Understanding the mixture of skills and experience in your team is critical for any leader. That’s where a skills matrix can help. You may hear this tool also called a competency matrix.
Creating a Skills Matrix is a valuable exercise because it helps you:
- Understand the current skills and experience within your team
- Identify skill gaps, where your team is lacking skills and experience
- Find high-risk areas where you are relying on a single person to complete critical tasks
- Plan the way forward when trying to introduce new skills or approaches to your team; and
- Restructure your team to improve its effectiveness.
How to Create a Skills Matrix (or Competency Matrix)
Step 1. List the skills and experience you need in your team
The first step to create your Skills Matrix is listing the key skills and experience that you want for your team. Create a simple table with each skill or experience as a row in the table.
When creating your list, include:
- Current skills or experience: The skills, competencies or experience that your team members use today to perform their role.
- Future skills or experience: Skills, competencies or experience that your team will need in the future as you plan to use new approaches or tools.
An example of a skill may be the ability to use a certain tool, method or technology. For example, you may add “Graphic Design” as a skill.
However, you may break this down further to list different types of graphic design or tools e.g. Graphic Design using the Photoshop application.
Experiences refer to different situations in which skills have been applied.
For example, you may list Dealing with Senior Management as an experience, which represents having worked closely with senior leaders at a company.
You may add different industry experience here too e.g. Manufacturing, Retail, Healthcare, IT.
To help organise the Skills Matrix, you may want to group similar skills or experiences together. Shading them a different colour may help you to see the different groupings more easily.
Step 2. List the members of your team
The columns of your table should list each member of your team. Again, you may group the team members into categories if there is a good way to do so.
By the end of this step, you should have an empty skills matrix, ready to fill in. The skills and experiences are the row headings and the column headings are your team members.
Step 3. Select the skills and experiences of your team members
Finally, you need to enter the skills and experience that each team member has. In each cell, place a tick (✓) to indicate that the team member has the skill or experience. If not, just leave it empty.
Now you have a skills matrix containing the key skills and experiences of your team.
How to Use Your Skills Matrix
1. Use your Skills Matrix to find skill gaps and high-risk areas
If there are important skills or experiences that only a few team members have, this may be a skill gap. A skill gap will make it difficult for your team to function and potentially create a bottleneck where only one person can do the work.
A high-risk area (or a single point of failure) is one where there is only a single person who has an important skill for your team. If this team member leaves or cannot work for any reason, you’re going to have a crisis on your hands.
Both of these issues can be fixed by cross training your team to ensure that there are enough of the appropriate skills in your team.
2. Use your Skills Matrix to plan development opportunities
Some team members may only use a few skills during their work. These people may be candidates for training or mentoring to add variety and additional skills to their role.
When used in this way, the Skills Matrix becomes a valuable tool when it comes to managing performance.
If you are planning to introduce new processes or tools to your team, you can use the Skills Matrix to plan for the training needed. You simply need to decide how much of each skill you need, then you can organise the level of training or on the job learning that is suitable.
3. Use your Skills Matrix to improve accountability
You may notice on your Skills Matrix that some people have multiple relevant skills, where others only use a few in their role. This will give you an idea of the specialists and generalists in your team.
You may be able to delegate accountability for key team tasks to a technical specialist to play a lead role in their chosen area. This will take some workload off you and give your team members a chance to step up and play a bigger part in the team.
This can often lead to better outcomes because specific team members will begin to take ownership of key team functions and make sure they are functioning well.
4. Use your Skills Matrix to justify additional resourcing
A skills or competency matrix can be a great tool if you plan to hire more resources in your team, especially if you need to justify it to senior management.
If you can show where you have skill gaps or a single point of failure in your team, you may have a better chance of bringing on new people to reduce the risk. Sometimes the exercise of visualising the skills in your team using the Skills Matrix can highlight problems better than just using words.