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The Foundation Skills
By Lawrence K. Jones


These 17 Foundation Skills are those required of all workers in the 21st century workplace.
They are grouped in four clusters.


  1. Identify relevant details, facts, and specification in what is being read;
  2. Locate information in books and manuals, from graphs and schedules;
  3. Find meaning of unknown or technical words and phrases;
  4. Judge accuracy of reports; and
  5. Use computer to find information.


  1. Communicate thoughts, ideas, information, and messages in writing;
  2. Record information completely and accurately;
  3. Create documents, including letters, manuals, reports, and graphs;
  4. Check, edit, and revise documents for correct information, appropriate emphasis, grammar,
    spelling, and punctuation; and
  5. Use computers to communicate information.


  1. Use numbers, fractions, and percentages to solve practical problems;
  2. Make reasonable estimates of arithmetic results without calculator;
  3. Use tables, graphs, diagrams, and charts to obtain numerical information;
  4. Use computers to enter, retrieve, change, and communicate numerical information; and
  5. Use computers to communicate data, choosing the best form to present data (e.g., line or bar graph, pie charts).


  1. Organize ideas and communicate oral messages appropriate to listener and situations;
  2. Select appropriate language, tone of voice, gestures, and level of complexity appropriate to audience and occasion;
  3. Speak clearly; ask questions when needed.


  1. Listen carefully to what a person says, noting tone of voice and other body language to understand content and feelings being expressed; and
  2. Respond in a way that shows understanding of
    what is said.

Creative Thinking:

  1. Use imagination freely, combining ideas or information in new ways; and
  2. Make connections between ideas that seem unrelated.

Problem-Solving Skills:

  1. Recognize problem, a gap between what is and what should or could be;
  2. Identify why it is a problem;
  3. Create and implement a solution; and
  4. Watch to see how well solution works and revise if needed.

Decision Making Skills:

  1. Identify the goal desired in making the decision;
  2. Generate alternatives for reaching the goal;
  3. Gather information about the alternatives (e.g., from experts or books);
  4. Weigh the pros and cons of each alternative (i.e., gains/losses to yourself and others, approval/
    disapproval of self and others);
  5. Make the best choice; and
  6. Plan how to carry out your choice and what you will do if negative consequences occur.


  1. See a building or object by looking at a blueprint, drawing, or sketch; and
  2. Imagine how a system works by looking at a schematic drawing.


  1. Show understanding, friendliness, and respect for the feelings of others;
  2. Assert oneself appropriately, stand up for yourself and your ideas in a firm, positive way; and
  3. Take an interest in what people say and why they think and act as they do.


  1. Identify common goals among different parties in conflict and the ways they depend on each other;
  2. Clearly present the facts and arguments of your own position;
  3. Listen to and understand other party's position; and
  4. Create and propose possible options for resolving the conflict, making reasonable compromises.


  1. Communicate thoughts and feelings to justify a position;
  2. Encourage, persuade, or convince individuals or groups;
  3. Make positive use of rules (e.g., "Robert's Rules of Order") or values of the organization;
  4. Exhibit ability to have others believe in and trust you due to your competence and honesty.


  1. Work cooperatively with others; contribute to the group with ideas and effort;
  2. Do own share of tasks necessary to complete project;
  3. Encourage team members by listening to them, providing support, and offering tips for success, as appropriate;
  4. Resolve differences for the benefit of the team; and
  5. Responsibly challenge existing procedures, policies, or authorities.

Cultural Diversity:

  1. Work well with people having different ethnic, social, or educational backgrounds;
  2. Understand the concerns of members of other ethnic and gender groups;
  3. Base impressions on a person's behavior, not stereotypes;
  4. Understand one's own culture and those of others and how they differ; and
  5. Respect the rights of others while helping them make cultural adjustments where necessary.


  1. Understand how beliefs affect how a person feels and acts;
  2. Listening to what you say to yourself to identify any irrational or harmful beliefs you may have; and
  3. Understand how to change these negative beliefs when they occur.


  1. Assess your own knowledge and skills accurately;
  2. Set well-defined and realistic personal goals; and
  3. Monitor your progress toward your goals.


  1. Give a high level of effort toward reaching goals,
  2. Work hard to become excellent at job tasks. Pay attention to details. Concentrate at doing tasks well,
    even unpleasant ones; and
  3. Display high standards of attendance,
    honesty, energy, and optimism.