In the business world, there’s a commonly heard phrase: “Employees are any organization’s most valuable asset.” This phrase is not an overstatement, as employees are the cornerstone of any organization.
Your employees are the ones who run the daily operations of your organization. Thus, your employees’ skill levels in their respective fields strongly correlate with your organization’s performance. Yet, is it possible to objectively measure and map your employees’ skill levels?
The answer is yes, it’s indeed possible. Various tools can be used in assessing and mapping your employees’ skill levels. A skills matrix is the most convenient tool for doing so. Furthermore, a skills matrix is the primary tool for a skills gap analysis.
Yet, what is a skills matrix? How to create and use it? What is a skills gap analysis, and how to perform it? And why is a skills gap analysis critical for any organization?
In this ultimate guide, we will explore what a skills matrix is and how to create and manage an effective skills matrix. Moreover, we will also discuss the ongoing skills gap phenomenon, what a skills gap analysis is, how to conduct it, and the advantages of using skills matrix software.
What Is a Skills Matrix?
A skills matrix is a mapping of your employees’ skill levels. It visually presents the skill levels of your team members in selected fields, measured in numbers (generally on a scale of 1-4, 1-5, 1-10, or 1-100). Color coding is also often used to make it more visually intuitive.
Due to its simplicity and visually intuitive nature, a skills matrix is a highly dependable tool. It allows team leaders to immediately know the skill set of their team members, which skills still need to be improved, and which particular employees need extra training. All of that information can be obtained in a matter of seconds within a glance.
How to Create and Use a Skills Matrix?
Skills matrices can be divided into two categories: conventional and software-based. The differences lie in how a skills matrix is made and run. Here are the key characteristics of the two:
Conventional Skills Matrix
A conventional skills matrix is created and managed using a spreadsheet tool like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. With it, a user can manually draft a table for the skills matrix. In a column, insert the name of your team members. While on a row, list the skill fields that you want to map.
In the cells between the column, as mentioned earlier, and the row, you can input the skill levels of each of your team members. The input is generally on a numerical scale, such as 1-4, 1-5, 1-10, and 1-100.
It’s also recommended to color code the matrix, meaning that each number corresponds to a particular color. With color coding, your skills matrix will be more intuitive, allowing you to grasp its content much faster.
Besides drafting your matrix from scratch, you can also use a skills matrix template. On the internet, there are plenty of skills matrix templates that you can download. Some templates are free, while others are paywalled.
After finding a template that suits your preferences, download it and edit it using a spreadsheet tool of your choice. Be sure to edit the downloaded skills matrix template to fit your team’s needs, as downloadable templates are often very generic.
Using Skills Matrix Software
Besides manually drafting and managing your skills matrix using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, you can also use skills matrix software. There are countless skills matrix software platforms available on the market.
Some software is only dedicated to creating and running skills matrices. In others, their skill matrix platform is part of a more extensive manufacturing management software.
Using a skills matrix software offers numerous advantages over a conventional skills matrix due to its wide range of features. For example, skill matrix software offers a pre-made template, freeing you from the time-consuming task of designing the matrix from scratch.
In addition, skills matrix software also allows you to create an automatically generated employee report for each employee. This allows an in-depth employee skills assessment to help detect skills gaps, organize a team task division, plan a weekly roster, and manage future training activities.
And, of course, skills matrix software allows seamless data sharing and collaboration between different teams. A good skills matrix software enables multiple users to access the same corporate database at once, allowing cross-department cooperation. Hence, you can say goodbye to traditional authorization request procedures.
These are only a few examples of a software-based skills matrix’s advantages over their conventional counterparts.
For a more expanded list of the advantages of using a skills matrix software, check out our article.
Skills Matrix vs Competency Matrix
“Skills matrix” and “competency matrix” are often used interchangeably. Many professionals even believe that they refer to the same thing. Both tools also share the same design and can come in a spreadsheet-based version or a software-based one.
Despite the identical names, both are, in fact, two different tools with different contents and purposes.
For an in-depth highlight on the differences between a skills matrix and a competency matrix, check out our comparative article here.
