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How to Create a Skills Matrix: A Step-by-Step Guide

  • 5 Min Read

Optimize workforce planning, enhance team performance and identify skill gaps with a skills matrix.

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Whether you’re facing financial pressures or a tight labor market, you want to make sure your employees are set up to do great work. It’s what makes your business successful. To do that, you need to make sure you have people in the right roles today and understand where you’ll need to upskill, reskill, redeploy and recruit for tomorrow.

But how do you do that?

A skills matrix is one tool you can use to help you resource the workforce you have now and plan for the future. It can give you an overview of the current skills landscape at your organization and make it easier to pinpoint gaps you need to fill.

In this guide, we dig into the ins and outs of skills matrices and how you can use them to inform your decisions.

What Is a Skills Matrix?

A skills matrix is a tool that maps employees’ skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviors to core competencies. It can help you match the right people with the right projects. Plus, it makes it easier to pinpoint skill gaps you need to fill for future roles, whether by upskilling, outsourcing or bringing on new talent.

Typically, a skills matrix will take the form of a table or grid—listing various attributes and describing each person’s level of proficiency and interest in them.

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Why Is Using a Skills Matrix Important?

Skills matrices have valuable roles to play at various stages across the employee lifecycle:

  • Recruitment: In the hiring process, they give recruiters specific insights into key qualifications to help identify the best candidates.
  • Retention: When it comes to onboarding—what programs and content would offer the most value, who would benefit from them, where and how they should be deployed—a skills matrix provides learning and development, with a visual representation of strengths and weaknesses.
  • Exit: If a person moves on from the organization, you have a resource that effectively maps out their key competencies, making it easier to reallocate work to others on the team or hire the right talent.

Overall, skills matrices help leaders make data-driven, informed decisions about their workforce.

Benefits of Using a Skills Matrix

There are many different benefits to using skills matrices at your organization. Here are a few common ones.

Helping Employees With Career Growth

Because a skills matrix highlights job-specific weaknesses and strengths, it can act as a starting point for self-improvement in the workplace.

During one-on-one check-ins, for example, you can use a matrix to guide conversations around ongoing development. Perhaps it’s a course you’ve come across that would support an area the employee knows they want to grow in. Or maybe there’s an opportunity to mentor a junior member of the team who wants to learn more about something a more senior member is exceptionally skilled at.

It’s about helping people get ahead in their careers by finding opportunities to grow that suit their goals and availability.

Improving the Employee Experience in the Workplace

Employee satisfaction often comes down to finding an effective balance between comfort and challenge. People want to know they’re doing good work, but they also want to be able to take on new tasks and grow. A skills matrix can enable the achievement of both goals.

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Setting Clear Expectations

Every company has specific processes and ways of doing things. This can help teams work more efficiently, but it can seem daunting for people who are new to a role or organization. With the help of a skills matrix, employees can get clear, consistent visibility into what competencies they need, how they’ll use them and what their own linear career progression could look like.

They can also explore new, nonlinear ways in which they can put their skills to use. If there’s another department they want to join, do they have the competencies they need to excel in an open role?

While we usually think about career growth vertically, a lot of growth actually happens horizontally.
Rosanne Holmes learning and development manager (former), D2L

Leveraging the Benefits

At a high level, getting started with skills matrices comes down to answering a few fundamental questions:

  1. Are there any current or future skill gaps?
  2. If gaps exist, can they be filled internally, or do we need to hire someone to provide the missing qualifications?
  3. What skills and qualifications do my employees currently have?
  4. Can my employees learn these skills on top of their work?

An employee skills matrix can be the fuel needed to create an effective organizational skill map. For a more detailed breakdown, read on.

How to Create a Skills Matrix

Evaluate Your Employees’ Skills

When evaluating your employees’ abilities in your selected skills, you can use a simple rating scale from 0 to 3 and test where people stand. For example:

  • 0 = No understanding
  • 1 = Basic understanding
  • 2 = Intermediate understanding
  • 3 = Advanced understanding

One way to evaluate your employees’ abilities is to ask them to give themselves a score. Another approach is to use a 360-degree evaluation. In addition to the employees themselves, this allows team members and managers to provide feedback on employees’ performance. It can help paint an accurate picture of their strengths and weaknesses.

Assess Your Employees’ Interest in Specific Tasks

Everyone has unique knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviors that they bring to their work. It’s the right blending of everyone’s talents that makes an organization successful.

With a skills matrix, you can use those individual preferences, abilities and passions to your advantage. For instance, maybe you’ve identified someone highly skilled and very interested in creative problem-solving and relationship-building. They’re currently on your sales team, but they’ve expressed that they’re unsure whether sales is for them. When a new role opens on your customer support team, you know they’ll be the perfect fit, and you have the skills matrix to show why. It’s a win-win. Your company will be able to leverage their skills in the best possible way, and they will feel that you’re listening to them and care about their development.

Like the above scale, you can adopt the same idea and ask employees to rate their interests from 0 to 2.

  • 0 = Not interested
  • 1 = Somewhat interested
  • 2 = Very interested

Put Your Data and Results in a Matrix

The final step of this process is to put your results into a skills matrix. No matter what format you use, you want skills laid out on one axis and each employee’s name, capability and level of interest on the other.

You can use a table like the one below to get started:

 Employee 1Employee 2Employee 3
 Proficiency/InterestProficiency/InterestProficiency/Interest
Skill 1   
Skill 2   
Skill 3   
Skill 4   

Update and Iterate Your Skills Matrices Over Time

Creating a skills matrix isn’t a once-and-done activity. As your employees’ skills develop and roles are added and removed, you must revise each matrix to reflect the changes. That will give you confidence that you’re getting proper, accurate, at-a-glance representations of your workforce’s skills and will allow you to track and close skill gaps more effectively.

Common Issues When Creating a Skills Matrix

When Cataloguing Skills, Less May Be More

Be careful that you’re not stuffing your matrices with irrelevant skills. What you include should be true to your organization’s and team’s needs—otherwise, you may think you have a bigger skill gap than you do, which could lead to hiring and assigning the wrong people.

Go Broad With Feedback

Another important tip is to avoid relying on only one assessment method. If you only ask your employees to do self-assessments to gather data, you won’t necessarily get the best idea of their skills. This is equally true if you’re only focusing on manager feedback. For the best results, get input from a mix of sources.

Look to Each Person’s Potential

Lastly, don’t panic if your employees don’t possess all the hard and soft skills you’ve outlined in your matrix. Remember, one of the main reasons you’re putting a matrix together is to proactively identify where holes exist. Once you know, it becomes much easier for you and your employees to identify professional development opportunities that can close the gaps, whether they involve participating in on-the-job learning or taking advantage of external courses.

Aligning Employee Growth to Strategic Goals

Whether you’re leading a big organization or running a small business, skills matrices can be valuable tools in helping you support talent management, employee development and business success. Simply put, they help you align the work your people do with strategic goals, fostering more agile and adaptable teams.

Written by:

Haley Wilson

Haley Wilson is a Content Marketing Manager at D2L, specializing in the corporate learning space. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Guelph as well as a Master of Arts focused in history from Wilfrid Laurier University.

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Table of Contents
  1. What Is a Skills Matrix?
  2. Why Is Using a Skills Matrix Important?
  3. Benefits of Using a Skills Matrix
  4. Leveraging the Benefits
  5. How to Create a Skills Matrix
  6. Common Issues When Creating a Skills Matrix
  7. Aligning Employee Growth to Strategic Goals

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