What is a Skills Matrix?

Everything You Need to Know for Successful Skill Management

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In today's fast-paced world, organizations need to continually adapt and evolve to survive in the market — and the most critical part of this evolving process is the people involved within the organization.

Organizations need complete tracking of their employee's skills and knowledge. Usually, the Human Resource and Learning and Development departments are burdened with employee training, performance evaluation and tracking competencies. However, the methods used by most HR and L&D teams in tracking skills do unfortunately lacks efficiency, urgency and quite often does not improve the skills pool available within a team or company. 

Business processes are constantly shifting. In growing markets, you need to ensure you have the right competencies in advance to meet the forecasted demands on the business. You also need to ensure that you're assigning the right skill in the right place to get the most out of your employees. Addressing individual needs and accommodating individual learning requirements are also crucial.

Another challenge organizations face today is the increasing remote opportunities, global footprints, and flexible working styles. Although remote and hybrid working environments present new opportunities, they also increase the need to track staff skills and competencies. Remote working has also  heightened employee burnout rates 

Organizations need to visualize their team's skills and abilities to tackle these challenges. The skills matrix is a tool to update and restructure employee performance evaluation. It also makes learning and development more effective. It makes decision-making faster and more efficient while taking off a huge chunk of the HR workload.

In this article, we will discuss the skills matrix in-depth and guide you on how to use this tool to stay ahead of the competition. 

What is a Skills Matrix?

A skills matrix  is a tool to map and visualize required and desired skills within a team or for a specific project. It is an essential tool for data-driven people managers and can be used in nearly all teams, across all sectors of the economy. It is usually managed by team leaders, managers or the human resources team; however the beauty is that all team members can input to and benefit from the skills matrix. 

The skills matrix helps identify comprehensive skill sets, general competencies, and experience level requirements for a position or a project. It provides an overview of a team's preparedness and competencies that require attention/development. The skills matrix instantly shows the level of capability across all skills and team members.  It can also help to understand where there are process/skill redundancy within a team to help with changes in workloards.  Since it addresses individual employees, the learning and development team can use this data to design more effective training and learning plans.

The skills matrix for a small organization can be as simple as a plain Excel spreadsheet with some form of visualization to represent the data (usually a grid, with a number system for score and colour to drive visual calls to action). Skills matrix software effectively assesses skill at scale for a larger organization with complex structures.

Why Does Your Company, or Team Need a Skills Matrix?

The skills matrix is an essential tool for any data-driven company. It improves the performance of the human resources and the learning and development team by looking in-depth into the staff's skills, qualifications, certifications, and competencies throughout the organization. 

There is a growing trend that employees are actively seeking increased opportunities to learn new skills as well as to have a clear career progression plan. When used correctly, a skills matrix can boost employee performance and improve  employee retention.  

According to the  LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2019  , a staggering 94% of employees stated they would spend more time with their employers if they invested in their learning and development.   The Great Resignation   in the post-pandemic era has shown a tremendous rise in employees leaving stagnant roles.

The skills matrix not only helps manage your team better but also contributes to your management and leadership skills set.  Properly implemented and consistently used skills matrices help to reduce employee burnout by addressing staff's individual interests and competencies.   The skills matrix also helps you to identify employees that are struggling to develop their skills so that you may take the appropriate action to work with them to upskill, or progress down the performance assessment route.

Therefore, the skills matrix can play a crucial role in the overall outcome of an organization when utilized correctly.

Benefits of Skills Matrix

The purpose of the skills matrix is straightforward — to give you a comprehensive and visual overview of your employee's skills and competencies. It is one of the best management tools for identifying skills gaps and determining the best way to fill them.

Practical assessment of employee skills

A skills matrix is an easy and straightforward way to look at your employee's skills and competencies from a high to granular level. It directly compares the current capabilities against the target or required capabilities. It provides the team leader/manager with specific points to address skills shortages or to redesign the  training program to better guide employees on the skills and capabilities they need to develop (or hire for when looking at the matrix from a recruitment process).

Most importantly, a skills matrix assesses employee skills effectively without overburdening the team manager or HR department. It also improves employee satisfaction and improves internal communications (creating a joint, clear view of skills progressions at both the individual and team level).  Consistent use of the skills matrix, along with short-but-often engagement at team level can help to remove the need to meet monthly/quarterly and go through lengthy upskill and progressions meetings.  Skills development needs to be a fluent process that happens daily.

