Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's more important than ever to have knowledge of the skills and training needs of your team. With many organisations having moved towards a flexible and remote working approach, teams are geographically dispersed. Your company might be based in the UK while having a global presence in Antarctica, Dominica or Malawi. With this, it's harder to keep track of staff skills and knowledge and make sure that people have the right skill sets to do their jobs. This is why every organisation needs to be able to use data to assess the proficiency levels and training requirements of their employees. So, how can you stay on top of the skills and skill gaps of your team? The best tool for the job is a skills matrix.
What is a skills matrix?
So what is a skills matrix? A skills matrix is a visual tool used in the workplace to identify the relevant skills that a team has or requires to complete a task or a project effectively. By laying out this data in a table, a skills matrix allows you to look at the proficiency of members of a team in skills, as well as helping you identify the overall proficiency of the team in different skill areas. In different organisations, a skill matrix can be variously known as a competency matrix, learning needs analysis or training needs analysis (TNA). Side note: while skills and competencies have slightly different definitions (skills are usually learned abilities like writing and maths, while competencies are capabilities like problem-solving or teamwork), for the sake of this overview we'll be using the terms skills matrix, training needs analysis, and competency matrix interchangeably. This is because they have the same overall purpose of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of team members. TNAs use competency mapping which identifies the skills and weaknesses of employees, and combines this with information about employees' interest in developing and using those skills. This makes it easy for you as an HR professional or project manager to see an overview of the available skills and development needs across the team.
Why should you use a skills matrix?
But why should you spend time quizzing employees about their available skills and interests rather than jumping straight into an important project? Is carrying out a training needs analysis a productive use of time? Here are some of the benefits of using a competency matrix which you should consider before beginning a task.
Team benefits of using a competency matrix
A skills matrix helps assess the skills needed for a team. Depending on the organisation, the skills matrix will generally include an overview of the required activities of the team as well as the skill sets needed to achieve the goals of said activities. This sets expectations before commencing a project. It shows what skill each member is expected to excel in and improve upon in the context of successful teamwork. After stating the required activities and skills needed for a project, a skills matrix also gives insight into the skill gaps and highlights the weaker areas within teams. For instance, if a skills matrix is done and it shows that there is a lack of quantitative and qualitative data analysis, the HR team can identify this gap and see to it that a person with these competencies needed are added to the team, internally or externally. Plus, some organisations use skills matrices to organise employees. For example, in the context of hybrid working which has become increasingly popular due to the pandemic, a skills matrix can be useful for making sure that employees with the right abilities are in the office at the right time. Or, if an employee wants to take holiday time or time out for training during a project, these assessments can be useful for ensuring there are other people on the team that have the necessary skills and can be assigned their day-to-day tasks. This improves the functioning of the team overall and means that everyone can produce their best work.
Organisational benefits of using a training needs analysis
Being able to create competency matrices also gives insights to the organisations on the areas that require development and investment. For example, it can help an organisation see if they need to invest in providing a certain type of training or move talent to different areas of the organisation. If everyone with a single skill is based in the same location with other offices lacking individuals with that particular skill set, for example, that's a problem the organisation can resolve with the help of TNA data. A skill matrix is a fantastic tool to track and monitor the effectiveness of training programs put in place by organisations. Training needs analyses can help employers identify trends in what areas individuals need to develop career skills, and this means that they can allocate investment and resources to this training if necessary. This is especially useful when it comes to training new hires because it shows the progress of individuals and teams throughout their professional development.
Individual benefits of using skills matrices
From the perspective of employees, a competency matrix can help individuals visualise and understand their own proficiencies and skill gaps in their career. This allows them to identify the areas in which they excel or need additional training. This can allow them to focus on developing skills in their career and motivate them within the team. TNAs are also useful for performance management, for example in employee performance appraisals. They make it easier for management to identify employees' successes and moreover allow employees to feel that their skills and professional development goals are recognised. When employees feel that their strengths and skills are matched to the tasks they are assigned, this makes them feel more engaged and perform better in their careers. Want to learn more about how analysing employees' skills can help employee development? Check out our post about how skills tests benefit employees.
What happens if you don't create a skills matrix?
Of course, you might believe that your team is already proficient in all the skill sets needed for a project. They may have already completed similar tasks, so you feel confident that they can do the job. And you might be right. However, if you don't conduct a training needs analysis before the project begins, there's a risk that you might find yourself in a sticky situation. An unforeseen skill gap at a vital moment or during a critical task can stall progress on the project, wasting time and money. This might lead to project objectives and deadlines not being met, and could overall be a frustrating experience for clients and employees. So, a training needs analysis is a useful process because it can help you conduct an assessment of potential problems and training needs before the project even begins. This means that they can be anticipated and addressed. If you need to give someone training in a new skill that is relevant for the project, a training needs analysis helps you instantly see who is interested in developing that skill. Alternatively, the analysis might help you find areas where it's necessary to hire somebody new to fulfil a job function. Furthermore, creating a TNA helps employees understand which key skills they are expected to use or develop for a project. A skills matrix helps define the exact skills needed for a task so everyone is on the same page. That's why it's always a good idea to proactively carry out an initial assessment of the skills within a team so that the necessary training can be provided, projects can run as smoothly as possible and employee and client satisfaction are maximised. Overall, it's clear that completing a training needs analysis before embarking on a project can save time and boost productivity. So, the question is: how can you create a skills matrix?
