The three Spotlight skill sets (each with three subsets or elements) can be identified at five levels.

Through experience, job-holders move through skill levels from level one until they reach the maximum level their job allows them to use. Different jobs make different levels of skill demand, depending on their design.

Spotlight skill levels can also be developed through experience outside the workplace. Skill levels are developed through practice, problem-solving and shared learning on the job, as well as from life and other work experience.

How do we identify the level of the skill element?

The extent to which skills can be learned and developed depends on the range of activities required in the particular job. People are normally able to progress from level 1 to level 2 – the level of fluent proficiency.  Some jobs allow or require job-holders to move to level 3 to solve new problems, to level 4 to share solutions, or to level 5 to help modify the work system. In large organisations it is often only senior managers who are permitted to exercise level 5 skills. In many jobs it is not possible for activities to be carried out at all five levels. If you identify the limits of your current job and feel you have greater capacity, you may think about how you can map your career development goals.


Through observation, asking questions, trial and error and reflection, the jobholder becomes familiar with their new job.

Everyone starting a new job has go through the process of familiarisation, because they need to learn about the relationships, roles, systems and patterns of work, terminologies and boundaries specific to this job.

Job-holders should select this as a skill they have already acquired and are using in their current job if they have completed the familiarisation stage. If they have not yet completed the familiarisation stage they should select this as a skill they would like to acquire.

Example: By trial and error, a beginning caseworker identifies who to go to for trustworthy advice and when and how to ask them for help.

2.Automatic fluency

Participating as a practised performer, independently applying learned and practiced skills automatically.

Job-holders acquire automatic proficiency once familiarisation process is completed. It typically means that the job-holder has reached a good standard of competency and can work unsupervised for periods of time.

Example: a job-holder automatically applies techniques she has learned for talking and acting in a way that relaxes anxious clients.

3.Proficient problem-solving

Proficient problem solving means participating as an experienced problem-solver, carrying out operations already learned, whilst applying experience to creating new solutions.

An experienced worker can perform previously learned activities whilst simultaneously addressing unfamiliar problems. At this skill level, the jobholder can integrate the subconscious application of practised proficiency with a conscious focus on the creative solving of new problems.

Example: A call centre worker uses automatic keyboard skills to navigate screens whilst conducting an interview. With practice, her questioning skills also become automatic, allowing data input and interviewing to be done whilst working out new solutions to callers’ problems.

4.Creative solution-sharing

At this stage job-holders actively contribute to the knowledge and skills to their co-workers, making the whole team more effective and efficient. This includes passing on practical knowledge they have learned, along with system shortcuts, solutions, tips, easy-to-remember guidelines or tricks of the trade. This is a sign of a very experienced and respected employee.

Example: Early childhood teachers and education support workers exchange information about very small signs of development in children with severe cognitive and mobility issues. They develop easy to remember strategies to guide others, such as ‘count to ten before helping’.

5.Expert system-shaping

Expert system shaping means participating as a knowledge creator or system innovator, helping to spread or change a system of work or knowledge.

Job-holders may contribute to the embedding of their expertise in a new system of knowledge or practice. This may occur in forums, networks or action research.

Example: A group of IT workers anticipate where systems may come under pressure and design back-up systems and criteria for their use.


A community care nurse has a client who does not want to hear the details of his deteriorating condition. In the nurse’s presence, the client’s son starts to try to get his father to face reality. The nurse must solve the problem of how ethically to manage this context of competing awareness levels and needs.

The nurse is also judging the impact of the situation on the client. Shaping awareness skill elements A2 and A3 are required: the capacity to hide the nurse’s own feelings about the father. She needs an awareness of the reactions and needs of both father and son and an assessment of the consequences of breaching the father’s confidence. If there are disclosure rules for handling such situations, awareness of the relevance of professional contexts (A1) may also be involved.

The skill has been defined at level 3 – the capacity to work out a solution to a problem whilst continuing to carry on with some activities automatically