Identifying missing competencies

Skill matrices identify both underdeveloped areas of your team as well as areas of success.  It is crucially important that as you continually set up-skill targets, that you also praise and recognise achieved goals - the skills matrix gives you this information.   From a project planning perspective, the skills matrix can help you identify and manage any missing skills before the project start date — hence, improving the likely outcome. When a business can identify its shortcomings ahead of time, it naturally gives them an edge when it comes to competing within their relevant sector. 

Skills Matrix solutions not only provide analytics in relation to discrepancies between target and available capabilities at an organization level but also at a personal level. The report analyzes the employees individually, allowing them to pinpoint their weaknesses and strengths to better help them manage their own progressions and to take responsibility of areas with which you collectively agree they can train other team members.  Having multiple employees capable of training in multiple skills is the secret recipe for rapidly upskilling a team - enabling employees to take responsibility of upskilling their peers also provides autonomy, which when coupled with knowledge results in increased motivation. 

Cross-departmental skill tracking

The skills and interests of staff change as they gather experience or switch departments.  The skills matrix can enable employees and employers to continually track development of individuals and teams over a period of time.  Reflection of skills development can significantly help to mature future skills development.

For example, suppose an employee outgrows the skills required within a particular department, but their expertise has demands outside their current department. In that scenario, the organization should be able to identify it quickly and arrange a cross-department move to best use their skills. Clear skills mapping saves time, money, and resources on hiring and training by best utilizing available skills.

Individual growth

As we have mentioned, ongoing training plays a significant role in employee satisfaction. Naturally, people tend to stay with an employer longer where they feel appreciated and invested in. With mapped-out data from matrices, organizations can offer personalized learning opportunities that lead to faster individual growth and development. Career progression also means fewer chances of  burnout. 

Mastering new skills and continuous learning also promotes growth in the overall business. It projects career progression and contributes to a more motivated workforce.

Improved internal mobility 

Internal mobility is the movement of employees within an organization. Effective internal mobility can promote growth for employees. However, it also means companies don't need to spend effort and time onboarding new employees, Instead hiring from within the organization. It also saves money by reducing the gap between current and target skills, reducing the total completion time for projects.

Well-mapped employee skills and competencies across departments are an excellent tool for finding people with the right competencies in other parts of the organization. It also helps managers identify skill gaps within a team and reach out to other teams to either fill the skills gap, or provide training to upskill in specific areas of weakness.

Improved employee retention

The visible evidence of appreciation through continuous learning and employee investments makes employees less likely to switch jobs. Skills matrices promote growth and set staff on a concrete path of progression. It helps identify personal weaknesses and maps out paths to overcome them - in short it provides the employee and the employer with a specific plan of action.

Skill training also increases the chance of promotion, making the employees less likely to jump to other companies at the first chance. Promote-from-within culture is a great way to motivate employees to work hard and develop new skills and in most scenarios can be  less costly than hiring-in. 

Upskilling and reskilling opportunities

Upskilling and reskilling are incredibly effective ways to utilize existing resources. It also saves human resources from spending time and effort in onboarding talents from outside of the company.

The skills matrix gives you a clear overview of the skill gaps and makes upskilling and reskilling more effective. It helps you create a successful skill acquisition plan. In addition, the visualization of skills makes the decision-making process smoother and faster, increasing the probability of project success.

Improves internal communication

One of the biggest challenges in corporate organizations is the gap in communication between management and staff. It often leads to employee dissatisfaction and detachment from employers. Rather than making it the HR and L&D professional's job to push training modules, the skills matrix shows the gaps between expected and current competencies directly to the employees and can be managed directly by the team leader/manager.

The clear line of communication helps to motivate employees to participate in skill development activities and understand the managerial decisions better. The skills matrix acts as a valuable career planning tool as well. Staff can use it to assess their skills and interests and pinpoint the areas that need work to succeed in their careers.  A skills matrix is a 'collectively' owned plan that requires the input of all vested stakeholders.

Difference Between Skills Matrix and Competency Matrix

The concept of the skills matrix and competency matrix are identical, which is why they are often used synonymously for each other. However, the two can vary significantly depending on their applications and levels.

As we have already mentioned, a skills matrix evaluates the employee's skills — not their other competencies often referred to as 'soft-skills' such as adaptability, social skills, learning speed, etc.

A competency matrix evaluates the knowledge, attitude, and skills of the employees. Basically, a competency matrix contains a skills matrix while packing more data. It is used and created by company management to recognize available knowledge, identify gaps, and plan accordingly.

