In 2016, the Policy Project co-developed the Policy Skills Framework with policy practitioners. It is one of three policy improvement frameworks designed to improve the quality of policy advice across government.
On this page:
The Policy Skills Framework describes the knowledge, applied skills and behaviour policy practitioners require to be able to produce high quality advice at three levels of capability – developing (analyst), practising (senior analyst) and expert/leading (principal analyst). It is a tool to help policy practitioners and their managers assess their current skills and think about how they want to progress as a policy practitioner. However, the Policy Skills Framework does not provide any guidance on how policy practitioners can acquire the capabilities they need to provide quality policy advice and to progress from one level to the next. The Policy Skills Framework provides the ‘what’. The Development Pathways Tool complements the Policy Skills Framework by providing the ‘how’.
What is it?
The Development Pathways Tool takes each element of knowledge, applied skills and behaviours required to become a policy professional (as described in the Policy Skills Framework), and identifies practical steps an individual can take to move from one level of capability to the next - in three different ways:
- Learning by doing on the job
- Learning from others (including colleagues)
- Formal learning.
For many types of jobs, a commonly accepted guideline to maximise the effectiveness of learning and development is 70% learning by doing on the job, 20% learning from others, and 10% through formal learning (structured courses and development with explicit learning objectives).
The actions at each level build on the one before (e.g. the actions under Expert/Leading build on those outlined under Practising).
A policy practitioner does not need to complete all the practical actions listed in the Tool in order to progress to the next level of capability. They are simply a guide about what a policy practitioner might want to do to gain the knowledge, applied skills and behaviour at each level that they do not yet have. There will be other development pathways as well.
What will be achieved and who will use it?
Both policy managers and their policy staff can use the Tool.
The Development Pathways Tool will:
- Provide an easy way for individuals to identify how to gain the policy-related knowledge, applied skills and behaviours at different capability levels
- Support policy managers to have discussions with individual policy practitioners or teams about their professional development plans and career aspirations, including identifying concrete activities to build capability levels
- Help policy managers to identify possible ways to fill identified gaps in knowledge, applied skills and behaviour in their teams
- Complement and enrich agency-specific learning, development and career pathways
- Contribute to improved quality of policy advice and better government decisions across the public service.
The Tool uses questions and prompts to generate the information sought.
The following steps are a useful way for a policy practitioner to use the Tool:
- Identify and discuss with your manager the knowledge, applied skills or behaviour you would like to focus on for further development. You can use the Policy Skills Framework to map your skills, and decide which ones you want to focus on. You may want to seek the views of others as well as your manager on your self-assessment, before you identify the skills you want to focus on.
- Open the Development Pathways Tool and select which knowledge, applied skills, and behaviour you wish to develop further, and the development level you want to achieve. The Tool will prompt you to do this. The Tool will only generate a single applied skill, knowledge or behaviour at a time.
- Download the information that the Tool generates on how to develop your skills.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the other skills you want to develop.
- Review the development pathways information and identify practical steps likely to be feasible for you and discuss them with your manager.
- Incorporate the actions you have agreed with your manager into your professional development plan.
Senior policy analyst example
Zoe is a senior policy analyst looking to upskill. Zoe:
- Maps her skills using the Policy Skills Framework
- Decides that she would like to develop her skills in ‘Government systems and processes’ and 'engagement and collaboration'.
- Reviews the practical steps suggested in the Development Pathways Tool for a practising policy practitioner (e.g. participate in increasingly complex interdepartmental, Cabinet and Parliamentary processes; independently scope and plan an engagement strategy that articulates who to engage with and why, the related goals and decision rights)
- Discusses, and sets up a professional development plan, with her manager for the next six months.
Zoe's development plan includes a project that will require her to lead a policy development process that involves:
- Scoping and planning an engagement strategy on changes to legislation
- The development and passage of an amendment Bill through Parliament
She will also:
- Learn from her team about iwi as Treaty partners and key stakeholders, (e.g. Ministers, select committees, iwi, service users, other community groups) their drivers, interest and influence, and engagement style and preference.
- Undertake a Parliament in Practice seminar run by IPANZ and the Office of the Clerk.
Policy manager example
Michael is a policy manager. He decides to assess his team’s policy skills so he can identify where to focus future capability. Michael uses the Policy Skills Framework to map the team’s knowledge, applied skills and behaviour. His team is likely to be increasingly involved in contributing to, or leading, cross-agency and cross-sector work that has a large design component. Michael is particularly interested in whether there are any skill gaps across the team, who would be interested in development in the areas where gaps have been identified, and whether more senior members of his team could coach less experienced team members.
Michael identifies that his team needs to develop collectively its strategic thinking, engagement and collaboration and design for implementation skills. He uses the Development Pathways Tool to identify potential practical steps to develop the team's skills. Michael decides to:
- Ask the Principal Analyst in the team if she could coach and mentor less experienced team members on systems thinking and futures thinking (since this an area of her expertise)
- Organise a seminar by a government agency (that has recently undertaken major reform in its sector) on user-centred approaches to policy design and implementation
- Suggest several members of the team attend training on how to apply the Māori Crown Engagement Framework and Guidelines
- Suggest the whole team takes a course on design thinking methods (e.g. Design Thinking in the Public Service, Think Place).