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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 0, individuals will be able to speak clearly to someone that they know – perhaps to ask a question, to talk about something they are familiar with, or give an answer to a question.  

This is the first step of speaking in the Skills Builder Universal Framework, and starts with a focus on speaking clearly so that others can understand the words that are being said. This is the foundation for everything else.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What speaking means
  • How to speak clearly

Reflection questions

  • What is speaking?
  • Why do we speak to each other? 
  • What does it mean to speak clearly?
  • How do we know if we are speaking clearly?

What you need to know

What is speaking?

Speaking is how we communicate using speech, and is also called talking. We form words using our mouths and add sound to them using our lungs. 

There are other forms of communication, including through writing, performance, sign language, song, and electronic methods of communicating. Some of the principles of speaking can make sense for other forms of communicating too.

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Why do we speak?

We speak for several reasons:

  • To share information
  • To share an opinion or view
  • To express our feelings 
  • To ask for something that we need
  • To learn about others 
  • To build relationships
  • To give instructions
  • To encourage others
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Why should we try to speak clearly?

When we speak, we want someone else to understand what we are saying

Speaking clearly means that someone else can understand what we are saying. If we don’t speak clearly then we might not be understood.

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How can we speak clearly?

Some ways of making sure we speak clearly are:

  • Thinking about what you want to say before you start speaking
  • Take a deep breath 
  • Make sure you have the attention of the person who will be listening
  • Look at them and speak loudly enough so that they can hear
  • Speak slowly so that they can follow what you are saying 
  • Do not try to say too much all in one go
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Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can continue to model what good practice looks like – for example, when talking to the class they could go through how they are preparing to talk to an individual. (See key points above)
  • Learners should be encouraged to talk to one another. This can start as a structured activity where you go through the checklist to help them structure how they are talking. 
  • Over time, this structure can be taken away so that learners can speak clearly to others that they know. 

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself to regular reinforcement in the classroom – particularly by asking learners to talk about their ideas or thoughts on something to a friend before talking about it in a bigger group. Some learners will find this much easier than others, and confidence-building and gentle encouragement is needed along the way. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation. For example:

  • By asking learners to talk to a friend about what they did at the weekend, or at break time or an interest they have outside of school. 
  • They can then be observed to ensure that they have been able to speak clearly to another learner that they are friendly with. 
  • However, it is also possible to observe this step easily in the context of normal classroom and playground interactions.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to everyone who is working with others in the course of their work, whether colleagues, customers or partners.

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

  • Discuss with the individual why it is important to speak clearly in the workplace. 
  • Explain some of things we can do to support clear speech.
  • Model and example of unclear and clear speech so an individual might better understand the difference between the two. 
  • Set an exercise for the individual to see clear speech in action. This might include observing colleagues speaking clearly for a variety of different purposes to help the individual understand how to make their make their speech consistently clear. 
  • Reflect with the individual about the reasons why they find it difficult to speak clearly. This might include asking them some of the reflection questions listed above.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During conversations with team mates an individual works regularly with, ensuring others can understand what they are saying.
  • Working with customers or clients: When interacting with stakeholders the individual has a relationship with, focusing on speaking clearly to those individuals.  

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step can be assessed through observation. For instance:

  • Reflecting on the manager’s interactions with the individual and whether they are clear and understandable when speaking. 
  • Viewing interactions between an individual and third party, counting the number of instances where an individual’s speech is unclear.
  • The step could also be assessed through customers or colleague feedback on an individual’s clarity of speech. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing how the individual interacts with their recruiter as they progress through the interview process.

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

Why this skill step matters in education

In school or college, we spend the majority of our time studying and learning. It is important when learning that we are able to speak to other people about what we are doing. We may have to answer questions asked by a teacher, or another adult, or explain what we are doing.

We also spend time socialising with friends and others in our classes. It is important that we are able to speak clearly so people are able to understand us.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace, we need to speak with many different people for lots of different reasons. We speak with colleagues, bosses, customers and anyone we work with. We may have to speak socially, give instructions, explain our actions or talk about our products and services with our customers or even patients. There are very few people who work in any environment where they do not need to speak to other people.

Whatever the reason for speaking to someone, to be effective in the workplace it is essential that we speak clearly. Without clarity, instructions may be unclear, explanations not understood and customers confused.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

When socialising with a friend or chatting with members of our family, the interactions require us to be able to speak clearly so what we are saying can be easily understood by someone else. Without understanding, our questions cannot be answered and what we are saying may confuse someone.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Speaking, apply what you have learnt to a real-life situation. Choose one or more of the activities below, remind yourself of the key points and strategies in the step, and have a go!

  • Make a list of all the people you have spoken to you since you got up this morning. How many people in total? How many are people that you know well?
  • Tell a friend or member of your family what you did yesterday or at the weekend. Ask them if they understood everything you said.
  • In front of the mirror, explain a little bit about yourself, your name, where you live, your hobbies. Was that easy to do or was it challenging? If it was challenging, try to do the same thing again tomorrow, and the next day.
  • Find a magazine, book with pictures or a picture on the internet. Tell a friend or member of your family about the picture by speaking clearly to them.
  • Think about when you are with a friend or member of your family, perhaps at a mealtime. Do you speak? Do you choose to stay quiet? If so, why? Try to say something at every mealtime.

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