Skills Matrix vs Competency Matrix: Are They the Same?

If you are looking for a way to assess and improve the skills and competencies of your employees, you may have come across the terms skills matrix and competency matrix. But what do they mean and how are they different? In this blog post, we will explain the definitions and differences between these
A competency matrix displayed on a computer screen for "AZU BIKE 2021". It uses color codes to indicate proficiency levels (Novice, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert) for various competencies, like Assembly and Frame Operations, across different team members.
Published on:
01 November 2023
Updated on:
14 February 2024

Skills Matrix and Competency Matrix are terms that are familiar to managers and human resources officers. Both tools are commonly used to evaluate and manage employees in an organization, regardless of the industry.

The terms skills matrix and competency matrix are used interchangeably from time to time. They sound identical, and many professionals even believe that they are the same thing.

However, a skills matrix and a competency matrix are in fact two separate tools. Despite their similar names and similarities, both tools serve different purposes. They even have differing characteristics, target users, content, and various other differences.

In this article, we will take a deep dive to explore skills and competency matrices. We will also highlight their key differences, similarities, and digitalization possibilities and help you choose which tools most suit your needs.

What Is a Skills Matrix?

A skills matrix is the visual manifestation of your employees’ skill level in selected skill fields. Skills here refer to an employee’s expertise in one specific field. For example, skills in welding, forklift driving, or JavaScript programming. Skills are highly technical and are job-specific.

Meanwhile, a matrix is a table that contains numerical data. Thus, in a nutshell, a skills matrix is a table that numerically displays your employees’ skill levels.

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The Use of a Skills Matrix Within a Team

A skills matrix monitors and evaluates employees’ skill levels within a team. It contains only job-specific skills and does not cover generic soft skills such as communication, leadership, and teamwork skills. A skills matrix is helpful when deciding task allocation and planning future technical training.

Since it focuses on specific job-related skills, it’s mostly used by project managers in evaluating their department members individually. A skills matrix is usually used internally within a department and is not used outside one’s department due to its specificness.

How to Make and Use a Skills Matrix?

Making and using a skills matrix is a straightforward process. There are two ways of making and using a skills matrix: manually or by using a skills matrix software. Should you choose the former, you can design a skills matrix using spreadsheet tools such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.

Alternatively, you can download a skills matrix template online. Some of these templates are free, while some are paywalled. After downloading, format them using Microsoft Excel or similar programs to suit your needs.

Afterward, your skills matrix is ready to use. Input the names of your team members on one axis and the graded skills on the other axis. In the middle, insert the numerical value of their skills.

Using a skills matrix software offers a better experience. There is no need to design, download, and edit a template. Simply input your employees’ names, graded skills, and skill values on the existing field. Moreover, skills matrix software is equipped with many additional features, making it a far more powerful tool than conventional matrices.

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What is a Competency Matrix?

A competency matrix is a competency-based mapping of your employees’ levels of certain competencies. Competencies refer to a set of skills (both hard and soft skills) that are needed to perform a task.

A good example of this is a competency in building a website. For this competency,  a combination of several hard and soft skills is needed. Necessary hard skills include one or more programming languages, graphic design tools, and SEO analytics.

Meanwhile, soft skills required for this competency include time management skills (as there are deadlines to be met), the ability to work in a team, and problem-solving skills (are there always bugs to be solved when starting a website from scratch).

We will highlight the differences between a skills matrix and a competency matrix in the next section.

A Competency Matrix’s Purpose in an Organization

A competency matrix maps your team members’ proficiency in selected competencies, including soft skills. Since competencies are broader than skills, their scope is more generic than skills matrices.

A competency matrix is more commonly used by human resource officers and members of the upper management rather than by project managers.  A competency matrix is often used to evaluate employees’ compensation plans and potential for promotion. In addition, it’s also used as a source of data for an organization’s recruitment strategy.

How to Draft and Utilize a Competency Matrix?