How to create a skills matrix
Step 1: Identify skills needed
What career skills does this project require? Communication skills? Marketing? Research? Maths? Microsoft Office? Graphic design? The first step when creating a TNA is to identify the exact relevant skills needed for a project and/or a team. Try to be specific about which tasks these skills and knowledge will be necessary for because this will also define the job roles needed for the project. This saves time because time is not wasted on identifying skills and providing training that is not relevant to the process.
Step 2: Assess current skills
Before commencing on a project, a good manager lays out and assesses the skills and competencies needed. This helps set clear goals and expectations for the project, as well as identify the kind of people needed to work. Skill assessments can be done either by directly asking team members questions about their capabilities and qualifications (self-assessment) or by competency testing. A grading system can be created to determine proficiency and experience for the job or task. For instance, in each skill you can assign employees to the categories: Not yet competent Borderline Competent Another way could be that the HR department could group and rate competencies based on the level employees are by assigning them a numerical category. For instance, an employee with high skills and competency in IT skills, in which they are proficient enough to give others training, may be ranked at Level 1, and an employee with medium to low skills may be ranked at Level 4. But, these categories can be highly subjective and there's potential for bias to obscure the data. Instead, using skills tests can be a great way to assess employees' competence in different areas without the bias inherent in self-assessment. At Skillsarena we provide skills tests in many areas, from maths and language to logic and typing, which means that you can gather objective data about employees' skills during their careers with your organisation. Skillsarena also offers a method to assess competencies and skills within teams known as benchmarking. What this exercise does is to set a standard for employees to reach the goals and objectives of their organisations. This data can be valuable when doing a training needs analysis.
Step 3: Evaluate interest level
After the skill assessment is done, the HR department will want to analyse team members' levels of interest. This ranking system will be based on questioning employees about their level of interest in an existing skill or learning a new skill. This will then help to match job roles with skills and interests so employees can do tasks that suit their skills. If an employee has a skill gap but is interested in developing that skill, it's easy to plan training and support for that employee. This is useful both for the improvement of the team's skillset and the individual's advancement in their career. On the other hand, in the case where an employee does a self-assessment and identifies that they have the skill but does not express interest in a task, the task may be modified to make it more interesting for them to work on. This will guarantee that employees are working on projects that they have a preference for. When a person is interested in a task, it serves as morale and motivation for them to keep going on and prevents fatigue and exhaustion. This is better for employee engagement, team cohesion, and enables the whole team to play to their strengths.
Step 4: Based on insights gathered, determine whether there are any missing skills needed
Once you have collected and collated all the information and insights, this is where you create your competency skill matrix. This matrix will include what skills your team already can provide for your project, in addition to what they lack. Based on this, you could either hire new employees or train team members who have expressed interest in developing these skills. There are multiple ways available to create skills matrices. One way to create a skills matrix is using spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel Sheets. For more efficiency and error-free matrices, some organisations use certain software applications. It is up to you, the person or team creating the matrix on how simple you want them to be. It is also more effective to break up the various skills and competencies into smaller matrices. This makes it easier to be organised and keep track of gaps needed and areas that need to be strengthened. One easy way to determine any skills gaps is to colour-code the matrix. This makes it visually appealing and easier to analyse and determine the skills needed. Once you've followed these four steps and the matrix is complete, do not forget to review it with other members of the HR department and/or team leaders. This is so that you have all the information in one place and you can identify any inconsistencies or for any other team member to add any information necessary.
How Skillsarena can help with skills management
As we've shown, skills matrices are essential if you want to get the best out of your teams, even if they're far apart. By providing an overview of an organisation's relevant skills and expertise, a skills matrix is an invaluable framework for performance management. With this knowledge, are you ready to start creating your own analysis of employees' skills? Here at Skillsarena, we can help. We strive to help develop individuals and organisations with our online skill assessment software. They are a guaranteed tool in hiring the right people and making sure they are assigned to the right tasks, ensuring maximum job performance and satisfaction. Our customisable online skills assessment software makes it easier to input objective data about employee skill sets into skills matrices, streamlining your project. This makes it easier than ever to access insights about competency levels within your organisation. Interested in learning more about how Skillsarena can help you create specific, tailored skills assessments for your skills matrix needs? Contact us today for a free demonstration or create an account with our self-service system.