What follows is a brief overview of the differences between the two matrices:
Skills vs Competencies
The fundamental difference between the two terms lies in the contents. As mentioned in the name, a skills matrix displays the skills levels of members within a team, while a competency matrix does the same with competencies. Yet, what’s the difference between skills and competencies?
Skills generally refer to the ability to execute a task within a job. Thus, a skills matrix contains only technical, job-related skills. It does not include soft skills, such as time management, leadership qualities, and other non-technical skills.
For example, a skill matrix for an organization’s accounting team would include skills such as Microsoft Excel, accounting software such as Intuit QuickBooks, and knowledge of the International Financial Reporting Standards (or other standards valid in one’s jurisdiction).
Another example is a skill matrix for a Warehouse Stocker. For this position, a project manager would include skills such as forklift driving, warehouse inventory management software such as Oracle Netsuite WMS, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Warehousing Safety Standards (or equivalent in other jurisdictions).
On the other hand, competencies refer to the skills needed to perform a role or a position. It includes both technical and soft skills. Therefore, a competency matrix offers a broader picture than a skills matrix, but it’s less specific when mapping your team members’ skills.
A good illustration is a competency matrix for a Quality Control Officer in a pre-packaged food factory. For this position, a competency matrix would include technical skills such as the ability to operate laboratory equipment and knowledge of relevant food safety standards, such as ISO 22000 plus regulations issued by the Food and Drug Administration (or similar measures in other jurisdictions).
Meanwhile, relevant soft skills include attention to small details and communication skills needed to promote high-quality production standards to the assembly workers.
The Use of Skills Matrix and Competency Matrix Within an Organization
Due to their differing contents, a skills matrix and a competency matrix also serve different organizational functions. Here’s where they differ:
Due to its specific nature, a skills matrix is used to asses skills within a team or department. It assesses the selected skill set of employees within a team. A skills matrix is generally not used at an organization-wide level.
Since a skills matrix tends to be technical, it’s typically drafted and managed by the project manager of a team or the most experienced and skilled member of that particular team. A skills matrix has several common uses, such as:
- A task distribution system (so each employee will be assigned tasks that correspond to their skill levels)
- Work rooster management (in case some employees are on leave, project managers can arrange the work roster so that there’s always an experienced team member within a shift at any given time)
- Planning employee training programs
- The primary tool when performing a skills gap analysis
Conversely, a competency offers a broader picture than a skills matrix but is less specific and technical in its contents. Human resources officers or employees often use a competency matrix from upper management. Since a competency matrix covers both technical and soft skills, someone can use it for:
- Planning long-term employee succession and promotion
- The organization’s database for determining employees’ compensation
- A databank for future recruitment plans
A Brief Overview of the Skills Matrix vs Competency Matrix Differences
What Is a Skills Gap?
One of the main functions of a skills matrix is to detect whether there’s a skills gap in your team. Yet, what is a skills gap exactly? And is it as alarming as many have said?
The term skills gap refers to the mismatch between the skills required to carry out a job position and the skill set that an employee currently possesses. As a result, the employees’ output will be subpar due to insufficient skills. In more extreme cases, an employer cannot find a suitable employee to fill a job position due to the skills gap crisis in the job market.
The skills gap phenomenon virtually exists in all sectors. However, the manufacturing sector is hit particularly hard. According to a Deloitte report, 2.1 million manufacturing jobs in the US are expected to be unfilled within the 2020-2023 timeframe. The report informs that manufacturing employers are having difficulty filling their vacancies due to the skills gap issue, which will even worsen in the coming years.
The EU is also suffering from the same problem. A Eurofund research report has shown worker shortages in manufacturing have been found in all EU regions. Thus, the skills gap issue is a significant threat to the manufacturing sector.
Various factors have caused and worsened the skills gap issue in manufacturing. Some of the leading causes are:
- Retiring skilled and experienced workers
- Not enough graduates in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields
- Continuously evolving production technologies and techniques
- Costly employee development programs
- The lack of awareness and sense of urgency of the skills gap issue
Be sure to check out our article for a deeper dive into the skills gap issue in the manufacturing sector and what you can do about it.
What Is a Skills Gap Analysis?
Now that the skills gap phenomenon is covered, is there a skills gap in my team? And if there is, what can I do about it?
