What is a skills matrix? Benefits, examples, and tips

How to align upskilling and reskilling initiatives with business priorities

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

While workers and their managers may not always see eye-to-eye, there’s one shift in operating models that they’re in agreement about: the transition to skills-based strategies. 80% of employees, HR, and business leaders agree that jobs are no longer the best way to organize work.

Yet, although the vast majority of executives are eager to embrace skills initiatives, only about 20% of companies are adopting skills-based approaches to a significant extent. Part of what makes this shift so challenging is that both skills needs and workforce capabilities are constantly evolving.

To stay on top of shifting upskilling and reskilling priorities, employees and managers need a way to visualize current skill levels and identify new development opportunities—which is exactly where a skills matrix comes into play.

What is a skills matrix?

A skills matrix is a tool used to evaluate a team’s skills, based on their ability to successfully complete a project. Most versions of a skills matrix will evaluate employees’ skills as individuals for the specific task, but some can also help team members identify areas where additional training may be needed to support their long-term career ambitions.

The matrix can also be used to compare skills across multiple employees, allowing project managers to identify who has the strongest skills in each area. Examples of skills that might be included in a skills matrix include soft skills like communication, problem-solving, and creativity, as well as technical abilities.

What are the benefits of developing a skills matrix?

There are several benefits associated with utilizing a skills matrix, including:

  • Maximize employee potential
    Since matrices keep track of team members’ skills and qualifications, the tool helps ensure that no one’s knowledge or expertise is getting overlooked. By breaking down which workers know what, managers can ensure that everyone is participating in tasks that play to their strengths.
  • Inform future skill-building strategies
    By evaluating the skills that each employee brings to a project, a skills matrix can also help leaders identify in-demand expertise that their team is currently lacking. Leaders can then work with HR and L&D to develop upskilling and reskilling initiatives to bridge these skill gaps.
  • Optimize hiring practices
    In addition to upgrading skill-building initiatives, talent acquisition teams can consult skills matrices to ensure they’re developing talent pools with the expertise that leaders across their organizations are looking for.

What are some examples of skill matrices?

Skills matrices can vary greatly,  depending on the type of competencies that are being evaluated and the scale leaders use to assess capabilities. Some executives may choose to rate aptitude levels ranging from “beginner” to “expert”, while others may prefer to use a numerical ten-point scale.

In addition to variances in scales, skill matrices will also differ based on the type of project they’re designed for. A skills matrix for sales representatives, for example, may include a combination of hard and soft skills such as written communication, verbal communication, active listening, and value proposition.

In contrast, a leadership skills matrix will prioritize capabilities that are integral for management. This type of matrix might include time management, negotiation, task assignment, and project management. Unsurprisingly, a skills matrix for IT will look very different from one for sales or leadership. For that type of matrix, Python, JavaScript, customer service, and Six Sigma are some examples of skills that could be evaluated.

3 best practices for developing a skills matrix that aligns with business priorities

There are a few steps leaders can take to ensure their skills matrices capture the knowledge they’ll need to execute projects successfully.

#1. Create a single source of truth for workforce skills
To create skills matrices that accurately reflect a team or department’s capabilities, leaders must first have an in-depth understanding of the skills within their workforce. Traditionally, gaining a comprehensive picture of workforce capabilities has been challenging because this information is often siloed between multiple HR systems. Since employees are continuously honing their skills, many manual inventories also quickly became outdated.

Fortunately, the rise of workforce intelligence tools enables leaders to tap into a unified skills taxonomy that sheds light on their workforce’s capabilities as they evolve. Some of these systems also harmonize internal and third-party data sources to generate insights into which skills are trending and which are on the decline.

#2. Assess employees’ skills
The accuracy level of your skills assessments will determine how accurate your skills matrix is. Rather than relying solely on employees to self-report their competencies, leading companies are harnessing workforce agility platforms to comprehensively evaluate skills.

With these platforms, employees can upload a resume or LinkedIn profile and the system will infer their skills and proficiency levels. The platform’s algorithm takes into account both years of experience and how long ago employees executed a specific skill, ensuring assessments accurately reflect workers’ level of expertise.

#3. Identify skill gaps and skill-building opportunities 
Once skills assessments are complete, employees need access to an array of opportunities to help them boost their rating on your skills matrices. While offering content-based courses is a step in the right direction, workers also need chances to put the lessons they’re learning into practice by participating in projects, gigs, and mentorships.

Many companies are harnessing talent marketplaces to increase access to these types of experiential learning opportunities. The platforms generate suggestions for projects, gigs, and mentorships based on the skills employees have and the competencies they’re eager to build.

To learn more about the best practices, tools, and mindset shifts that companies are harnessing to become skills-based organizations, check out our guide on skills transformations.