Five basic, yet crucial questions to ask yourself before implementing skills matrices

Google ‘skill matrix’ or ‘skills matrix’ and you’ll be amazed at just how much information is available on...

Google ‘skill matrix’ or ‘skills matrix’ and you’ll be amazed at just how much information is available on this subject. Besides definitions and explanations, you’ll also find tonnes of great ‘home grown’ resources, intricately and painstakingly incorporated into Excel spreadsheets.

All well and good, but how should you go about creating the right skills matrix or matrices for your team, department, or organization?


But what is a skills matrix? Copied

Let’s first answer the most important question of all, “What exactly is a skills matrix?”

“A skills matrix is a powerful, visual tool to help you manage staff proficiency levels.”

A skills matrix allows you to visualize the tasks and skills required to carry out a certain job, as well as the extent to which your team’s proficiency levels meet or fall short of these requirements (actual vs. required).

It’s a planning aid based on operational strengths and answers questions such as, “Do I have the right people with the right skills to do the job?” and “Do I have the right mix of proficiencies on my team?”

Several types of matrix exist depending on who owns the matrix, e.g. matrices for teams, departments, sites, and managers.


The five basic, yet crucial questions to ask … Copied

I believe there are five basic, yet crucial questions that every organization or employer needs to ask themselves before implementing skills matrices.

  1. What ‘qualifications’ do my staff need? (required)
  2. What ‘qualifications’ do my staff already have? (actual)
  3. Are my staff sufficiently ‘qualified’? (skill gap)
  4. If a gap exists, how and where can we obtain missing ‘qualifications’?
  5. How and where can we formally demonstrate these ‘qualifications’?

You could call this an initial requirements inventory. The answers to these questions in effect clarify your organization’s basic requirements for managing its skills.


Skills management policy Copied

This inventory also serves as a springboard to formulating your skills management policies. The larger your organization and the more complex your jobs, tasks, departments, sites, etc., the greater the need for well structured policies.

As often as not, there are also numerous company or sector specific factors that will influence how you’ll structure your skills management policies and which types of skills matrix will be the right match.

Examples include:

  • Qualifications – sector-specific
  • Scope – 1,000 employees vs. 10 employees
  • Complexity – no. of jobs, tasks, skills, etc.
  • Structure – organizational and geographic
  • Responsibility – organizational or personal

Once you’ve clarified any company or sector specific factors for yourself, you’re then in a position to lay the foundations for your skills management policy, armed with the answers to our five questions.

Our white paper The Benefits of Skills Matrices addresses the ins and outs of skills matrices in greater detail.


Start with the basics Copied

If you’ve read this white paper, then you won’t be under any illusions about the challenges that larger organizations face when attempting to manage skills. Nonetheless, using the right approach and methods, companies have the means and opportunity to work more efficiently, and to motivate and encourage their staff to acquire and develop new skills.

In conclusion, I’d like to add one point. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the jargon and slogan mongering that you’ll encounter. Especially when you start drafting and formulating your skills management policies.

You’ll uncover a whole plethora of terms such as competences/competencies, qualification profiles, core tasks, accreditation points, etc. They’re just tools or labels. Without wishing to trivialize matters, simply start with the basics.

In short, start at the beginning and take one step at a time. It’s about the skills people require to do their jobs. They may need training to acquire or develop these skills. Training programs and the ability to demonstrate newly acquired skills provide evidence of proficiency. Thereafter, you’ll be looking to maintain or raise proficiency levels still further. In effect, you’ve now come full circle.

Looking at it in this light makes things seem far simpler, right? As for those skills matrices – no worries!


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Original version | March 14, 2018

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