Drafting and utilizing a competency matrix is fundamentally the same as a skills matrix. You can draft one using a spreadsheet tool like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. Otherwise, you can download a competency matrix template online and edit it according to your needs.

And of course, you can use skills matrix software in making and using your competency matrix. Since both skills & competency matrices have the same design (only the contents are different), you can always use skills matrix software for your competency matrices.

What’s the Difference Between a Skills Matrix and a Competency Matrix?

Now that both skills and competency matrices have been thoroughly explained, it’s time to analyze their differences. Here are the key differences between the two:

Skills vs Competencies

As the name suggests, a skills matrix focuses on skills, while a competency matrix is centered on competencies. A skills matrix only evaluates technical, job-related skills. Examples of skills include skills in coding in Phyton, technical knowledge in ISO 9001 Certification, skills in using a torque tool, and many others.

On the other hand, a competency matrix maps your employees’ competencies, which are broader than skills. A good example is budgeting competency. Under this competency umbrella, technical skills such as knowledge of the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or a similar system in one’s jurisdiction, Microsoft Excel proficiency, and the ability to draft financial reports are covered, as well as soft skills such as time management (to meet deadlines) and attention to small details.

A competency matrix covers more aspects than a skills matrix but is less specific and provides less in-depth insight into your employees’ technical skills. Additionally, a skills matrix usually only has fully quantitative measured indicators. On the contrary, a competency matrix has both quantitative & qualitatively measured indicators, although their measurements are less deep and are less quantitatively defined.

In brief, a skills matrix is more specific, only includes technical skills, and is heavily sector-based. Meanwhile, a competency matrix is broader, consists of both technical & soft skills, and is not fixed on one particular sector. The drawback is that it offers a less in-depth analysis than a skills matrix and is less objective due to its qualitative-based measurements.

Uses Within an Organization

Due to their different contents, a skills matrix and a competency matrix serve different organizational functions. Since a skills matrix only assesses an employee’s technical skills, it’s generally used in a small team setting within an organization. For example, within a product design team, a manager would include skills such as AutoCAD or Blender in their team members’ skills matrix.

A skills matrix is commonly used to distribute tasks within a team. Therefore, each team member gets functions that suit their skill levels. Junior employees might get simpler tasks, while your senior team members are assigned more challenging functions.

It’s also helpful when planning a daily/weekly team roster so that there are always highly qualified employees at any given time in case any of your team members are on leave.

Meanwhile, a competency matrix is broader. As opposed to being used by project managers, they are often seen by human resource officers or those high in the upper management in assessing company-wide employees.

The data contained in a competency matrix is used to evaluate employees’ succession, promotion, and compensation plans. Before promoting or giving a raise to an employee, it’s crucial to assess their soft and hard skills – and there’s no better way to map them than using a competency matrix.

Additionally, before recruiting a new employee, human resource officers would first consult their competency matrix to understand better the qualities of the ideal new recruits that the company needs.

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Are There Similarities Between a Skills Matrix and a Competency Matrix?

Despite their differences, a skills matrix and a competency matrix also share numerous similarities. They have so many similarities, to the point that many professionals use both terms interchangeably. Here are some of the similarities between the two:

Birds’ Eye View on Employees’ Skills and Competencies

Both skills and competency matrices offer an unparalleled bird’s eye view of your employee’s skills and competencies. You are immediately informed of your employees’ skills and competency levels with a single glance at your matrix.

With this information, you are ensured that all of your decisions are data-driven. With skills and competency matrices, you are always well-informed before taking actions such as planning a training program for your employees, deciding who will be included on next week’s team roster, considering one of your employees’ requests for a raise, and many other real-life applications.

Universally Applicable in Any Industry

Another similarity between a skills matrix and a competency matrix is their universal nature. Both matrices are helpful in any industry. Regardless of your industry, regularly evaluating your employees’ skills and competencies is an important task.

And there’s no better tool to do this task than using a skills and competency matrix. If a skills or competency gap has been detected, it’s time to either plan a training program or recruit a new employee to your team.

