cultural, geographic and professional boundaries, including the value of embracing difference.

Working inclusively and collaboratively within and across organisational boundaries; embracing difference and using diversity to improve organisational performance; building trust, sharing knowledge, experience and skills; promoting positive attitudes and collaboration.

Learning Outcome 2: Be able to achieve and maintain challenging business outcomes for yourself and organisations.

Assessment Criteria

Indicative content


Reflect on levels of self-awareness, self- management and continuous self- improvement, leading to improved organisational success and career progression.

Various measures such as personality, productivity, quality and impact; the drive for continuous self- improvement; business and financial acumen that delivers commercial benefits; leading and supporting change; resilience in the face of uncertainty and setbacks.


Discuss how business acumen can deliver commercial benefits and manage resilience.

External and internal contexts of the organisation, including governance; business and financial acumen that delivers commercial benefits; awareness of how data relating to products, services and customers can provide insight into people solutions; leading and supporting change; resilience in the face of uncertainty and setbacks.


Demonstrate impactful behaviour that is aligned with wider organisational vision, values, strategies and plans.

Aligning behaviour with wider organisational vision, values, strategies and plans; a concern for business outputs and impact rather than just following processes; connecting with internal and external peers regularly to benchmark, share good practice and anticipate future trends to inform future priorities and practice.

Learning Outcome 3: Be able to apply learning to enhance personal effectiveness.

Assessment Criteria

Indicative content


Demonstrate curiosity and passion for deep learning.

Sharing good practice with others; using feedback to improve; promoting an approach that includes a willingness to take risks; an innovative learning culture.


Plan continuing professional development that involves both planned learning and reflection.

The broad scope of CPD and the wide variety of methods; planned and reflective learning that spans the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual domains.


Discuss the merits of evidence-based critical thinking based upon a range of data analytics, across a wide range of current business topics.

Conducting good research; questioning and testing of ideas without bias; thinking skills that produce deep understanding, insight and skill, including into financial data and technology; data analytics; the representation of people data in different ways (skills, profit, capability, cost, etc).


Assess the impact that sharing of learning has on organisational success.

Promotes innovation and change, facilitates organic learning, creates efficiencies, reduces duplication of effort, promulgates an open and inclusive culture.

Learning Outcome 4: Be able to influence others during decision-making while showing courage and conviction.

Assessment Criteria

Indicative content


Assess own approaches to decision- making on complex issues, taking ownership to remedy mistakes.

Handling complex issues; managing risk in decisions; developing these behaviours in others; taking ownership when things go wrong.


Demonstrate appropriate influencing style to communicate and engage different audiences.

Using a range of communication tools; making the complex clear; questioning and listening; influencing others at all levels; ethical influencing.


Discuss ways of promoting organisational improvement through courage, political acumen and the willingness to challenge.

Promoting organisational improvement through fostering a willingness to be brave, challenge people and practices, and use political acumen; leaders as role models, ‘doing the right thing’, moral and legal responsibilities, preparedness to view failure as an opportunity to enhance learning, emphasis on use of good judgement, evidence base for action, mutual respect, choice of language and communication channels, due regard for context and wider organisational reputation.


Assess the benefits of networking to enhance own career and contribution to organisational effectiveness.

Benefits of networking: for example, wellbeing clubs, LinkedIn learning, after work clubs; social networking; benchmarking self and organisation; career advancement and organisational success.

Appendix B – Illustrative format for initial learning plan

Assessment criterion

(Insert assessment criterion)

Starting point

Initial ability (scale 0-10) = Explanation:

Development objectives

I need to: a)

b) etc.

Importance to me

Essential – Important – Useful – Irrelevant

Learning plan (with dates)


2) etc.

Potential ways to evaluate competence

Possible threats

Appendix C Example format for portfolio

Assessment criterion

(Insert assessment criterion)

Competence achieved

Initial ability (scale 0-10) = Competence now (scale 0-10) = Justification: (with cross-references to evidence)

Post- programme CPD plan

Assessment Grading

You will receive either a Pass, Merit, Distinction or Refer/Fail result at unit level.

The grid below shows the range of results you could achieve based on total number of marks awarded across all assessment criteria.

To pass the unit assessment you must achieve a Pass or above for each of the  learning outcomes.

The overall result achieved will dictate the outcome you receive for the unit, provided

NONE of the assessment criteria have been failed or referred.

You will either receive a Pass, Merit, Distinction or Refer/Fail from the CIPD once the work has been moderated.

A detailed marking grid will be published when the six criteria are confirmed.

Overall mark

Unit result

0 to 7

Refer / Fail

8 or 9


10 to 13


14 to 16


Level 7 Advanced Diploma

Generic grade descriptors


PASS / 2




An inadequate portfolio. Few aspects are covered effectively. Needs a much clearer focus on the assessment criteria. Brief or non-existent CPD plans

A basic portfolio that addresses the assessment criteria accurately and generally thoroughly. No major omissions.

Basic CPD plans.

A good portfolio that addresses the assessment criteria accurately and thoroughly. No major omissions.

Good CPD plans.

An outstanding portfolio that addresses all aspects of the assessment criteria in an accurate, clear, thorough, and focused way. No major omissions.

Outstanding CPD plans.

Depth & breadth of understanding

Demonstrates inadequate knowledge and limited understanding of each topic

Demonstrates adequate knowledge and sufficient understanding of each topic

Demonstrates good knowledge and understanding of each topic

Demonstrates comprehensive knowledge and deep understanding of each topic

Strategic application & professional advice

Portfolio and plans fail to address the topics effectively at a managerial or strategic level.

Needs more evidence of self- awareness

Portfolio and plans broadly address the topics at a managerial and strategic level.

Adequate self-awareness and critique

Provides business-focused proposals that address the topics almost always at a strategic level.

Good self-awareness and critique

Convincing business-focused portfolio and plans that clearly address the topics at a strategic level.

Outstanding self-awareness and deep, and well-informed critique

Research & wider reading

Needs to provide much more evidence of wider reading.

Inadequate referencing

Evidence of adequate wider reading which is well-applied. Adequate referencing

Evidence of excellent wider reading which is well-applied. Detailed referencing

Evidence of considerable and appropriate wider reading, which is excellently applied. Excellent referencing

Persuasiveness & originality

Unconvincing. Claims are generally unsound, incomplete or without justification.

Presents ideas that are generally sound but which are not always well followed through or well- supported. Satisfactory CPD plans

Presents ideas that are generally sound and well supported. Good CPD plans

Convincing ideas that are well supported. Evidence of original and insightful thinking. Excellent CPD plans

Presentation & language

Poorly presented portfolio. Requires more structure and clearer language. Cross- referencing of evidence to claims needs to be clearer.

A satisfactory standard of presentation. Mostly clear and succinct. Cross-referencing of evidence to claims generally clear.

An excellent standard of presentation. Clear and succinct in all areas. Cross-referencing of evidence to claims clear.

An outstanding standard of presentation. Very clear and succinct – exceptionally well crafted. Cross-referencing of evidence to claims very clear.