September 1, 2022

How your organisation can benefit from creating a modern skills matrix

Editorial Team
How your organisation can benefit from creating a modern skills matrix

A software-based skills matrix helps organisations identify and close skills gaps, helping them stay competitive for a long time.

It is important that organisations and individuals know what skills and competencies they have. A skills matrix is a tool that visualises, at a glance, an organisation’s or individual’s existing skills and competencies, the skills and competencies they need to work effectively, and their skills gaps if any. In today’s increasingly flexible, remote, and globalised workplace, a skills matrix holds the key to streamlining workflow, improving operations, and creating a capable and agile workforce.

Before we get to the business benefits of a skill matrix, which is the subject of this article, here’s a quick recap of what a skills matrix is.

What is a skills matrix?

A skills matrix is a visual representation of the skills available in an organisation. A modern skills matrix maps not just skills but competencies (a competency comprises skills along with abilities, knowledge, and behaviours). As such, a skills matrix is also called a competency matrix.

Traditional skills matrices are usually dull, data-heavy spreadsheets containing lists of employee names along with their skills. These documents are almost always difficult to read and derive insights from. Modern software-based skills matrices such as MuchSkills allow users to build a skills matrix that lists available skills as well as skills required for each role using a fun, uncluttered, and interactive design. This makes it easy for all users – employees and managers – to update, read and interpret.

Advantages of a skills matrix

Skills matrices are helping organisations and individuals reach professional fulfilment in many ways. Here’s how:

Benefits for organisations

1. Right jobs for the right people

A detailed and up-to-date skills matrix helps managers deploy the right people for a project, role or task. Picking team members based purely on the basis of their skills is not only fair practice, it ensures that those tasked with a job have the skills and competencies to perform it efficiently. Additionally, when people are good at a skill, enjoy using it and also get a chance to use it at work, they are more productive. This, in turn, ensures that the overall project progresses smoothly towards successful completion.

2. Successful skills-first hiring

Organisations use skills matrices to identify skills gaps at an organisational level. Armed with this knowledge, they can make skills-based hires. Organisations that adopt a skills-first approach to hiring – as opposed to relying on traditional deciding factors such as educational qualifications and experience – are 60% more likely to make successful hires, says research by LinkedIn published in March 2022. According to the online professional network, 40% of recruiters on its platform are filling vacancies on the basis of skills data, up 20% year-on-year. Skills-first hiring makes sense, given that recruitment is expensive and averages $4,700 per hire by one estimate.

3. Making core employees stay

A skills matrix makes it possible for organisations to track their employees’ progress. By providing a clear overview of each individual’s performance and growth, it can help employers zero in on core employees who are valuable to the organisation and should be retained at all costs. They can then focus on these high-performers and check if they are satisfied in their roles. If these employees seem to lack engagement and may be thinking of leaving, the organisation can devise a plan to retain them. The other alternative is to do nothing and watch them leave, which would not be the best course of action considering the critical shortage of talent in the market. The Great Resignation – a global phenomenon that saw employees quit in the millions – has made employee retention a priority for organisations worldwide. Significantly, an employee’s ability to use their skills appropriately has a lot to do with surging quit rates. LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report says people who feel their skills aren’t being put to good use are 10 times more likely to look for a new job.

4. Creating an internal talent pool

Organisations that use their skills matrix to detect skills gaps and bridge them through learning and development and recruitment are, in fact, doing themselves a favour by creating a skilled workforce during a talent crunch. Having a healthy bench strength of skilled employees means an organisation always has skilled candidates for open roles. It also means they can move their talent around by providing opportunities for internal mobility. Internal mobility – defined by online HR training provider AIHR as “the movement of employees to new career and development opportunities within the same organisation” – is great for employee retention. Employees stay at organisations that have effective internal mobility plans for an average of 5.4 years, almost two times longer than they stay at organisations that struggle with it.

Benefits for employees

1. Pathway to learning

The insight a skills matrix provides into an individual’s strengths and weaknesses can motivate them to raise their proficiency in existing skills or learn new ones. Often, employees are willing to learn on the job, but lack the opportunity to do so. In the previously mentioned LinkedIn study, employees picked opportunities to learn and grow as the top driver of great work culture. However, 48% of them said their offices were resistant to allowing employees to upskill during work hours.

2. Career advancement through learning and development

Employees can use the insights a skills matrix provides them with to map out a successful career path for themselves. For example, an employee who sees they only have 70% of the skills needed for a role (as defined in an organisation’s modern skills matrix) can enrol themselves in a training program to learn critical missing skills, thus gaining an opportunity for career advancement. Similarly, organisations that are aware of an employee’s strengths and weaknesses can move them across different teams that can utilise their skill sets better or even assign a workplace mentor or coach they can learn from. Opportunities for career development sit right alongside learning opportunities on employees’ priority lists. Unfortunately, 43% of the 5,000 US employees surveyed by the University of Phoenix for its Career Optimism Index 2022 said they did not see a clear path to advance in their careers at their current workplaces.