Every now and then, your employees might request a promotion or a raise, regardless of their position and role. To measure whether such employees deserve the requested promotion or raise – skills and competency matrices are your best friend.

Comes in Conventional and Software-Based Versions

A skills matrix and a competency matrix’s designs are practically the same. Thus, both tools can come in a conventional or a software-based version.

A conventional skills or competency matrix can be made from scratch using a spreadsheet tool. Alternatively, you could download a skills or competency matrix template online and make the necessary edits to suit your team’s needs.

Of course, you can always use skills or competency matrix software. Due to their similar design, you can make and use both skills and competency matrices within the same software.

Using a software-based matrix is always recommended over conventional ones, as they offer an abundance of powerful features that don’t exist in a conventional matrix.

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Choosing the Right Tool for Your Needs

Now that you’ve mastered the differences and similarities between skills and competency matrices, it’s time to put both into use. But you might ask, which one should I use?

In short, it depends on what you’re using the matrix for. In this section, we will help you determine which matrix best suits your needs.

When Should You Opt for a Skills Matrix?

A skills matrix revolves around specific job-related skills. Thus, if you’re a project manager of a small team or a highly technical department, then you will most likely use a skills matrix more often.

Moreover, a skills matrix is the right tool for tasks such as evaluating your team members’ technical skills, planning upcoming training, organizing a work roster, and other similar roles.

When is a Competency Matrix Preferred?

A competency matrix is more suitable for you if you’re working as a human resource officer or a manager in charge of multiple departments. Especially for tasks such as evaluating your employees’ compensation and future career progression, mapping their overall performance, and as a source of information for recruitment purposes.

Combining Skills & Competency Matrices

In any case, it’s recommended to have both a skills matrix and a competency matrix at your disposal. To make the most rational business decisions, you need all the data and insights available at your side at any given time.

For skills matrices, they are ideally drafted and managed by the project manager of each department. Each department should have its own skills matrix. As a skills matrix is highly technical, only those who are working in that field fully understand its content. Someone working in finance can never evaluate an IT employee’s programming skills in SQL, and vice versa.

Conversely, a competency matrix is rather general and broad. Data sourced from each department’s skills matrix can be fed into a company-wide competency matrix database.

In addition, a human resource officer can evaluate their employees’ soft skills and include this information in the company-wide competency matrix. Therefore, a single company-wide competency matrix run by the human resources department should be sufficient in most cases.

Using Software-Based Skills and Competency Matrices

At this point, it should be clear that both skills and competency matrices are paramount for any organization. Moreover, you can further enhance this handy tool by using software-based skills and competency matrix software. Some significant advantages of using a skills matrix software are:

  • An effortless experience in assessing your employees’ skills and competencies
  • A more transparent way of planning your employees’ compensation and career progression
  • More efficient and target-specific employee training programs
  • Having a digital data-driven hiring process
  • Going 100% paperless

And many other benefits. For a deeper explanation of the benefits of using a software-based skills and competency matrix, check our article here.

Key Takeaways

Use top-notch software to make and run your skills and competency matrices. Azumuta’s Skills Matrix & Training module offers all the features that your organization needs in creating and managing powerful skills and competency matrices.

Not only can you effortlessly run visually intuitive skills and competency matrices, but it also provides features such as scheduling long-term training programs, generating individually tailored employee performance reports, and many other advantageous features.

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To boot, you can integrate it with Azumuta’s Digital Work Instructions module. With it, you can deliver instructions and evaluate your employees’ compliance in real time from the comfort of your PC, tablet, or smartphone, all under one application.

See how one of our customers’ use of Azumuta’s Digital Work Instructions module has led to a 60% drop in time spent on data entry, a 35% decrease in documentation time, and has made the idea of a 100% paperless shop floor a reality in our customer’s success story. Be sure to check other successful case studies here.

Learn More About Azumuta’s Skill Matrix & Training

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