The best way to detect whether there’s a skills gap in your team is by performing a skills gap analysis. A skills gap analysis is the process of identifying the required skills to perform roles and comparing them with the current skill set of your team members.
If a disparity between the two is detected, then it means that there is indeed a skills gap within your team. To conduct a skills gap analysis, you must use a skills matrix.
When to Conduct a Skills Gap Analysis?
A frequently asked question among project managers is, how often should a skills gap analysis be done? A skills gap analysis is indeed a time-consuming task that only some are looking forward to.
In general, human resource practitioners recommend performing a skills gap analysis once a year. However, if one of the conditions below applies in your case, it’s best to do one as soon as possible:
- Planning to acquire a new production technology, machinery, system, or technique
- Aiming to introduce new products to the market
- Having expansion plans (opening a new production facility, increasing production output, entering a new market, or any other form of expansion)
- There has been a noticeable dip in your team’s performance
- One or more of your team members have expressed their concerns about insufficient skills or overly heavy work burden
How to Conduct a Skills Gap Analysis?
Performing a skills gap analysis takes time and effort. Moreover, it’s crucial to have a functional and easily editable skills matrix during the entire process. To ensure its accuracy, a skills gap analysis is ideally done by the project manager of each team or by the most experienced and skilled team member.
Check out our article for a step-by-step guide to performing a skills gap analysis.
Here’s a brief overview of the key steps in conducting a successful skills gap analysis:
Step 1: Identifying Employees’ Skills That Will Be Assessed
The first step is to identify the skills that will be included in the skills matrix. And, of course, the assessed skills must be directly related to your team members’ daily tasks.
Imagine that you’re the project manager of a product design team. Naturally, you would want to include skills such as AutoCAD, graphic design software such as Adobe Illustrator, and other relevant skills for a product designer.
Step 2: Assessing Your Employees’ Skills
If the relevant skills have been selected, it’s time to assess your team members’ skill sets. There are numerous methods of objectively evaluating your employees’ skills, such as:
- Written quizzes and other forms of technical tests
- Technical interviews
- Grading your employees based on their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
- Asking for comments and remarks from your other team members
Translate your findings into easily understood numbers, such as 1-4, 1-5, 1-10, or 1-100. It’s also a good idea to color-code these numbers. Thus, you will have a visually intuitive skills mapping of your employees.
Step 3: Analyzing Your Skills Matrix’s Data
After your employees’ skills have been assessed and mapped, it’s time to analyze your skills matrix’s findings. Some necessary evaluations that must be considered when conducting a skills gap analysis are:
- Are your employees’ current skill sets adequate to perform their daily tasks and to use the industry’s latest technologies and techniques?
- How are your team’s KPIs in comparison with your competitors?
- Is your team sufficiently staffed, and is your team members’ workload manageable?
- Is there any employee who needs to catch up in their KPIs?
- Is there any employee who will retire or leave your team?
- Is your organization planning to expand its production, product range, or market reach soon? If so, how would it affect your team’s workload and responsibilities?
The results of these evaluations will determine whether there is (or will be) a skills gap within your team.
Step 4: Planning Short and Long-Term Employee Training Programs
If a skills gap has been found, it’s in your best interest to resolve it immediately. The ultimate solution to closing a skills gap is by providing training in the field where the gap has been detected.
A skills gap can appear in one or a few employees and be a team-wide occurrence. Should it appear in one or a small number of employees, then specialized tailor-made training programs are preferred. That way, your training programs will directly address the skills gap, and your sufficiently qualified employees won’t have to attend unnecessary training sessions.
On the other hand, if a skills gap has been found among many employees, it’s rational to organize a team-wide training program. Thus, numerous employees can be trained at once, saving time and effort on your part.
Step 5: If Necessary, Recruit New Employees
Sometimes, more than just re-training your employees is needed to address a skills gap. If so, recruiting external talents is the remaining solution.
Use the insights from your skills matrix to fill the skills lacking within your team. Supported by its visually intuitive employee skill mapping, your recruitment decisions will always be data-driven.
