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Skills for Success: Communication

The Government of Canada’s Skills for Success model defines communication as “your ability to receive, understand, consider, and share information and ideas through speaking, listening, and interacting with others.”


Communication is one of the 9 skills identified in the Government of Canada’s Skills for Success model. Launched in 2021, this model updates the original Essential Skills framework to reflect changes in the Canadian labour market and the modern workplace.

As they say, communication is a two-way street. To communicate effectively, it is equally important to be able to receive as well as express information.

At work and in life, communication—both verbal and non-verbal—is key to sharing information, navigating relationships, solving problems, receiving instructions, and discussing ideas. Whether you’re talking to one person, socializing in a group, or giving a formal presentation, your communication style will shape the way others see you and respond to you.

What does communication include?

The Skills for Success model divides communication skills into 6 components:

  1. Listen with intention. Notice how speakers chose words and non-verbal cues to highlight their messages. Ask questions to be sure that you understand. Use your own body language to show that you are paying attention.
  2. Listen to understand. Ask yourself what the speaker is trying to say. What is the source of the speaker’s information? Are the facts correct? Does the argument have a strong basis? Consider other points of view.
  3. Speak with clarity. When it is your turn to speak, use grammar, pronunciation, and word choice that suit the situation.
  4. Speak with purpose. Use examples, facts, content, and a structure that support the purpose of your speech—for example, to inform, explain, or persuade.
  5. Adapt to your audience and contexts. Identify your audience’s needs, preferences, and interests. Choose content, tone, language, gesture, and approach appropriate to the audience and the time and place of your speech.
  6. Adapt to other people’s communication modes and tools. Check that the content of your speech, the kind of presentation, and the way you approach the topic suit the situation.

Measuring communication skills

Your proficiency level is your ability to communicate in different situations. As you develop your communication skills, you’ll get better at:

  • Speaking and listening to a wider range and depth of subject matter, using both concrete and abstract language
  • Communicating in both routine and unpredictable contexts, with familiar and unfamiliar audiences of various sizes
  • Interpreting both straightforward and complex non-verbal cues

For communication, the Skills for Success model defines 3 levels of proficiency: entry, intermediate, and advanced. Here are examples of things you might do at each level:

  • Entry level. Meet one-on-one with your supervisor to receive instructions or feedback and ask questions about a task.
  • Intermediate level. Participate in a small group discussion about an upcoming project. Explain your ideas and understand and respond to the ideas and opinions of others.
  • Advanced level. Present information on a complex topic to a large audience. Take questions and participate in a discussion at the end, adapting your responses based on your reading of the audience.

Communication skills in action

Here are some examples of how people in different occupations apply their communication skills:

  • Food and beverage servers greet customers, tell them about specials, answer questions, take orders and relay them to the kitchen, check that diners are enjoying their meals, and respond appropriately to complaints.
  • Life skills coaches listen to people empathetically and non-judgmentally, guide them through self-discovery activities, and counsel them in identifying options and making plans of action.
  • Photographers consult with clients to understand the goals of a photoshoot, exchange information with set designers and location managers, and speak with people in the photos to give them instructions and put them at ease.

Communication strategies

When you’re communicating with others, keep these strategies in mind:

  • Be authentic. Whatever the subject or context, being honest and sincere will go a long way to make sure your message is heard and taken seriously.
  • Be clear, concise, and direct. Use simple words and language, even when you’re talking about a complex topic.
  • Be present. Whether you’re having a one-on-one conversation or listening to a presentation, show the other person that you are engaged. Leave your phone and your other tasks on hold while you pay attention to what is being said.
  • Ask open-ended questions. These questions invite people to decide what and how much they want to say, instead of just answering yes and no. You’ll usually end up with more (and better!) information.
  • Be positive. When you’re asking someone to do something, say what you want, not what you don’t want. People respond better to constructive suggestions and requests than to complaints.

Helpful resources

Online learning courses

Improve your core skills at home by taking online courses. Online learning offers courses covering a wide range of topics, and some platforms offer free courses or free trials. Find out what your options are by searching these online learning sites for the skills you want to build:

Check out these resources to help you assess and build your communication skills:

Explore the Skills for Success model

Although particular skills may be more important in some jobs than others, all 9 skills in the Skills for Success model are needed for most occupations. These skills are not just about work—they come into play throughout our lives, forming a foundation for other technical and life skills, knowledge, and relationships.

Learn about the other skills for success:

Skills for Success: Communication (1:09)

Communication skills are important for developing good working relationships with co-workers and clients, including those from different backgrounds and cultures. Strong communication skills help you work effectively in a team. They help you understand a variety of viewpoints. They help you gather and share information to solve problems—whether at work or in your daily life.

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