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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 14, individuals will show that they can be selective in how they use examples and facts to better persuade their listeners. 

In the previous step, the focus was on how to be influential, and how to change the structure of points in response to listeners. This step builds closely on this by focusing on how to change examples and facts that are used to better persuade listeners.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How examples support influence
  • How facts can influence 
  • How to adapt examples and facts to respond to an audience

Reflection questions

  • How can you use examples to support being influential?
  • How can you use facts to be influential?
  • How can you adapt how you use examples and facts in response to your audience?
  • Do you have any examples of how you have done this?

What you need to know

How examples can be influential

In the previous step, we explored what it means to be influential for an audience – that is, to change the views or actions of a listener through how you speak with them.

Stories are an essential way that humans take on board information – it seems to be a way that we are hardwired to make sense of the world. In contrast, we are very poor at remembering unstructured pieces of information. Examples are a great way of bringing storytelling into our speaking by providing a narrative that people can follow.

On a related note, examples can bring about an emotional engagement with the idea. It is telling that charity fundraising campaigns normally focus on the case of a particular individual and how their life is affected by a problem, rather than talking in conceptual terms about the issue, or just giving the facts. Examples can build empathy if they link to an experience that the individual listening has had or can imagine.

Finally, examples can also be compelling for helping to bring a conceptual idea to life and turning it into something tangible. While it can be interesting to talk about concepts and big ideas, there is often a gap between this thinking and tangible action. Example help to turn a big idea into something concrete that then lends itself to taking action.

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How facts can be influential

Facts are a critical piece of influence, because when used well, they help to prove the case that is being made. They are the pieces of truth that hold together an argument and mean that it can be believed. What we term ‘facts’ here might include:

  • Statistics
  • Verifiable statements
  • Scientific theories 

If used effectively, facts are influential because they are difficult for individuals to argue against (either aloud or in their own minds).

However, it is important to acknowledge that where facts cannot be checked in real-time, then whether the audience trusts you will be critical. If they don’t believe what you are telling them, you are very unlikely to be able to influence them. 

You should be very careful about using facts that do not seem credible – if your audience picks up on a fact that they know or feel to be false, it is undermining of your credibility as a speaker and everything else you say.

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Changing examples and facts for influence

In the previous step, we explored the importance of being able to read your audience and to use this insight to adapt what you are saying to make it as influential as possible. 

The same questions that we asked in the previous step as we analyse our audience can also be the basis for how we change how we bring in examples and facts.

  • Do they not understand? If they don’t understand, then this is an excellent place to bring in examples to help to illustrate what this might look like in practice. This can take ideas from the conceptual level to the tangible. 
  • Do they disagree? If they don’t agree, then this is the right time to bring out some facts to back up what you are saying. These facts might be brought to life by further examples to illustrate what those facts actually mean in reality. 
  • Are they losing interest? If they are losing interest, you might be able to spark more interest by introducing a short story or anecdote that illustrates what you are saying. If it is delivered well, then a good example can help to reengage listeners. This might also mean switching away from a fact-based argument if the listeners have already been persuaded of the case on a logical basis, and they need to be emotionally engaged.

In all of these cases, careful use of examples and facts, brought in at the right time, can help to engage a listener with your argument and influence them to reach the conclusions or take the actions that you want them to.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should first introduce facts and examples as two core concepts and reach a definition and illustrations of each with the learners. 
  • The teacher can then give learners a reasonably dry topic to try to be persuasive about and ask them to use examples, case studies, or stories to try to create a more compelling case. Learners can put this into practice, and the contrast used to highlight how much more engaging examples can be. 
  • The teacher can then give learners another example to try to be persuasive about, but this time challenge them to find facts, statistics, or other evidence to back up their arguments. This time, the reflection is on how the use of facts can build credibility.
  • The teacher should emphasise that facts and examples both play important but different roles in strengthening a case when speaking, and need to be brought in at different times. 
  • Learners could give an impromptu talk and draw on different examples or facts according to the audience reaction (which can be simulated and articulated by the teacher).