Step 6: What to Do After the Skills Gap Analysis
If the skills gap analysis has been completed and the skills gap has been closed (either by re-training or recruiting), there are several further measures that you can take. For instance, you can draft long-term employee development plans.
Long-term employee development plans likely include:
- Organizing regular training activities and seminars
- Funding your team members’ industry conference and events participation
- Providing a specified amount of funds and leave days for your employees to follow external courses and training
- Having a corporate mentorship program, where a senior employee is paired with junior employees and is assigned to guide them
- Team building activities
- Establishing a team that organizes routine in-house training activities for your employees
It will improve your team’s productivity and ensure employee loyalty. Within the ongoing skills gap phenomenon, retaining your highly skilled and experienced employees is in your best interest. According to an IBM survey, 36% of its respondents say that “continuous learning opportunities” are what employees expect from their employers (other than their salaries).
Benefits of Using a Skills Matrix Software
As has been conveyed, having an optimal skills matrix is one of the keys to achieving a successful skills gap analysis. A software-based skills matrix is far more potent than its conventional counterparts, offering many handy features.
Therefore, it’s best to use a skills matrix software instead of a conventional spreadsheet-based matrix. Here are some decisive advantages of using skills matrix software:
No Need to Start the Matrix from Scratch
Using a skills matrix software offers an effortless and time-saving experience compared to its conventional counterpart. For starters, skills matrix software already comes with a built-in template – saving you from the burden of drafting and designing the matrix from scratch.
Editing your skills matrix is also a walk in the park. Simply input the related data to the fields from the software, and you will have a fully functional skills matrix.
Real-Time Reminders and Notifications
Many skills matrix software comes with a notification feature. Many skills matrix software comes with a built-in calendar or can be integrated with popular calendars such as Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar from Microsoft.
With this feature, you can plan short- and long-term training programs. Shortly before training is due, a notification will be automatically sent to your team members’ devices. These notifications ensure that all employees’ development programs will remain on track.
Some skill matrix software can automatically generate a progress report for each employee. As a result, you can easily keep track of your employees’ skills development over time without spending hours crawling old databases and drafting individualized employee development reports on your own.
A personalized report allows you to form individualized training plans for each employee. That way, your employee development strategies will always be on point and correspond to the individual needs of each employee.
Unlike conventional spreadsheet-centered skills matrices, skills matrix software grants unprecedented collaboration opportunities. Previously, employees from team A had to manually request the document owner if they wished to access a skills matrix of team B.
Then, the document owner from team B would have to grant access to team A manually. Repeat the process if members from teams C, D, E, and so on would like to request access as well.
Skills matrix software typically allows multiple users from the same organization to access and use skills matrices at once. As a result, any authorized employee can access the needed data from any department without the hassle mentioned above. This feature grants seamless inter-department collaborations.
Going 100% Paperless
Last, switching to a skills matrix software means going 100% paperless. Gone are the days when someone printed a skill matrix and pinned it to a wall next to the manager’s office. Your employees can access your skills matrix from their PC, tablet, and smartphone anywhere, at any time.
Besides the obvious environmental considerations, being 100% paperless is also a financially wise decision. Printing and paper expenditures seem trivial, but on a corporate level, their costs can quickly pile up. A survey in the US has uncovered that, on average, an employee prints 8,874 pages of paper per year, costing companies USD 725 per employee per year.
Azumuta, a One-Stop Skills Matrix & Training Software
Azumuta’s Skill Matrix & Training module is the most comprehensive option on the market. Not only does it offer all of the advantages mentioned above, but it’s also the only one that can integrate with a Digital Work Instructions system.
With this integration, you can seamlessly create visually intuitive work instructions and send them to your employees’ devices. In addition, you can collect real-time data on the shop floor, fed directly to your PC, tablet, and smartphone – no need to go back and forth to the shop floor and manually input data into your spreadsheet.
Thanks to this feature, you can continuously track your employees’ performance on the shop floor and add a layer of quality control – while saving precious man-hours simultaneously.
Witness how Azumuta’s one-stop app has helped a client to reduce customer complaints by 60%, decreased the time needed to create and manage work instructions by 50%, speed up customer complaint resolution by 40%, and reduced the time required to train employees by 40% in their success story.