A skills matrix is a framework that all organizations should use if they want to maximize employee productivity. This tool gives HR and managers a valuable and immediate way to visualize the assets they have on hand, and which skills are missing. Making the most of a skills matrix translates into L&D programs to fill the gaps that the matrix reveals.
What Is a Skills Matrix?
A skills matrix is an analysis in the form of a table that details skill levels according to employee.
A basic skills matrix lists the employee name, skill, and numerical performance grade. It’s a simple way to keep track of the skills that your people have and at what level. This allows a company to understand which gaps need to be filled by hiring, and effectively plan L&D programs.
What’s not simple about a skills matrix is that it requires users to grade something that is often subjective. That’s why it’s vital for organizations to train managers in evaluation techniques that avoid bias.
Why Is a Skills Matrix Important?
There was a time in many companies when “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” was a basic truth. Without modern evaluations, records, and analysis, there weren’t many ways for large organizations to really understand what their employees could do. Instead, people needed connections who would recommend them for roles. Employees who may have been more qualified, but less connected, did not always get the opportunity to prove themselves.
Tools like a skills matrix have changed this reality. By using it properly, companies can better understand what skills they have under their roof. Instead of opportunities based on nepotism, employees get to shine based on what they bring to the table. Let’s take a look at why the skills matrix is a very valuable framework for all organizations to use:
Maintaining and Applying a Skills Inventory
Particularly in a large organization, it’s almost impossible for HR to keep track of existing employee skills. Similarly, only a very attentive manager will remember the work experience and education of each worker.
So, when a new project comes along, or a new strategy is implemented, HR often needs to scramble. Such initiatives frequently mean that unfamiliar skills are required. A skills matrix acts as a record of in-house capabilities. If an existing employee already has what is needed, internal hiring can avoid the time and expense of outside recruitment.
Identifying Areas of Weakness
A skills matrix is usually not a pass/fail measurement. Instead, employees receive a grade, and much of the time, their skills are less than perfect. This indicates that they have basic knowledge of a skill, but could improve. L&D programs are then used to bring them up to par. This process is essential in many situations, for example:
- Upon promotion
- To take on a leadership position
- For upskilling / reskilling
- To accommodate a new strategy or change management effort
In addition, for companies that implement continuous development programs, a skills matrix is a dependable method to figure out which course comes next for participants.
Conducting a Skills Gap Analysis
Identifying areas of weakness as described above, and applying a skills matrix, is something that is often done urgently because there is an immediate need for a trained employee. However, a skills matrix should ideally be a regular part of a company’s skills gap analysis.
During a skills gap analysis, all the positions in a company are mapped, and for each position, relevant skills are listed, including both soft and hard skills. But to understand what skills already exist on your teams, the matrix is an ideal tool.
Implementing Career Management
Career management comes with a wide range of activities, including lateral mobility, informal roles, and secondment. To determine which employees are best suited for these opportunities, a matrix can be used to assess their skills for the planned move.
Retention and Recognition
If your company has a talent development program, it is probably focused on boosting employees who have the skills, the energy, and the natural ability to excel. These people represent the future of your organization, and you need to hang on to them, which is one of the objectives of a talent development program in the first place.
A key to this goal is L&D. Talented employees who are given the training that they need to succeed are much more likely to stay with their organization. By using a skills matrix, companies can keep track of the courses that their best and brightest should receive to keep them, and the organization, as productive as possible.
Employees who invest their time in such courses deserve to be recognized, as this is another measure which helps retention. Should HR engage in this tactic, they’ll need a record of the employees who have achieved greater levels of skill, which is something that is easily understood from a matrix.
It’s always best to recruit internally. But a skills matrix can indicate when certain capabilities are totally missing from an organization. If these skills are shown to be vital, then HR can immediately start the outside recruitment process.
The skills matrix is also beneficial for replacing employees who have left the company. This might be in the case of somebody quitting or taking a leave of absence. The skills matrix acts as a guide to show what skills counted the most in the role of the former worker. And if the ex-employee was not proficient, a skills matrix can highlight their areas of weakness. HR can then make sure that the next person to fill that role has a stronger set of skills.
Skills Matrix vs. Competency Matrix
Some organizations use these terms interchangeably, but they are not identical. Whereas a skills matrix covers only skills, a competency matrix adds factors such as knowledge and attitude, and so is more complex. In short, a competency matrix contains the information of a skills matrix and more.
How to Create a Skills Matrix
We’ve broken down the basic steps involved in building a skills matrix. For the sake of reference, a lot of the work behind the first step is also part of a skills gap analysis:
1. Map positions and skills
Use the organizational chart to create a list of positions and then describe the skills that are linked to them. Make sure to include skills that are related to the position, but not formally required. For example, a marketing employee should have great communication skills, but are they also doing a good job in time management? Managers can be a useful source to identify these secondary skills.
2. Build the matrix
A typical skills matrix has between five and ten categories. It is a good idea to include some explanations that describe what factors influence each category, and how to evaluate them. For example, an employee’s communication skills might consist of written, spoken, and presentational abilities. A document accompanying the matrix should describe what excellent, average, and poor looks like for each skill. But keep these comments to a minimum to avoid confusion, and instead, discuss the finer points in a training session.
Train stakeholders in use of the matrix
Essentially, this means providing more explanation for the details listed above. Include examples, preferably from actual employees. Don’t forget to relate the measurements to seniority. A new worker with great leadership skills might not be as competent as a seasoned manager, but should still receive a high grade compared to their peers.
Avoiding bias is essential for a skills matrix to be accurate and useful. It is difficult to completely eliminate bias from a subjective evaluation, but the following tips can help:
- Examine scores from various sources – direct managers, team managers, peers, and the employee (after self-examination)
- Formally test the employee on a selection of vital skills
- After an L&D course, ask the trainer, mentor, or coach to evaluate the employee
- Use the same skills matrix for all employees in the same function
After the Skills Matrix, it’s Time for GrowthSpace
The results of a skills matrix often reveal that employees aren’t as proficient as they could be. But where do you go from there? In a large organization, tracking the skill needs of each employee, and ensuring they get top notch L&D to build those skills, is a tall order.
GrowthSpace addresses this exact challenge. The GrowthSpace platform matches highly defined L&D requirements with world-class instructors in those specific subjects. Today, thousands of companies around the globe rely on GrowthSpace technology to close their people’s skill gaps.