How to Create a Skills Matrix for Your Employees

Step 1: Determine the required skills 

In the first step of creating a skills matrix, you need to identify the required skill that exist in a current team/function or in the scenario of a project, for the specific skills needed to complete the project.  Group the required skills in categories and subcategories. 

A skills matrix can be broken down into specific skills, or competencies and can range from very specific, to high-level.  For example, a competency matrix at a high-level may report on the following capabilities:

  • Teamwork
  • Responsibility
  • Commercial Awareness
  • Decision Making
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Trustworthiness & Ethics
  • Problem Solving
  • Organizational Skills

Start of simple to create buy-in as well as to reduce the 'time' impact of creating an initial skills matrix.  As you develop the concept and it is adopted by your company, you'll start to see the benefits.  From there build in more competencies, break-down competencies and increase the granularity of the reporting in order to improve the output analytics. We recommend starting with the most important skills (top 10 or 20) and working your way down. Soft skills such as marketing, communication, etc., often get overlooked. Remember to take them into consideration as well as your technical skills.

Step 2: Evaluate your employee's skills and interests

The best way to collect data on employee skills and interests varies across industries and organizations. It might be easier for a reasonably technical organization to identify hard skill levels, whereas grading soft skills can be more challenging. 

Some common ways to grade and classify employees' skills are:

  • Feedback from manager or supervisor
  • Direct assessments of skills
  • Certifications
  • Asking the employees to self-declare their skills, proficiency, and interests in each category
  • Job application data
  • Workflow / work allocation / management system

It's also beneficial to have employee evaluation in multiple stages. For example, a marketing professional who self-declares their expertise or interest in SEO could be evaluated by the SEO / IT team or department and visa-versa - long-term this helps to build a company repository of skill which helps you to rapidly identify skill and call upon as talent as and when required. 

Step 3: Store the data using a table or a matrix

There are multiple ways to store employee evaluation data in a skills matrix. The most common way is to use an Excel sheet. You can either create a skills matrix spreadsheet yourself or  invest in a skills matrix template. 

However, we recommend creating your own spreadsheet if you have a limited number of employees. Companies with multiple departments and complex structures would benefit more from using a skills matrix solution in the cloud, such as this one by ability6  . These templates are customizable and help visualize data more effectively and more rapidly.  You can opt for skills matrix software solutions for large-scale organizations with more integral complexities. These solutions usually come with the option of a consultancy service and a training matrix that can identify and more swiftly improve business process efficiency and staff upskilling.

Step 4: Sort the skills

As we have mentioned, one of the best use cases of a skills matrix is that it helps connect the right employee to their best interest and role. In this step, you need to consider each role within your organization and identify which employee has the required skill. 

Employees can utilize this data to identify and bridge any skill gaps. You can also sort the skills into categories based on their contribution to practical project completion.

As there is no magic wand to upskill everyone, in everything overnight you must prioritize skills development.  Consider the following factors, then sort your matrix left to right to understand and emphasis priority:

  • Likeliness of occurance (train the majority of people in the high-volume tasks/skills requirements first)
  • Priority (mark certain skills that are deemed important, such as those required by a regulatory body)
  • Complexity (often volume and complexity intertwine, with high volume work being low complexity and low volume work being more complex - ensure you have enough skills coverage for your complex tasks to ensure you mitigate an 'key wo/man dependencies).
  • Backlogs / Peaks (if you are aware of certain skills that would help to reduce a backlog, or help to manage know peaks such as seasons spikes, these should be considered)
  • Desired Skills (employees will always learn better and faster if they enjoy the work, or if they see a personal value to gaining the knowledge)

Step 5: Identify training needs 

Once the skills matrix is ready, it should show you the discrepancies between desired and available skills. If you have implemented priority sorting, then it will list the most important skills to update first sorted left to right.  Utilize this data to create and communicate training and development programs to help support employees improve their skills.  There is no greater sign of 'respect' to your team members than by showing them you care about and are invested in their future capability.

You can also allocate new assignments to your employees. For example, assigning an expert employee with the highest skill level as a trainer to train others (as you progress with your skills matrix, more trainers will be identified and can support rapid upskilling by enabling parallel training sessions/capability). If you cannot employ your current staff as trainers, consider hiring external trainers to achieve target competencies - this can be a long-term or short-term exercise.

6 Practical Tips for an Effective Skills Matrix

Every organization and the challenges they face are unique. Regardless of your chosen skills matrix, you are expected to run into some challenges whilst preparing the skills matrix. 

