Designed for busy public servants, Apolitical’s Future Skills Tracker is a quick, easy tool you can use to work out which skills and competencies are strengths — and which you should focus on for development to future-proof your career.
When you take the short quiz, you’ll get scores across eight key competencies, and links to resources you’ll find useful for further development. These scores are confidential. You also get assigned one of twelve “personality types” — a fun way of comparing yourself to colleagues.
Completing the quiz should take five to ten minutes.
The tracker is based on our research into competency frameworks for government, from New Zealand to the OECD. First we identified the competencies common to different governments, to isolate those most central to public service.
Then, we isolated eight common sets of skills that are important not only now, but are likely to increase in importance over time as government is forced to adapt to the rapid transformation of society and technology.
The future skills tracker is exclusively for public servants and policymakers. As such, it is only available to verified members of Apolitical.
THE FUTURE SKILLS
The competency frameworks analysed included those from governments in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Australia, and South Africa and organisations including the United Nations, the OECD, and Nesta.
Policy-making environments are often high pressure and unpredictable, so being able to shift seamlessly between different responsibilities is an important trait for public servants. As such, adapting to change is a central theme for government competency frameworks across the globe.
The Australian framework outlines this skill as the ability to “steer and implement change” — public servants need to be able to plan for the short and the long-term. The Canadian government calls this competency “adaptability”, and a core component of it is adjusting and persevering through setbacks.
Ideas can only be systematically improved if practitioners are comfortable thinking outside the box, trying out new approaches and pushing boundaries.
“We’ve always done it this way” cannot be an excuse for poor policymaking and delivery when the public sector is presented with complex challenges.
The innovative potential of government cannot be unlocked without a creative and experimental mindset. This means actively seeking to improve services, promoting new ideas and taking calculated risks.
Public servants must continuously look for new ways to improve services and products. As such, seeking out opportunities for development is included within several global frameworks including the UK’s and the UN’s.
The UK calls this competency “changing and improving” and states that staff that are flexible and inquisitive will lead to a “culture of innovation” within the civil service. This competency is named as a “commitment to continuous learning” in the UN framework, which means public servants need to be aware of new developments and show a willingness to learn new skills.
A proactive public servant is action-oriented, focused on outcomes and has an eye to translating the broader government vision into concrete policies and programs.
This involves keeping a close eye on priorities and timely performance, dealing with challenges in a responsive way and establishing a persuasive future vision.
Nesta has described this competency as a bias towards action and learning by doing. For the Australian Public Service Commission, a commitment to action encompasses determination, motivation and results-orientation. Showing initiative and energy not only delivers better results, but also empowers others to do the same.
When public servants have to deliver information to the public, they are often tasked with turning complex policy into compelling narratives.
Crafting persuasive stories and adding creativity to policy-making frequently appears in global competency frameworks. For example, in the UN framework, this competency is called “communication”: public servants are required to speak effectively. The OECD explains this as “explaining change in a way that builds support”, or storytelling.
Tailoring your delivery of information based on audience and purpose will be key to acquiring this skill-set.
A consensus among the global policy community is that being open to ideas from others and facilitating group problem solving is core to the job function of civil servants.
The Kenyan framework states that civil servants need to bring diverse viewpoints together in order to achieve goals in what they call the “team management behavioural trait”. Similarly, the Australian civil service competency framework calls this “cooperation and partnerships” and states that public servants need to foster an environment where teamwork is valued.
Data cannot be an afterthought in an era of digital transformation. Public servants will only be able to harness the potential of data analytics if they are proficient in data collection, visualisation and analysis skills.
The OECD identifies data-driven decision making as a core skill for public sector innovation and Nesta cites it as a competency without which public problem solving cannot occur. Investing in data literacy will enable public sector organisations to accelerate the exploration of new ideas and solutions.
A skill, an attitude and a habit, being reflective is key to developing competencies, improving actions and learning from outcomes.
For Nesta, the process of “critically reflecting on process and results” leads to better public problem solving and experimenting.
To be well-rounded and effective, the public service as a whole, and the individuals within it, must have the ability to reflect on its capabilities, systems and vision.