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced in written and verbal communication, by encouraging learners to present examples and facts at appropriate points to back up their arguments and to make them engaging and credible. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through an observed activity where learners have to give a talk or presentation that encourages them to use facts and examples to back up their points. Depending on the audience reaction (which can be real, or simulated and articulated by the teacher) they should change the balance of examples and facts that they use. This activity can be reinforced by a reflection activity with the learner to gauge that they were thoughtful and deliberate in the approach they took.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step will be relevant to those who will speak to others in order to change their sentiment towards a person, idea or proposal.

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

  • Discuss with an individual how facts and examples can be used to influence, explaining how they can build credibility and make an argument engaging. A manager might start by first checking an individual understands both concepts or by providing a definition. 
  • Model the use of facts and examples in a persuasive argument to show an individual how it builds credibility. This might be achieved through the manager recording themselves presenting on a topic twice – introducing facts and examples in the second presentation. A manager might contrast both examples, to show the effect of including facts and examples in the second.
  • Task an individual on an exercise where they receive a fairly dry topic to try to be persuasive about and ask them to use examples, case studies or stories to try to create a more compelling case. 
  • Reflect after the exercise on the contrast between the two presentations to develop an awareness of how examples can make an argument more engaging.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When individuals are sharing their ideas with others – for example, delivering a presentation which makes a proposal or to persuade others of their perspective in a team meeting. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When pitching to customers or clients, with a focus on using facts and examples at appropriate points to back up arguments and to make them engaging and credible.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed by observing an individual’s performance during an observed activity:

  • A manager might simulate a series of roleplay activities where an individual is required to deliver a talk or presentation. The audience’s reaction might change over these activities, providing an opportunity for the individual to change how they approach using facts and evidence to support their argument. This can provide evidence to demonstrate this skill step in action.
  • To support their assessment, a manager might source feedback from stakeholders who work with an individual on a regular basis for insight into how frequently an individual deploys examples and facts to support their arguments.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing the individual as they take part in an activity where they are required to give a talk or presentation that encourages them to use facts and examples to back up their points. Audience reactions can be simulated and the individual’s response observed. A change in the balance of examples and facts used to support arguments made in each presentation, would provide evidence of this skill step in action.
  • This could be followed up with a reflective conversation where an individual is asked about why they chose to either include or omit facts and examples from their speech.

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

At school or college, you maybe required to persuade and influence others, perhaps convincing other students to vote for you in a position of responsibility, to persuade the senior leaders that a project or event should go ahead or to persuade your teacher or lecturer that you have studied your particular topic thoroughly and effectively. If you can have more facts, figures and case studies to hand than you originally plan to use then you will be able to draw on alternative material as you see the opportunity and respond to the reaction of your audience.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace, the people you are trying to persuade are likely to be familiar with your area of expertise or the theme of your conversation, for example, persuading a customer to purchase additional products or persuading your manager to amend the way items are processed. In these situations, it is particularly important that all the relevant facts, figures, examples and case studies are very familiar to you so you can use or quote them with confidence. Client or manager trust or belief will be threatened if they think what you are saying is not accurate or true.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

Social conversation with friends can often involve political or social debate, in such situations it can be enjoyable or challenging to persuade or influence people. Mastery at this step will enable you to use facts, figures, examples and case studies to convince your listeners of your point. However, it will be important that the date utilised is factually correct.

Likewise, any conflict with retailers is more likely to be successful if you are capable to putting forward a convincing and persuasive case, reacting to their responses as necessary.

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!

  • Select a local, political or environmental topic you feel strongly about. Prepare a short talk to persuade other to your point of view. Identify places in your talk where a case study, example or data may support your point. Identify points in your talk that are likely to cause a reaction in your listener. Identify further examples that could be drawn upon, only if required.
  • Complete the activity above and then ask a friend or colleague if they will role play the conversation with you. Ask them to discuss your approach afterwards and to highlight any points they found very persuasive or particularly weak.
  • Watch a current affairs or news review programme on television or the internet that focuses on the debate of current issues. Pay attention to the facts, figures, examples and case studies used by the speakers. Were they appropriate? Did they persuade 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