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Listening

The receiving, retaining and processing of information or ideas
This skill is all about being able to effectively receive information - whether it comes from customers, colleagues or stakeholders.

Initially, the skill steps concentrate on being able to listen effectively to others - including remembering short instructions, understanding why others are communication and recording important information.

Individuals then focus on how they demonstrate that they are listening effectively, thinking about body language, open questioning and summarising and rephrasing.

Beyond that, the focus is on being aware of how they might be being influenced by a speaker, through tone and language.

The final steps are about critical listening - comparing perspectives, identifying biases, evaluating ideas and being objective.

Speaking

The oral transmission of information or ideas
This skill is all about how to communicate effectively with others, being mindful of whether they are talking to customers, colleagues or other stakeholders and in different settings.

Initially, this skill focuses on being able to speak clearly - first with well known individuals and small groups and then with those who are not known.

The next stage is about being an effective speaker by making points logically, by thinking about what listeners already know and using appropriate language, tone and gesture.

Beyond that, individuals focus on speaking engagingly through use of facts and examples, visual aids, and their expression and gesture.

Beyond that stage, speakers will be adaptive to the response of their listeners and ready for different scenarios. The final steps focus on speaking influentially - using structure, examples, facts and vision to persuade listeners.

Problem Solving

The ability to find a solution to a situation or challenge
This skill focuses on how to solve problems, recognising that while part of Problem Solving is technical know-how and experience, there are also transferable tools that individuals can develop and use.

The first steps focus on being able to follow instructions to complete tasks, seeking help and extra information if needed. The next stage focuses on being able to explore problems by creating and assessing different potential solutions. This includes more complex problems, without a simple technical solution.

Beyond this, the focus is on exploring complex solutions - thinking about causes and effects, generating options, and evaluating those options. This extends into analysis using logical reasoning and hypotheses.

Finally, individuals implement strategic plans to solve complex problems, assess their success, and draw out learning for the future.

Creativity

The use of imagination and the generation of new ideas
Creativity is the complement to Problem Solving, and is about generating innovations or ideas which can then be honed through the problem-solving process.

The first few steps focus on the individual's confidence in imagining different situations and sharing their ideas.

The focus is then on generating ideas - using a clear brief, making improvements to something that already exists and combining concepts.

Individuals then apply creativity in the context of their work and their wider life. They can build off this to develop ideas using tools like mind mapping, questioning, and considering different perspectives.

The most advanced steps focus on building effective innovation in group settings and by seeking out varied experiences and stimuli. Finally, individuals support others to innovate, by sharing tools, identifying the right tools for the situation and through coaching.

Staying Positive

The ability to use tactics and strategies to overcome setbacks and achieve goals
This skill is all about individuals being equipped to manage their emotions effectively and being able to remain motivated, and ultimately to motivate others, even when facing setbacks.

The early steps focus on identifying emotions - particularly feeling positive or negative. Building off that is the ability to keep trying - and then staying calm, thinking about what went wrong, and trying to cheer up and encourage others.

The focus then turns to identifying new opportunities in difficult situations, sharing those, and adapting or creating plans accordingly. At more advanced steps, individuals identify and manage risks and gains in opportunities.

Finally, individuals support others to stay positive by managing their own response, helping others to see opportunities and creating plans to achieve them.

Aiming High

The ability to set clear, tangible goals and devise a robust route to achieving them
This skill is about being able to plan effectively - both to achieve organisational goals, and also to set their own personal development targets. Initially, this is about knowing when something is too difficult, and having a sense of what doing well looks like for an individual.

The focus is then about working with care and attention, taking pride in success and having a positive approach to new challenges. Building on this, individuals set goals for themselves, informed by an understanding of what is needed, and then be able to order and prioritise tasks, secure resources and involve others effectively.

At the higher steps, the focus is creating plans informed by an individual's skill set, with clear targets, and building on external views. At the most advanced level, individuals develop long-term strategies. These are informed by an assessment of internal and external factors, structured through regular milestones and feedback loops.

Leadership

Supporting, encouraging and developing others to achieve a shared goal
This skill is relevant not only for individuals in positions of management with formal power, but also for individuals working with peers in teams.

