Understanding the mixture of skills and experience in your team is important for any leader. Creating a Skills Matrix is valuable 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
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. Using a simple spreadsheet, create a table with each skill or experience as a column heading.
When creating your list, include:
- Current skills: The skills that your team members use today to perform their role.
- Future skills: Skills that your team will need in the future as you plan to use new approaches or tools.
- Current experiences: Current experiences includes those in your current team. This may include industries or working in different types of roles and projects.
- Future experiences: Future experiences include experience that you feel may be useful for team members to gain in the future.
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.
2. List the members of your team
The rows of your table should list each member of your team. Again, you may group the team members by category if there is a good way to structure them.
By the end of this step, you should have an empty skills matrix, ready to fill in. The skills and experiences are the column headings and the row headings are your team members.
3. Select the skills and experiences of your team members
Finally, you need to enter the skills and experience that each team member has. At the intersection of each row and column, place a tick (✓) to indicate that the team member has the skill or experience. If not, leave it empty.
Now you have a skills matrix containing the key skills and experiences of your team.
How to use your Skills Matrix
We now have a table with all the relevant skills and experiences across the top. All the team members make up the rows of the table, on the left hand side.
Where a team member has a skill or experience, a tick (✓) or asterisk (*) is recorded, otherwise the cells are blank.
1. Use your Skills Matrix to find skill gaps and high-risk areas
If there are key 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 is one where there is only a single person who has an important skill for your team. If this team member quits or cannot work for any reason, you’re going to have a potential 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.
You can read more about cross training your team here.
2. Use your Skills Matrix to plan development opportunities
Some team members may only use a handful of skills and experience 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 a given skill you need, then you can organise the level of training or on the job learning that suits.
3. Use your Skills Matrix to improve the team structure
You may notice on your Skills Matrix that some people have multiple relevant skills, where others only use a few in their role. You can use this information to identify the specialists and generalists in your team.
Specialists don’t necessarily make for the best leaders as they often love to be involved in the technical work. However, you may be able to delegate responsibility to a technical specialist to play a lead role in their chosen area.
You’re all set! You’ve created the Skills Matrix and identified key risk areas and development opportunities. If you haven’t created your Skills Matrix yet, don’t fly blind. Learn more about the skills and experience of your team today.