3. Clear expectations and responsibilities

Skills matrices that include a baseline of skills needed for a particular role – the required or mandatory skills for a particular role – makes expectations from employees clear. This is important because when an employee’s job description is vague or they don’t know what is expected of them, they are crippled by the fear of being seen as incompetent, says Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report. This fear often stops them from doing their best work. When organisations define the skills needed for each role in their skills matrix, it ensures that team members are fully aware of the skills they are required to bring to the table for each role. Similarly, they also understand the skills their team members are contributing 

4. Morale booster

No one wants to be stuck in a job they don’t enjoy or don’t have the skills for. When employees and their assigned jobs are incompatible, productivity drops and quit rates rise. A skills matrix lowers the chances of such incompatibility by helping organisations match employees with jobs that are right for them. By helping people find value and purpose in the work they do, a skills matrix acts as a driver of employee morale and engagement.

Bridge your  skills gap with a modern skills matrix

Jobs are changing constantly, thanks to rapid digitisation and automation. People’s priorities are also changing, with the past few years bringing a seismic shift in what they want from their careers. For instance, among employees, money and other traditional perks have lost ground to flexible schedules, remote positions, and opportunities for learning and self-improvement, to name a few. As jobs and people evolve, skills are changing too. Research by LinkedIn says that skills sets for jobs are projected to change by 50% by 2027, double the pace at which they changed (25%) between 2015 and 2021. In a testament to this transformation, LinkedIn members added 286 million skills to their profiles in 2021, a 22% jump from the previous year.

And yet, this is not nearly enough. Organisations worldwide are feeling the pinch with 87% of companies saying they already have a skills gap or will have one in a few years. If not tackled quickly and effectively, these skills gaps will continue to widen. LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report points to a growing crisis with 46% of learning and development professionals reporting that the skills gaps at their organisations have expanded by four points in just a year.

The widening skills gaps stress the need for organisations to regularly conduct skills gap analysis, an exercise that isn’t as difficult as it sounds (see MuchSkills’ simple four-step guide). A skills gap analysis helps businesses identify skills gaps and take action to bridge them so that they can improve performance and stay competitive. Skills mapping and competency mapping exercises that are usually conducted while creating a skills matrix are intrinsic to skills gap analysis. 

A modern skills matrix that lists the skills available to the organisation as well as skills that are required in the future helps organisations to conduct a skills gap analysis easily and regularly. Doing so is beneficial for them because it leads to improved compatibility between individuals and jobs, ensuring highly productive teams.

Modern vs traditional skills matrix

While on the subject of skills matrices, it would be remiss to not discuss how modern skills matrices trump their traditional counterparts and hold more advantages for businesses:

  • All skills are integrated into a single data repository: A modern skills matrix gives the user an overview of an individual’s, team’s or entire organisation’s skills all in one place. The data is, thus, easily accessible to all who need it within the organisation, and because of this it is also easily updated, which makes it more accurate than traditional ones that are updated once in a couple of months.
  • Automatic or easy updates: Traditional skills matrices like Excel spreadsheets rely on manual data entry that’s usually the responsibility of one department – usually HR. They are tedious to create, maintain and update. This is one reason why skills matrices often end up as a one-off exercise in organisations. In comparison, modern skills matrices that are fed data by multiple users are much easier to populate and update. Breaking the reliance on periodic manual data entry by a centralised body ensures the information on display is accurate, up-to-date, and reliable at all times.
  • Standardised and consistent: Modern skills matrices speak a common language, are consistent in structure and look, and ensure the visualised data can be read, interpreted and compared accurately.
  • Data visualisation: Visualised data tells better stories about individuals, teams and organisations. Compared to spreadsheets, modern skills matrices present data in a visually appealing manner, making it easy for users to read, analyse and derive insights from the data. For example, colour coding helps managers tell at a glance which of their team members are proficient in a skill and which aren’t.
  • Scalable: It is important for skills matrices to be highly scalable, given the rapid changes transforming our workplaces, such as an ever increasing roster of employees, contractors, consultants, and partners. This means a skills matrix should have the flexibility to easily add new skills and people, change proficiency definitions whenever required, and handle large volumes of data. In this regard, software-based skills matrices that visualise data hold a definite edge over their traditional counterparts. 

MuchSkills’ modern skills matrix is all this and more. To know more about it, read this article here.

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