So, here are six practical tips for a successful skills matrix implementation and ongoing management –

  1. Although the skills matrix puts a great emphasis on upskilling, reskilling and training, you must keep in mind that human beings have limitations and disparities. Not everyone can have the highest level of expertise in everything, even with training.
  2. Creating a successful skills matrix requires effort and sincerity from both sides. Make sure your staffs are entirely on board to cooperate in the process.  Sharing the skills capability policy, asking them to contribute via a self-assessment and outling to them that the process will help them to progress in their career is a great way to engage all team members.
  3. Even though the general idea is that the more data you collect, the better it is, if you don't have the tools to handle a large amount of data, it quickly becomes a burden for you. Set a realistic goal for the level of data you need in the matrix - starting small and capturing the top 10 or top 20 skills is a great way to introduce the skills matrix.  The team will quickly see the value and be more willing to expand the use, capturing more data and reporting at more granular levels in order to achieve training excellence.
  4. Soft skills and hard skills are both crucial for the success of a project. However, we recommend separating the matrices, especially if your organization has complex needs.   Be prepared for the challenge of 'soft-skills', have a basic description of the characteristics you expect for example 'Communication' - what do you mean by this!  A basic description will help to remove ambiguity or confusion when setting individuals capability level.  Hard-skills are easier to define and rate.
  5. If you are using a template or software, it might not realize your industry-specific needs. Pay close attention to the sector- or industry-specific factors and customize your skills management policies and matrices accordingly. 
  6. Creating a skills matrix is a small part of skills management. You need to update the matrix continually, set upskill targets for your team, review the targets, celebrate successes with the team members and create an ongoing log for failed targets to achieve success.

What are the Levels of Proficiency?

The skills matrix uses proficiency levels to assign a number/visual indicator as to the employee's capability at a specific task. Although it differs significantly from company to company, here is a general overview of skill levels.

Level 0: No Skill Required.

  • No requirement for individual to be skilled in specific task or competency.  This is essential for creating a fair representation of skills expectation.

Level 1: In training

  • Expectation to be proficient within a set period of time (less than six months for example)
  • Training may have stated, but is not yet complete.
  • Individual does not yet understand the quality, speed, or characteristic requirements of completing the task or demonstrating the competency.

Level 2: Some capability

  • Training is well underway and may have even been completed.
  • The individual can perform the task, or understand the competency, however they are yet to 'do' it long enough to evidence that they have understood the training.
  • Complex output should continue to be checked by a level 3+

Level 3: Fully capable

  • All training has been completed.
  • The individual has 'demonstrated' that they have understood the training by evidencing a high quality of work / evidenced competence.
  • The individual is capable.

Level 4: Expert/Trainer

  • All training has been completed.
  • This individual has deep experience over a long period, consistently evidencing a high quality / throughput of work.
  • This individual can deal with complex issues, and/or take ownership for the development of others in this skill.
  • This individual can demonstrate cross-function subject matter expertise

Skills Matrix Templates

Team Skills Matrix, with Individual Training Plans

Even though you can create your own skills matrix using a spreadsheet from scratch, we recommend investing in a customizable template. A flexible and well-prepared skills matrix template will save time, energy, and effort while giving you the best insight into your employee skills and competencies.

So, we have prepared a skills matrix template for you based on our experience with clients over the past decade.  The matrix will kick-start your skills development journey. In this easy-to-use layout, team members are listed down the left-hand side, and the desired skills, processes, tasks, qualifications or competencies are listed along the top. Individuals are rated against each skill using a simple but highly effective rating system (as above). 

If you require a  team skills matrix with individual training plans  click here.  Alternatively, if you just require the team summary then this  skills matrix  will be ideal for you.

Download Version 2.01

Team Skills Matrix Summary

Download Version 1.51


A skills matrix is the complete mapping of the talents and skills within a team or an organization which is then compared against the target competencies. It is a highly efficient tool for reviewing and tracking performance, managing talents, and organizational planning.

A skills matrix can provide you with a complete overview of the entire organization, ensuring the best talent placement. It highlights the skill gaps and the necessary steps that management and leadership need to take to obtain the required skills for the 'future' state of the business, or for completing specific project. It also plays a crucial role in promotion and recruitment decisions.

Furthermore the skills matrix also creates a clear communication path between employer and employee. It gives the staff data-driven feedback on their performance, leading to clear career progression. Consequently, employee satisfaction and reduced turnover rate improve the organization's bottom line.

So, invest your time in creating an accurate skills matrix for your company and follow up with it properly to get ahead of market competition.