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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 2, individuals will be able to speak clearly to others that they don’t know. 

This moves beyond the previous steps where the focus was on speaking clearly to individuals and then groups who they already know. The shift, therefore, is mainly in confidence that they can apply the same approach to speaking clearly but in a context where they are less familiar with the individuals.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • The difference between speaking to people you know and those you don’t
  • How to speak clearly to people you don’t know

Reflection questions

  • What is different about talking to people you don’t know?
  • Which do you find easier – talking to people you know or don’t know?
  • Why do you think that is?
  • How do you speak clearly in front of people you don’t know?
  • What is different to speaking in front of people you do know?

What you need to know

The difference when you don't know people

Most people find it more difficult to speak to people that they don’t know well, than to people they do already know.

There are several reasons for this:

  • When you know someone, it is easier to predict what their reactions will be to something that you say
  • You are likely to feel less shy when speaking to someone who you already know
  • When you know someone, you have a better idea of what they already know about what you are talking about

However, many of the same things that help you speak clearly in front of individuals and groups who you already know will also help you to speak clearly in front of those you don’t know as well.

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How to speak clearly

Many of the same principles that help you to speak clearly to people you already know – whether as individuals or in a group – will also help you with those you don’t already know.

As a reminder, these are:

  • 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 talk 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 to people you don't know

The significant differences when you don’t know the people you are speaking to are:

  • To spend a bit more time thinking about how to be as clear as possible – you don’t know what the people you are speaking to know already or don’t know 
  • To make sure you are looking at them as this will help you to see whether they understand what you are saying or not
  • Try to make what you are saying as simple as possible as this will help to ensure that individuals can understand you

With practice, it is possible to build the confidence to speak clearly in front of individuals and groups who you do not already know.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can model the difference in how they would approach talking to a group that they know (for example, the group of learners in front of them) compared to another group of learners that they did not know. For instance, about how they would prepare to talk more simply and as clearly as possible.
  • Learners could talk about something to another teacher, or in front of learners from a different class. Before the exercise, be explicit about what they should be doing to ensure that they are speaking clearly. Depending on the maturity of the learners, they could give one another feedback afterwards about how clearly they spoke. 
  • Learners might speak in front of a broader group – for example, to parents or in a school assembly if those are options. Beforehand, they could prepare and practice to ensure they speak as clearly as possible. 

Reinforcing it

This step is slightly more challenging to practice in the context of a classroom, because often learners and teachers become very familiar with one another. However, other opportunities include:

  • Occasionally sharing work with other classes and groups of learners, so that learners build confidence in speaking clearly in front of others that they do not know as well. 
  • Giving all learners the chance to lead assemblies, to speak in front of parents, or to present their work to teachers they are less familiar with. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation. For example:

  • In existing activities, learners could be evaluated when they are delivering an assembly or other activity.
  • An activity could be designed expressly for assessment – for example, creating a piece of work to present.

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 might be more difficult to speak to someone who they are unfamiliar with. During this discussion, a manager might highlight situations when the individual might have to speak to unfamiliar people in the course of performing their duties. They may use the reflection questions above to prompt the discussion.
  • Explain to an individual some of the additional things they might do when speaking to a group of people they know, compared to a group of individuals they do not know. 
  • Model a process to follow when preparing to speak to groups of unknown individuals which an individual can copy. This can include the guidelines above. 
  • Set an exercise for an individual to shadow colleagues who are experienced at speaking to individuals and others they don’t know, such as reception staff or hosts. This could help an individual to see some of the techniques in action. 
  • Reflect with the individual to assess how clear their speech is when addressing groups of people and the reasons for this. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During the course of a project or a new set of work, when an individual should work with a new group of people that they do not know. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When providing instructions or information to customers or clients after meeting with customers them for the first time. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observation over an extended time period. For instance:

  • Listening to identify any differences in how an individual put across a message to people they know compared with people they don’t know. 
  • This exercise could be repeated to identify any differences between how an individual does this when speaking to groups of people with whom they are familiar or unfamiliar.

This step could also be assessed by observing the response to the individual’s talking. If there are signs the listener misunderstands them, this may suggest they have been unclear.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing the individual during an exercise where the individual is required to communicate with a group of people they have not met before.
  • Asking an individual a situational question and reviewing how well their answer demonstrates an awareness of principles to support them speaking clearly to people they do not know.

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, as well as working with people we know well, we do sometimes have to work in pairs or groups with people we do not know well, perhaps a new seminar group or mixed class grouping. We may have to work together answering a question, discussing ideas, or explaining what we think about something. If we are to be involved in a meaningful way, it is essential that we are able to speak about a topic or ourselves in a clear manner. If others do not understand what we are saying then it is likely we will be ignored and our ideas will not be included. This can lead to a lack of engagement with the subject matter which in turn will have a negative impact on our learning.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Many roles include working with people we do not know well. For example, working in the same business but at a different location for a day, working as part of a different team on a project, or meeting with colleagues from different departments within the organisation. Some roles require meeting and supporting lots of different customers who you might not know beforehand.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

When away from work or education,we may spend quite a bit of time with people we do not know well, perhaps as a member of a large club, spending time with friends of friends, or even volunteering. In each situation we are likely to need to ask questions and make suggestions. We may need to explain something to the others in the group. When working or spending time together for a common purpose, like a club or volunteering, everyone needs to understand what is being said to them so they can join in and take an active part.

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!

  • Next time you are in a small group of people you do not know well, make a positive contribution to the conversation or meeting as early in the conversation as possible. How did you feel? Was your point understood by everyone? How do you know? Could you have made your contribution more clearly? How?
  • Next time you are in a small group conversation or meeting and you hear something you do not understand, ask questions until you do understand. Why you did not understand? Was it the difficulty of the content or how it was said? Was the speaker clear?
  • Practise giving instructions to people you know, friends or family, perhaps how to play a game or use a piece of equipment. Ask your listeners how clear the instructions were? Ask for their advice on what you could do to make things clearer? Have another go and see if you can get better at giving clear instructions.

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