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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 1, individuals will show that they can speak clearly to small groups of people that they know. 

This builds off the previous step which focused on being able to speak clearly to one other person that they know.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What is different about speaking to a small group 
  • How to speak clearly to a group

Reflection questions

  • What is different about speaking to a small group rather than an individual you know?
  • Which do you find more difficult? 
  • Why do you think that is? 
  • How can you speak clearly in front of a group?

What you need to know

What is different about speaking to a small group?

Generally, people find it more challenging to talk in front of a small group than to an individual, for several reasons:

  • There are more people to engage and it can be harder to know whether you are being successful in engaging all of the individuals in the group
  • You might also feel that more people are looking at you, and so you might feel more shy or self-conscious 
  • Other people might also want to speak, so you might worry about whether you will be interrupted 
  • You might need to talk louder for more people to hear you 

This is very normal, and you should not worry if you don’t feel comfortable speaking in front of a group to start with – even of people that you know well.

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How to speak clearly

Many of the same things that help you speak clearly to an individual that you know will also help you speak to a small group that you know.

It is useful to be reminded about the things that help you speak clearly, whatever the setting:

  • Thinking about what you want to say before you start speaking.
  • Take a deep breath. 
  • Make sure you have the attention of the people 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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How to speak clearly in a group

The big difference between this step and the previous step is that you will need to think about how to engage more than one person. That means:

  • Making sure that you look at everyone that you want to be listening to you – not just focusing on one person. That way, everyone will know that you are speaking to them. 
  • You will need to speak more loudly because in a group you are likely to be stood further apart, and it is harder to hear otherwise. 
  • You might need to leave more space to check that everyone has understood you. You can check that everyone is following what you’re saying by looking around.
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Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • It is helpful for the teacher to model what it looks like to speak to a group. For example, they can show how they get the attention of a group before they start speaking, how they look around to make sure everyone can understand, and make sure that they are speaking loudly enough. 
  • Learners can be encouraged to talk about something in front of a pair of other learners they know, and then the numbers gradually increased to build up their confidence in ever-larger groups.
  • Learners can also be reminded of the key things they need to be aware of if they are going to communicate effectively with small groups of others they know. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced effectively in a classroom setting:

  • Whenever a teacher is speaking in front of the class, they can model how they are getting ready to speak and ensuring that the learners in the group are ready to listen to them. 
  • Many primary schools use ‘Show and Tell’ and similar opportunities to get learners used to speaking in front of their peers for short periods. Learners could also be encouraged to share other pieces of work they produce in front of the class.
  • Group work also provides ample opportunities for reinforcing this step. Here, it is important to ensure that the teacher intervenes as necessary to ensure that learners’ confidence is being built through positive experiences of speaking clearly to a group – and that every learner is having that opportunity. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through structured observation. For example:

  • Asking learners to prepare a short talk about something they are interested in, or a piece of work that they have completed. They can then be observed to see whether they can speak clearly to a group they know for up to 3 minutes.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to everyone who will work in small groups or teams in the course of their work.

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

  • Discuss some of the reasons why it might be more challenging to speak clearly when speaking to a group compared with a single individual.
  • Explain what is different about speaking clearly in a one on one situation compared with speaking in a small group.
  • Model some of the techniques, such as making sure as leaving more space to check everyone has understood, to provide an example on how to speak clearly in a group. This can provide an example for an individual to follow. 
  • Set an exercise for an individual to get feedback from others on how clear their speech is when they speak in a group.
  • Reflect with the individual on their feedback, perhaps using 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 team meetings or discussions when an individual is required to explain their opinion or provide an instruction to team members.
  • Working with customers or clients: When interacting with more than one customer or client, focusing on speaking clearly.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observation. For instance:

  • Tracking the number of instances of unclear speech during a team meeting. 
  • Observing the group for signs of comprehension after an individual has finished speaking. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing the individual during assessed practical exercises to ascertain whether their speaking is clear when communicating in a group.

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 frequently have to work with other people we know, in pairs or in groups. We may have to discuss a question asked by the teacher, suggest and agree ideas, or explain what we think about something. If we are to contribute effectively in lessons or seminars, it is essential that we are able to speak what is on our mind in a very clear manner.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

At work, we often spend our time in small groups, with people we know well, perhaps in a shop, café,office, production line or building site. In each situation, we are likely to talk about what we are doing or ask questions of others. We may need to speak to ask what we need to do, to give instructions, to give or ask for ideas or to confirm things. If the work is to be carried out accurately and efficiently it will be important that everyone understands the instructions, questions and explanations. If you are not understood, things may not be done correctly and need repeating.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

When away from work or education, we may spend quite a time with other people, family, friends or members of a club we know well. In each situation we are likely to need to ask questions, for example, where shall we go? We may need to explain something, for example how to play a game or use new equipment or simply chat. When we talk in a small group, everyone in the group needs to be able to understand what we are talking about otherwise the enjoyment is lost and people will not be able to share the experience successfully.

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!

  • Volunteer to do a ‘show and tell’ or equivalent at school or college.
  • 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 do not know well?
  • When you are with a group of friends, do you speak to them? Do you choose to stay quiet? If so, why? Try to contribute something to the conversation each time you are with other people.
  • What does a clear speaker do? Write a list of five things, for example a clear speaker makes sure people understand what they are saying.
  • Identify a friend, colleague or someone in your class at school/college who you think speaks clearly. Next time they are speaking in a group, watch them and listen carefully. What do they do when speaking? Do they look at others, what about their volume, do they check understanding, do they answer any questions clearly?
  • Think of three questions you could use to check that a listener had understood you.

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