At the earliest stages, the focus is on basic empathy - understanding their own feelings, being able to share them, and recognising the feelings of others. The focus is on managing - dividing up tasks, managing time and sharing resources, managing group discussions and dealing with disagreements.

Beyond that, individuals build their awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their teams. This allows them to allocate tasks effectively. They then build techniques to mentor, coach and motivate others. At the highest steps, individuals will be able to reflect on their own leadership style and understand its effect on others.

Ultimately, they should be able to build on their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses, and adapt their leadership style to the situation.

Teamwork

Working cooperatively with others towards achieving a shared goal
This skill applies to working within both formal and informal teams, and also with customers, clients or other stakeholders. Initially, this is about individuals fulfilling expectations around being positive, behaving appropriately, being timely and reliable and taking responsibility. This extends to understanding and respecting diversity of others' cultures, beliefs and backgrounds.

The next steps focus on making a contribution to a team through group decision making recognising the value of others' ideas and encourage others to contribute too.Beyond that, individuals improve their teams through managing conflict and building relationships beyond the immediate team. At the top steps, individuals focus on how they influence their team through suggesting improvements and learning lessons from setbacks.

Ultimately, individuals support the team by evaluating others strengths and weaknesses and bringing in external expertise and relationships.

To achieve Step 6, individuals will be able to think about goals based on broader needs, not just their personal development. 

In the previous step, the focus was on individuals setting goals for themselves. By nature, these were primarily focused on individuals’ own personal development. The shift here is to think about the needs of their organisations or their teams too.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to identify the needs of others – individuals, teams and organisations
  • How to build these needs into goals

Reflection questions

  • How can you identify the needs of other people?
  • How can you identify the needs of an organisation or community? 
  • How can you create goals based on the needs of others?
  • How can you make a contribution to bigger goals? 
  • Can you give any examples of when you have done this?

What you need to know

Identifying needs

So far, we have looked at setting goals for ourselves based on what we need.

However, we also need to think about what else is going on when we set goals – not just what is important to us but to others as well. These might include:

  • Other individuals – whether relatives, friends, teachers or students in education, or colleagues, customers and stakeholders in the working world. 
  • Our teams – perhaps we are part of a group which has shared goals. In education, that might be a learning group or a class. In the world of work, it might mean teams of colleagues that we’re part of, or other partners. In the wider world, that might mean our family or group of friends.
  • Our organisations – most of us are part of organisations which have goals – although some might be more clearly expressed than others. In education, that probably means a school, college or university. In the world of work, that will be the company or organisation. More widely, that might be our town or city, or other groups we are part of like religious groups.
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Personal contribution to a team goal

We are all connected to lots of other people in these ways, and so we should think about what our contribution should be to the goals these other groups might have.

For example, how can we support other people? Perhaps we could help a friend who is struggling at something to get better, and that could be our goal. Or we could look at the goals of our team and think about how to make a contribution to that. Or we could look at our organisation’s goals and think about whether what we are doing helps.

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Building needs into goals

As we think of our part in ever bigger groups of people, we have to be realistic about what we can contribute. We are unlikely to be able to achieve a goal for a whole organisation through our efforts, but we can play a part. 

There are several ways we can build others’ needs into our goals:

  • Create a goal that is directly about helping someone else. For example, you could have a goal to help a friend to learn a new language – when they make progress that will be partly your success.
  • Share a goal with someone else. Some goals might need to be shared – for example, in a sports team, you might have a shared goal with another defender not to let in more than one goal in each match. You both need each other to achieve this goal. 
  • Take on part of a bigger goal: For more significant goals, perhaps of a team, you might need to take part of that goal and focus on that. If each person does this, then the different parts of your efforts might all add up to overall success. For example, if you want to set up a fundraising event, one person might be in charge of finding a good location, another person in charge of getting donations, and another person making sure people turn up. 
  • Align your goals with a bigger goal: In an organisation, sometimes goals are massive. In this case, we might align our goals to make sure that achieving our goals should support the bigger goal – and crucially, that they are not going in opposite directions.

