Where should you start from to assess your team’s talents and skills? Except if you’re not a small business consisting of two or three individuals, you might find yourself quite puzzled by the task.
How do you even make certain that your team has the right people in it that have the needed skills to make your business flow? The answer is simple: you need a skills matrix.
What Is a Skills Matrix Anyway?
Plainly speaking, a skills matrix – also often referred to as competency matrix – is essentially a tool that helps mapping desired and required skills for a project or team.
It is usually represented by a framework that includes available and required competencies and skills in a team. Many HR specialists consider it a vital tool for proper data analysis.
Having a completed competency matrix at hand will provide you with a proper comprehension of your team’s skills: the required ones, the available ones, and the missing ones. In other words, you will have a full landscape of your team’s abilities right in front of you.
What Is It Used for?
Skills matrixes are usually used for two principal purposes, where the first is the assessment of team’s skills for a particular project. That is, you will have to conduct a skill overview in your team before starting the project, so they can complete it successfully and on time.
This will also help you determine your team’s main activities and identify what skills they require to fulfill them.
Second purpose is the provision of insight into the skills that your team already possesses. Plain and simple, after determining the skills required for project’s accomplishment, you will have to evaluate the skills your team already has.
For instance, if your project requires skills in IT, data analysis, business management, and reporting, you will have to look into which of the team members has this or that skill.
In case none of your team members has a particular skill, you can just hire someone that has it and fulfill your staff. It’s important to do this before starting the project, since this way you ensure better results. Analyzing skills retrospectively pretty much means that you’ve taken on a failing project.
Skills Matrix Benefits
You can use a skills matrix to improve performance in more than just one way. That is, you can focus it on the team, individual team members, company, and even clients. Let’s take a closer look at this:
First of all, the skills matrix is meant to serve as a helping hand to the team as such by providing an overview and insight of both the skills that are already present and those that are not.
The skills that are missing can be gained by hiring people that have them, as we’ve discussed previously. Plus, the competency matrix allows the team to see its own weaknesses, be on a lookout and avoid their negative effect on productivity.
Individual Team Members
Much like with the team, the skills matrix allows an individual to see and understand their strengths and weaknesses, too. As a result, the person has a starting point for further growth, since the competency matrix shows, what can be improved and what can be learned from anew.
In the same manner, the individual starts to comprehend, what skills exactly they need to make sure their contribution to the team’s cause is helpful. This also brings individual team members to certain expectations, since now they know the areas they can perform outstandingly.
Speaking of the large-scale application of the skills matrix, a company basically receives an outline of competencies at hand and things that can be improved.
This, in turn, helps the organization decide on the investment of its development budget to assure better productivity. Plus, skills matrixes provide a better view on the company’s talent pool and redistribute it for its better functioning and, thus, better results.
If you’re still wondering how skills matrix completion and implementation can help your clients, the answer is: they get better service from your company.
Understanding what skills are available and what skills are missing will allow you to avoid a wide range of drawbacks and unwanted risks, ensuring more reliable and solid results, when working with customers.
So, How Do You Create a Skills Matrix?
Creation of a skills matrix can be described in four relatively simple steps. Note that this is in no way an instruction carved in stone, so you can adjust it as you like, when you get a firm hold of the process.
But, as for now, let’s take a look at our four steps below.
Step 1. Determine the Skills Relevant for Your Project
Always start with determining the skills your team will need to accomplish a project before starting it and even before doing anything else matrix-wise.
Usually, skills matrixes are created by the HR department or managers. The goal is simple, as we’ve discussed above – to boost team performance. It’s necessary to identify the skills that aren’t there.
This will help to prevent the appearance of internal conflict, missing of deadlines and additional costs in the future (if your team has to re-do the project after delivery due to incorrect or poor execution).
This is the exact reason why you have to begin with assessing the relevant skills required for completion of a project.
You will also get a clear idea of what exactly you should focus on in terms of your team’s skill evaluation and not waste time on competencies that are completely irrelevant.
Step 2. Evaluate Team Members Based on Their Present Skill Levels
You can evaluate your team members’ skill levels simply by asking them. Also, you can conduct a competency test of an employee and their immediate manager and peers. You will have to make a list of skills and then add proficiency level to each of them, such as:
Advanced capability level (can teach others in team)
Professional capability level (can teach community)
Managers frequently use a 180-degree feedback tool for skill assessment. It evaluates an employee’s skills by focusing on reports from the person, their peers and colleagues.
This tool is great because people tend to be too subjective, when it comes to their competency, so you may need a larger scale of opinions, rather than just one person’s point of view. There is such a thing as Dunning-Kruger effect, which is a cognitive bias in which a person with low competency or ability thinks that they are superior in a particular area.
Once again, this is not a textbook theory, so you can adjust the way you assess an employee’s proficiency. You may consider a 5-point or 6-point scale instead of a 4-point one. And as long as you feel the scale doesn’t exactly match what you have in your mind’s eye, you are free to change and adjust it until you get what you need.
Step 3. Define an Employee’s Interest in Handling the Proposed Tasks
While skill is definitely important, what’s even more important along with it is for people to enjoy doing the work they excel at. And even though in most cases people are indeed happy, from time to time you may run across unhappy professionals, as well.
This creates a dilemma, because your skills matrix could show that you have a competent person attached to an important task, but if they don’t want to accomplish it, they are going to fail – either miss the deadline or not meet quality standards, or who-knows-what-else. This is why you should find out one of the two things about each employee by “asking” them if they are:
Interested in applying this knowledge or skill
Not interested in applying this knowledge or skill
Knowing this for sure will help you get one step closer to putting everything in its place.
Step 4. Incorporate All the Data into the Skills Matrix and Work with It
At this point you should already know both the available and required skills. Now you can finally create a skills matrix.
As we’ve mentioned in the beginning of this article, with the matrix at hand you will see the skills your team has and those that it doesn’t have. As a result, you will get something that looks like a template provided below.
Your skills matrix will vary, depending on what your team has to do. The template provided above is based on a team involved in HR analytics.
The project required six fundamental skills you can see in the image. Each of the four team members was given an assessment of capabilities and interest for each of the skills. Hence, you have this matrix.
Even a brief glance at this matrix provides you with valuable information regarding the strongest and weakest points of the team. That is, Sandra would perhaps best serve as an intermediary between the IT department and the team, Tracy would be best at data analysis, and Alden and Jonathan would excel at business acumen.
At the same time, the team lacks competency in data analytics. While this may be fine in the early stages of work, a professional data analyst would become a necessity during later stages. And this would be the time for the company to hire and add one to the team.
What It All Comes Down to?
This is a rough and quite simplified version of applying a skills matrix before starting and during a project. One of the best things about it is that you can use it as many times as you need, because – as Bob Dylan sang in his all-time hit song – “the times they are a-changin” and so do people. And so, apparently, do their interests and skills. So you should keep abreast of your team’s progress.
There are many tools that can help you with skill and interest monitoring. Vectorly provides a system that will let you not only see, what your employees excel at, but as well help them progress.
In the long run, this will assure a stable growth of expertise and knowledge in their specialties and, thus, establish understanding within the team and let it function, like an atomic clock. Even if you decide to make some rearrangements in it, you will still keep track of what’s going on and will know where to direct each of your team members.