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Policy skills

Policy Skills

Good policy advice depends on skilled policy practitioners – able to analyse and respond to policy challenges and come up with workable solutions that will add value to the lives of people in New Zealand. To do this, policy practitioners need a diverse set of skills. The key tools we've created to help develop these skills are are:

The Policy Skills Framework

The Policy Skills Framework sets out the full extent of the knowledge, applied skills and behaviours great policy practitioners need – from new professionals developing their policy craft to seasoned experts at the top of their game. It is designed to help policy practitioners assess and strengthen their own skills profile, and to help policy managers assess and build high performing teams.

Below is a high-level summary of the Policy Skills Framework. This identifies the breadth of knowledge, skills and behaviour an effective policy practitioner requires.

For each of the 15 elements of knowledge, applied skills and behaviours identified above, the full Policy Skills Framework:

  • provides a one-sentence descriptor of what that element encompasses, overall
  • allows for varying levels of experience and competence in each element (the developing, practising and expert/leading levels), and
  • for each competency level, provides detailed descriptors of what a policy practitioner should be capable of.

The Policy Skills Framework is one of three improvement frameworks co-designed with the policy community to help government agencies improve their policy quality and capability. The other two frameworks are the Policy Quality Framework –outlining what quality policy advice means and the Policy Capability Framework – outlining what government agencies with policy functions need to focus on to produce quality policy advice. All three frameworks have been endorsed by the Head of the Policy Profession and the Tier 2 Policy Leaders’ Network.

Tools and applications

The Policy Skills Framework has a number of associated tools that can help individual policy practitioners and their managers map, develop and embed policy skills.

Mapping policy skills

Map your policy skills profile – If you’re a policy advisor you can use this tool to help you map your current policy skills – identifying which competency level you are currently at, for each element of the Policy Skills Framework. This tool will also help you identify some of the skills you’d like to develop to a greater depth.

Map your team’s policy skills profile – If you’re a policy manager, you can use this tool to map your team’s skills – identifying the mix of levels of competency available to you in each skill area. Comparing this with the skill demands of your work programme can then help you to identify how fit for purpose your policy team is, and any skill gaps.  This then helps you tackle skill gaps in two ways. First by helping you identify which skills you’d like your team to develop further. Second by helping you identify which skills to particularly look for when recruiting new team members, or project-specific contractors.

Developing policy skills

The Policy Skills Framework describes what policy knowledge, skills and behaviour great policy practitioners need, while the Development Pathways Tool shows how you can develop the skills you've identified. The Development Pathways Tool identifies the actions a policy practitioner can take, for each of the 15 skill elements, to develop their skills at the three different levels of practice – developing, practising and expert/leading. These actions are organised under three ways of learning – on the job experience, learning from others, and through formal training.

You and your manager can use the Development Pathways Tool in conjunction with the Policy Skills Framework to enrich your individual development discussions. They can help you focus on which skills to develop, to which level, and how best to build your skills.

Policy Methods Toolbox resources

The Policy Methods Toolbox also provides information and tools to learn more about methods you can use to help improve specific skills. For example, if you’re interested in improving your engagement and collaboration skills, there’s a section in the toolbox about community engagement methods. Or, if you are interested in improving your analysis skills, the section on behavioural insights is worth checking out.

Embedding policy skills

There's a range of networks and other resources available where agencies can learn more about how to embed policy skills.

Conversations we’ve had about a skilled policy workforce

The Policy Project frameworks and tools are informed by co-design workshops held with groups from across the policy community.


Last updated: 
Wednesday, 11 May 2022

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