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How to use the skills matrix to improve team performance

January 22, 2024 | Operational Excellence

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At a Glance

  • Managers across all industries lamented the lack of technical expertise and essential soft skills in their workforces.
  • Skills gaps, where employees’ skills are insufficient to meet job requirements, can reduce an organisation’s productivity and profitability.
  • The skills matrix is a simple technique for managers to gain an overview of the strengths and weaknesses within their team.

Finding good talent with the right mix of technical skills and strengths to work for your organisation can be challenging. According to the 2022 Global Talent Shortage report, the global talent shortage is severe, reaching a 16-year high with 75% of employers reporting difficulties in recruiting the right talent for their organisations.   

Even when companies are lucky enough to find a candidate to fill a role, it may not be for long, with managers across all industries bemoaning the lack of skills in their workforces. This is not just about a lack of technical expertise in specific areas such as order processing or lab testing, but also a lack of essential soft skills such as communication, time management, and project leadership.   

Skills gaps reduce productivity  

Skill gaps, where workers’ skills are insufficient to meet the requirements of their current job, have the potential to reduce organisational productivity because the average worker is likely to be less productive due to significant skill gaps.  

Skill gaps could also increase average labour costs as organisations require more workers per unit of output. As a result, the profitability of organisations will be affected, in addition to additional investment in training existing employees and recruiting new candidates.  

The consequences are clear, yet few organisations use objective skills assessments to quantify the gap and design training to address the missing skills. In most cases, when leaders identify that employees lack the skills needed to perform their roles, the assumption is that human resource (HR) can help.  

Measuring skills with a matrix  

Tackling skills gaps, skills mismatches or talent shortages requires a strategic approach.  Managers need to use rational and effective tools to quantify the problem, measure the skills gap and invest in targeted training to bridge the gap.  

The skills matrix is a simple technique that provides a manager with a comprehensive overview of the strengths and weaknesses within the team, highlighting skills gaps and potential risks. Its versatility extends to all business processes and is commonly known as the flexibility matrix.  

Besides mapping skills, it can also be used to map the adaptability of individuals and the team. The matrix can be used to review the skills and competencies required for roles within the team, identify gaps, assess training needs, and build commitment to skills development within the team. 

How to develop the skills matrix  

1. Identify the roles within the team 

Begin by identifying the key tasks or roles that your team needs to perform. Ask yourself, “What are the essential skills that individuals in the team require?” Often, when an organisation creates virtual or classroom training to address an existing skills gap, it is simply too slow because by the time the training is delivered and completed, the need has changed.  

To stay ahead, anticipate future needs by considering new tasks and the skills required. If tasks become too complicated, break down job roles into key areas and develop a skills matrix for each, to ensure a systematic approach to assessing and improving skills within the team. 

2. Review and code performance standards 

To use the skills matrix effectively, introduce a coding system to identify those with the required skills and those who need training. The matrix can be presented in different ways. The simplest method is to place a cross in the relevant box for those who are competent and leave a blank for those who need training.  

Alternatively, a colour coding system can be used, with red representing no skills, yellow representing partial training in that area, and green indicating that the individual is fully trained in that area.  

3. Assess the need for on-the-job training  

To ensure proficiency in a particular skill, it is important to assess the number of people required to acquire the competence, as this variable influences the need for on-the-job training. The maximum number of people required to master a skill may fluctuate, affecting the need for additional on-the-job training initiatives.  

At his stage, consider a “skills accelerators” approach at this stage where existing resources and expertise are used to provide upskilling support to meet skills needs in a timely manner. 

Who should be responsible for employee training?  

The skills matrix helps to identify individual and team training needs. When addressing skills gaps or mismatches, it is important to note that the skills currently required for work vary by industry but may increase or decrease in importance over the next five years. For example, analytical thinking was a core skill in 2018 and 2020 but has declined, making way for a growing demand for creative thinking and technological literacy.  

In many organisations, leaders and managers are expected to identify skills needs, with HR taking on the role of implementing solutions. However, HR’s limited involvement with the business can lead to critical training needs being overlooked. In addition, HR functions may lack objectivity and have a biased view. As a result, the organisation may face resistance, as employees selected for training may perceive it as a threat to their jobs or existing working practices. This results in low employee engagement.  

One solution is to engage an external consultancy. With over 25 years of experience in operational excellence, including performance management, our change management experts at Renoir ensure project adoption using behavioural and cultural methodologies, to increase employee buy-in. This ensures sustainable value long after the project is delivered. 

Are you looking to improve the performance of your team and organisation?

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