4 steps to creating & using competence matrices

Creating competence matrices

A competence matrix is a useful tool for visually mapping your staff’s core competences. This article explains what a competence matrix is and how you can create your own in four simple steps.


What is a competence matrix?

Competence matrices are similar to skills matrices, except – as the name suggests – they focus more on the competences existing or missing within your organization and less on skills.

The terms ‘competence’ and ‘skill’ are often used interchangeably, but they don’t actually mean the same thing. A skill is more specific and is often a component of a broader competence. Read more about the the differences between skills and competences in our article on this very subject.

Because matrices are a form of visualization, they provide a far clearer picture of the competences existing within a company or department.

This, in turn, allows HR departments to work more efficiently, for example, when training staff, putting together teams, or mixing and matching staff members for specific projects.

Tip: Curious what competence matrices look like in practice? Download one of our free MS Excel skills matrix templates and simply replace skills with competences along the top row and enter the corresponding roles/jobs down the left-hand column.

competence matrix

4 steps to creating competence matrices

Where should you start if you’re looking to create competence matrices yourself? Follow the steps below to create your own!


Step 1: Ask yourself these fundamental questions

Before you start designing your matrix, it’s vital that you first ask yourself these five fundamental questions.

  1. What competences do my staff need?
  2. What competences do they already have?
  3. Is there a gap between what they need and what they have?
  4. If so, how are we going to acquire and master the missing competences?
  5. How and where can we formally demonstrate that staff have acquired and mastered certain competences?


Step 2: Create a list of core competences

Step 2 involves creating a list of the competences required within a department or for a specific role or job. What do staff members need to have mastered in order to perform these jobs or roles properly?

This step pinpoints which staff members are more versatile and which are more specialized.


Step 3: Categorize specific competences

This step involves categorizing your general list of competences into those specifically required for a given department, an organizational unit, or for a specific role.

Generally speaking, these fall into one of three categories:

  1. Job‑related – competences relating directly to an ability to perform a certain task.
  2. Technical – skills, knowledge, and/or qualifications required to fulfill a specific job role.
  3. Value-based – values or ideals deemed important for the organization as a whole.

Depending on your type of organization, one or other of these categories may be more important to you. For example, are qualifications a mandatory requirement to perform a certain operation? If so, then these will play a more prominent role in your competence matrices.


Step 4: Merge into a matrix

Enter the details above into a matrix. List the names of your staff in the left-hand column and the selected competences along the top row. Insert a score or proficiency level in the resulting grid, reflecting the extent to which each staff member has acquired and mastered a certain competence.


Use tools or software

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you simply creating a skills matrix with pen and paper. However, many professionals opt to use a spreadsheet, such as MS Excel, as this offers them greater flexibility and functionality. A major disadvantage of spreadsheets is that they soon become overly complex, unwieldy, and very difficult to share with others. It’s not always clear who has the latest version!

Fortunately, special-purpose skills management software solutions are available that solve these problems. They help you keep your matrices up to date and allow multiple users to access and edit their information. Watch how this works in practice or schedule a free demo!


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