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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 show that they can be on time and reliable. 

In earlier steps, the focus was on how to work positively with other people, and recognising appropriate behaviour in different settings. These are crucial foundations for effective teamwork – as is this next step of being on time and reliable.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • Why being on time matters
  • Why reliability matters
  • How to get better at being reliable

Reflection questions

  • What does it mean to be reliable?
  • Why does it matter to be on time?
  • What is the effect if someone is not reliable, or not on time?
  • Have you had an experience of that?

What you need to know

How the importance of being on time varies

The importance of being on time varies a lot in different cultures and different parts of the world. 

In some parts of the world, being late is seen as being rude, as it is seen as suggesting that you do not respect the time of the person you are keeping waiting. In other places, the idea of timings are much more relaxed.

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Why being on time matters

In the context of work or education, timings tend to be more important. This is because getting tasks done relies on things happening in the right order and at the right points. If you work in a factory, the production line might be held back if you are not in post at the right time. In a hospital, the previous shift cannot leave until the new one has arrived to take over. In education, classes have to start and end at the right time. 

The other side to being on time is being on time with getting work done. Pieces of work often need to be finished by a particular time, called a deadline because this work is required in order to allow something else to happen. If you don’t meet those deadlines, then it stops the whole process of other things that were due to happen afterwards.

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Why reliability matters

Reliability is about being consistently good at something, so other people can trust in you. That might mean completing work to a good standard and trying hard every day. It also means that if you promise to do something that you get it done.

Being reliable also means that you can be relied on to follow the expected behaviours where you are (see Step 1) and that you can always work positively with others (Step 0). It also means being on time, as we’ve just seen.

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The benefits of being reliable

If you are reliable, you will find that:

  • You get greater freedom to manage your work because people trust that you can get it done.
  • You might get more opportunities or new challenges because you have proven that you are likely to be able to get them done.
  • In the workplace, this can lead to opportunities for promotion, which come with chances for different work and potentially more pay.
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The problems caused by being unreliable

Unfortunately, the reverse is the case you if you are unreliable:

  • You will more carefully monitored in our work, because you are not expected to be able to get it done otherwise.
  • You might find that you have opportunities taken away because the feeling is that you need to get better at the basics first.
  • In the workplace, there will be little opportunity for progression and being consistently unreliable is considered possible grounds for losing your job.
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How to get better at being reliable

There are a few things that you can do to become more reliable:

  • Make the commitment that you think it is important to be reliable and that you are going to focus on improving. 
  • Get advice from your teacher or manager about what they believe you should do to become more reliable in your work. Take their help, and ask them to support you.
  • Think about what stops you being reliable at the moment. Perhaps it is that you are easily distracted, that you need to improve your skills, or that you find it hard to follow instructions. This then gives you something to work on. 
  • Make sure you are clear on the expectations that people have of you and your work, and write them down. This includes what the tasks are, when they need to be done by, and any other instructions. If you are unclear, then ask more questions (see Listening Step 2 for more on this).
  • Work hard to try to meet those expectations. Sometimes that might mean putting in more work than you might expect, or finding ways of working that stop you being distracted. You might also need to do some additional learning to improve your skills.
  • Finally, keep getting feedback – this helps to show that you are dedicated to getting better, and people should want to support you.

In the end, we can all become reliable, and we all benefit from that too.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can ask learners to consider why being on time matters. They can explore why being late to school or to lessons has a negative effect, and learners could extend to thinking about why this matters in their wider lives. The teacher can also ask learners to reflect on the impact of missing deadlines or not getting work done on time.
  • This can then be extended into a discussion about what it means to be reliable and why this matters. Learners can think about whether they think they are reliable in different aspects of their lives.
  • A discussion can be structured around how learners could become more reliable. This could culminate with learners capturing some tips on how to boost their reliability or create actions for themselves to get better.

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself well to reinforcement in the classroom. The teacher can use the language of being on time and reliability as a way to support learners to develop positive attitudes towards these. Learners should also see that there are steps that they can take to get better too. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through sustained observation of learners, and whether they are on time and reliable over a sustained period.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to all those who collaborate with others on tasks.

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

  • Discuss with the individual the importance of being on time. If the individual is currently struggling with this issue, a manager might approach this topic sensitively in case there are contributing factors which they are not yet aware of. It can be a good idea to explain why workplace cultures tend to value being on time, laying out some of the reasons explained above. This can expand into a conversation about the importance of being reliable – both manager and individual can explain their ideas of what ‘being reliable’ means and come up with a shared definition.
  • Reflect with the individual on some of the consequences of being unreliable. If appropriate, a manager could share some examples from their work history where they have experienced the consequences of someone being unreliable. 
  • Model some of the ways an individual can get better at being reliable. To achieve this, a manager might create a checklist of the actions an individual might try, based on the examples referenced above.
  • Task the individual on an exercise which is about them learning, from an experienced colleague, how to become more reliable. This might be about pairing the individual with a mentor who can help them work through the barriers they are facing in being more reliable at work. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When working in a team environment, especially when others are relying on us to get the job done so they can get theirs done.
  • Working with customers or clients: Whenever we are delivering a product for a service for a customer or client, so they know that are reliable and trustworthy. This is strongly linked to providing a good customer service. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observation over time and collecting feedback. For instance:

  • A manager could count the number of instances where an individual arrives on time to a meeting or delivers work late in a month. 
  • This can be complemented by customer feedback, or reflections from colleagues that they work with regularly. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Questioning the individual in an interview. Here, a manager can ask questions to check the individual can recognise why it is important to be on time and reliable.
  • Alternatively, a hiring manager might set up an exercise where the individual reviews a case study describing a scenario where an individual is consistently unreliable. The hiring manager can then ask the individual to explain what the consequences of this are and write some tips to help the individual become more reliable.

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

There are many parts of our school or college life that require us to be on time. We need to arrive on time for the start of the day and the start of lessons, home learning assignments have to be handed in on time and we might have important meetings to attend. If we are on time, we have the opportunity to fully take part in everything offered and show we are ready to learn. If we are unreliable, late for lessons and do not hand in work, then our learning will be negatively affected. This in turn will impact our future study and work opportunities.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

At work, there will be many occasions during the day when we are required to be on time. Firstly, at the start of the day or shift, when attending meetings or visiting customers or clients. Production lines may be planned for specific start times and hospitals, open 24 hours a day, require the staff to be ready to start at the beginning of their shift. The work of other people may rely onus completing our tasks by a set deadline: to be late or unreliable will have a negative effect on the work of others and therefore on the organisation as a whole.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In the wider world we have many activities or events that are arranged for a specific time, for example, dental and doctor appointments, sports matches and exercise classes, theatre visits and social evenings. In some cases, if we do not turn up the appointment has to be cancelled, if it cannot take place at another time. We may miss part of an enjoyable social event and some places may charge you for being late. Being unreliable means you may miss out on important events or upset friends and family who always have to wait for you.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Teamwork, 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!

  • Imagine a day where you are late for everything you had to do. List everything. Perhaps you overslept, missed the bus, forgot an appointment, did not complete some work. Write two things next to each item on your list, firstly how might being late or missing the event make you feel? How do you think the other people involved felt?
  • Think back over the last week. How reliable have you been? Have you completed everything? Attended everything? Been on time? If not, why not?
  • Read and think about the ways to improve your reliability listed in this step. Select up to three things you think you could improve and prepare actions to improve your reliability.

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