Using a skill matrix can help unlock the potential in your team and organization. This powerful tool is designed to bridge the gap between your current skills and those you need to succeed – by providing an accurate overview of all the competencies.
It’s a simple yet effective way to identify areas of improvement, set clear goals, provide tailored training programs and value employees who are learning. With its detailed analysis and data-driven insights, this innovative approach can help you build a better workplace culture while providing employees with the opportunity to develop their technical, professional and leadership skills.
Read on to find out more about how you can benefit from a skill matrix!
Overview of the skill matrix
Skill matrix has been filled by managers for their employees for ages. A compentency matrix has been proposed in the Management 3.0 toolkit by Jürgen Appelo in 2010, enabling agile teams to use it as workout with the entire team.
A skill matrix or competency matrix visualizes and tracks the competency levels for employees. You can assess in the skill matrix various skills required in your teams. These can be hard skills but also soft skills like communication and conflict solving.
A skill matrix can be used to map out entire teams and/or departments, making it easy to identify areas of opportunity for training and development.
Why is Skill Matrix so important?
The success of teams depends above all on their skills! Without the right skills, your team will be slower and deliver less quality, or worse be completely blocked.
The key benefits of a skill matrix are:
- Identifies skill gaps: You can determine exactly what kind of skills is required and decide actions to improve skills in your teams.
- Incentivizes development: Seeing where they stand compared to peers encourages individuals to work hard and improve themselves.
- Fosters collaboration: By understanding one another’s abilities it makes it easier for team members to work together efficiently.
- Improves hiring quality: By knowing which skill is missing in your team, you can better target the required employee profiles and evaluate them during an interview.
Creating a Skill Matrix
Identifying the necessary skills
Before constructing a skill matrix, it’s important that you first list out the most essential skillsets required for your team.
I recommend to ask your team to list on a board all the tasks that have to be performed. And then give your team additional 10 minutes to brainstorm the required skills.
Do not forget soft skills
Your team will probably generally first think about hard skills. To help your team to find soft skills out, you can show them the list of top soft skills in 2023 and select those which are really important for the teamwork. Here are some examples of soft skills essential for teamwork in agile teams:
- Conflict resolution
As many soft skills are linked to personality, only add to the matrix skills that the team is comfortable to evaluate and which are can be improved by trainings.
The difference between skill and ability
Skill and ability are so close in meaning that they can be used as synonym. We can only distinguish them by stating that an ability is more a a natural aptitude.
As a simple rule of thumb, add in the matrix skills that people can easily learn. If you consider the skill “creativity”, you can learn creativity techniques but it is more difficult to become a creative person. So prefer using the term “creativity techniques”.
You can read more about the difference between ability and skill in this article.
Strategic skill development
Strategic skill development
As we currently see a boom in artificial intelligence, companies which have started to develop their skill during the last years are getting now a competive advantage. Developping skills requires a great investment and you should have a strategic approach for your skill development.
Ask your product owner and stakeholders what is the strategic product development and add to your matrix the required skills.
Finding the right proficiency scale
Choosing the right proficiency scale is the most difficult part of the skill matrix design. A short scale makes it faster to fill out and easier to define requirements. A larger one will let your team define more accurately skill levels and fosters smaller steps in the development.
The first proficiency scale which is easy to use is the following:
- Adept: I know some theory
- Practitioner: I can do it.
- Expert: I can teach it.
Coming from the martial arts, the Shuhari scale bring the interesting concept of transcendence, meaning that an expert is able to go beyond the established rules and create new ones.
If you introduce a 4-levels scale (like “Beginner” “Intermediate” “Advanced” and “Expert”), team members may have difficulties to assess their skill level. Discuss the scale with your team members and give some examples of tasks that can be only accomplished in a specific level.
You could also go with the NIH Proficiency Scale, is a prominent scale with 5 levels used in US human ressource departments.
Using a template or tool to create a Skill Matrix
Fortunately creating your own skill matrix doesn’t have to be complicated as there are various templates available online as well as specialized tools designed specifically for this purpose.
A software is especially helpful when dealing with large teams or departments as it provides an efficient way of tracking the development of each individual.
Each tool brings its own management philosophy and framework. When you are looking for software dedicated to agile teams and self-organization, then the skill matrix from teammeter is the right choice for you. With teammeter, teams participate actively to the skill matrix and use collective intelligence to make the right skill development decisions.
Utilizing a Skill Matrix
Assessing the skill levels
To be effective, the assessment of skill levels has to be done individually and collectively.
First ask your team members to assess individually their skill levels in their skill profile. The description of expectations at each skill level helps the employee to select the right level.
In a second step, ask your team to review the levels for other members. This is the opportunity to exchange feedback in order to have a better assessment of skills.
Because of the Dunning Kruger effect, a psychological biais, people may assess themselves too optimistically when they not yet know the real expectations related to a skill. People with an higher skill level can then help their colleague to better estimate what is required to achieve an higher skill level.
Calculating the bus factor
The bus factor, or sometime called truck factor is the minimum number of team members that have to suddenly disappear from a project before the project stalls due to lack of knowledgeable or competent personnel.
The bus factor can be calculated for each skill: it is the number team members with a skill level higher or equal than skill level of the team.
The team skill level is the required level to be able to perform the related tasks. Assess the overall skill level for the team depending on the complexity level of the tasks.
The overall bus factor for your team is then the minimum bus factor for all skills. The higher the bus factor is, the better. Teams should have ideally a bus factor of 3, this means even one person is on holiday, a sick leave won’t impact the delivery of the team.
Defining the number of people required for each level
You may need to define more accurately skill requirements with the number of persons required for each skill level. For instance:
- The number of people generally involved in a particular task
- The skill level required for the “backup” team members.
For that purpose you can enter in the skill matrix the number of people required for each skill level.
Identifying skill gaps and opportunities for development
Once you have created your skills matrix you can begin using it to identify any potential gaps or weaknesses within your team. This information can then be used to focus on developing specific technical abilities or providing additional training sessions in order to ensure employees are meeting desired competencies.
You should review the skill matrix at least every 3 months to track the development progress in your team.
Support knowledge sharing between team members
The Skill Matrix is not only used to show the skill proficiency levels within the team, but also to show the development needs for each team member.
We use our skill matrix during each daily Scrum meeting. For each task we look which teammate could work in pair working to do knowledge transfer.Claudia Becker, Scrum Master
To make clear, which team member would like to learn a particular skills, we indicate it in the matrix with an upward arrow close to the skill level.
Making a skill development plan
Identifying gaps is good, deciding actions to handle these gaps is better. You should end a skill matrix review with a list of actions decided with your team in order to increase the knowledge in your team.
Here are examples of actions that can be decided with your team:
- Organize a knowledge transfer session within the team
- Record a video on particular topic and share it with the team
- Participate to a training
- Give a challenging task to a team member, which is not used to do. For instance performing a presentation or being involved in sales.
Use the collective intelligence of the team to find such actions. Your team members may have great ideas how to share knowledge.
Using the skill matrix for hiring
Now you the skill gaps are visible, you can better identify the ideal candidate profile for your team. The candidate must match the minimum skill requirements, in particular for soft skills and bring the missing skills that will bring your team to higher performance.
The Skill Matrix is an essential tool for agile teams, as it helps to make the right decisions to accelerate the skill development in your team. With the right skills on board, you have the best foundation for your success.