As we develop goals for ourselves, we should always be thinking about what the effect of those goals is on others.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can remind learners that so far, the focus has been on how to set individual goals but that it is essential to also think about other groups. Learners could come up with groups they are part of, and what those groups might be trying to achieve.
  • The teacher can then introduce the idea of how to think about our contribution to broader goals: Through supporting goals, sharing goals, taking on part of a bigger goal, or aligning our goals. Learners could give examples of each. 

Reinforcing it

This is a step that can be reinforced in a classroom setting, through group work exercises or a shared project. Learners could also reflect on the learning goals of the class and how they can align their individual goals with those bigger learning goals.

Learners might even have the opportunity to build this skill step outside of the classroom, and they should be encouraged to reflect on how they are doing this.

Assessing it 

This step can be assessed through a worked exercise, where they can be given different scenarios of groups they belong to and asked to consider how they can contribute to the goals of those groups.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to individuals who can help themselves succeed by making plans to achieve challenges.

To build this step in the work environment, managers could:

  • Explain to an individual why it is essential to also think about wider needs when setting goals. This could lead to a discussion about how an individual can contribute to different goals.
  • Model how to build the needs of others into a goal to provide an example an individual can follow. Here they might supply an example of how their own goals contribute towards broader goals: through supporting goals, sharing goals, taking on part of a bigger goal, or aligning goals.
  • Reflect with an individual on the opportunities they have to build others’ needs into their own goals. 

Practising it:

There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:

  • Working with colleagues: When setting new goals, with a focus on identifying how to setting goals which advance the interests of the group or organisation. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When deciding what we should work on, with a focus on supporting customers or clients.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed by collecting feedback on the individual and reflective conversations:

  • A manager might collect feedback from colleagues which reports whether the individual sets goals which account for wider needs too.
  • A manager can talk to the individual about the goals they have set themselves, and how they are informed by their own needs, and those of the wider organisation. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed by:

  • Setting an exercise to require an individual to write goals which service the needs of the groups to which they belong to as part of a simulation. 
  • Questioning the individual about goals and targets they have set and what they were driven by.

Build this step

Advice for

Organisations

We work with a wide range of organisations, who use the Skills Builder approach in lots of different settings – from youth clubs, to STEM organisations, to careers and employability providers.

We have a lot of materials available to support you to use the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the individuals you work with, including:

  • Tools for self-reflection
  • Materials to support you to teach the skills, if appropriate in your setting
  • Reward systems like printable certificates

We also do a lot of work with organisations who join the Skills Builder Partnership to build the Universal Framework into their work and impact measurement systems. You can find out a lot more using the links below.

More resources

Advice for

Individuals

As an individual, you might be thinking about how best to support your own essential skills. The good news is that there is lots that you can do that will have a big impact, including:

  • Looking at the Universal Framework to spot skill steps that you think you need to work on. It is normally best to start from the lowest step that you don’t feel confident on, and go from there.
  • Keeping a record of the skill steps that you want to work on, and writing down when you practice them, and when you feel you are making progress.
  • Talk to someone you trust about what you are trying to do – whether a teacher, family member, manager or a peer. They can help give you feedback on how you are doing, and celebrate your progress with you.

We’ve developed a whole series of tools and resources to help you to build these skills, including:

  • Short activities that you can use to build the essential skills
  • Regular challenges to put those skills into action
  • Ways to record and capture your essential skills, so you can see progress and talk to other people about how you are getting on

Build this step

Advice for

Parents & Carers

As a parent or carer, you might be thinking about how best to support your children to build their essential skills. The good news is that there is lots that you can do that will have a big impact, including:

  • Talking about how you use these skill steps in your own life
  • Trying to show how to use the skill steps, and explaining why you are doing what you are doing
  • Praising your children when they show they are using the skills well, and help them to see that as a worthwhile achievement

We’ve developed a whole series of tools and resources to help parents to build these skills, including:

  • Skill stories for the youngest children (aged 3+)
  • Short activities that you can complete together
  • Regular challenges that you can complete at home to build the essential skills
  • Reward systems like printable certificates and badges

There is also content for older children and young people, including short activities and reflections that they can complete alone, or with you.

Build this step