How to Build an Effective Competency Matrix

In ISO 9001:2015, the clause 7.2 specifically requires an organization to determine the necessary competency of employees and ensure they are qualified on the basis of appropriate education, training, or experience.

Therefore, many organizations maintain a competency matrix with nomenclatures as Qualification Matrix or Skills Matrix to determine the required competency for employees working in different functional areas to identify any skill gaps,  bridge those gaps through a well-defined competency development program such as training programs and assessments to verify employee comprehension.

Often times it is debated within organizations whether the competency matrix should be prepared and maintained by the HR Department. or the responsible Operational Managers. Though, we’ll not touch on this controversial topic here, keep in mind that the post below is specifically meant for Operational Managers to help them develop an understanding to identify the skill gaps, growth opportunities for their employees and ensure job activities are effectively completed.

A Competency Matrix is typically a table that displays people’s proficiency in specified skills and knowledge.

All businesses have the requirement for qualified employees. The more competent the people, the better potential business results. However, under certain critical environments such as technical tasks or safety compliances, it is important to understand what employees comprehend about their specific jobs tasks.

Have a look at figure 1 and take the following steps to prepare a Skills Matrix for your team:

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  1. Start with Job Description (JD):

Have a look at your job description document and ensure that for a particular job function the needed skill and its level are determined in it. If not then you may need to amend the JD of each function for specifically mentioning the needed skills to perform that job effectively. In other words, your competency matrix should have a link with the JD of various functions within the organization.

  1. Determine the cluster of skills:

It is advisable if you could figure out various clusters of skills to group the various skills or the training topics meant to develop a particular skill. For example, you may determine a cluster of basic skills needed for all job functions like Induction training, know-how of general requirements for the applicable industry, basic safety procedures etc. And, then separate cluster of technical topics of critical skills. For instance, you may form a separate cluster of topics related to the management systems and group all types of skill required on ISO standard such as basic skills, internal auditor skills or advance knowledge of various management systems being followed within the organization. If you wish then may put the 7 QC Tools, Six Sigma etc. in the same cluster.

  1. Discuss with Team:

Discuss with each team member his or her knowledge and even their interest areas ranging all other areas beyond their scope of work too. It’ll help you to utilize their excess knowledge for other job functions as well.

Wherever necessary you may use appropriate assessment methods to determine their skill level. Not to forget the 360 degree feedback comments or performance appraisal documents for focuse areas of improvement needed for a particular employee.

  1. Focus on ‘Should’ vs. ‘Actual’ level:

Prepare a skill matrix by determine the ‘should’ level of competence to effectively perform a job function such as:

  • The employee has a basic knowledge. Can do the task independently (Basic Level):
  • The employee has the skills for independent task completion and quality that go beyond the basics (Advance Level):
  • The employee has the skills for independent and qualitative task completion and can effectively pass on this knowledge further. (Expert)
  • The employee has the skills for independent and qualitative task completion and may initiate optimization approaches, sources of error fix and work out solutions (Specialist):

Thereafter, map it and mention the ‘actual’ skill level of the employees against a particular skill. The shortfall will be the gap for which you need to work in order to fill those gaps.

You may design your matrix by putting staff name, ID, function, designation etc. and the skill in vertical manner and the identified cluster of skills and the associated skills/topics as horizontally. Mention the ‘should’ and ‘actual’ vertically and add another topic for ‘training plan’. Refer fig. 1. You may use to indicate the pending training status (as Red) planned date of training (as yellow) and thereafter the completed date of training (as Green).

Incorporate all the information you gather in the Matrix and review with each team member the portion of the matrix that contains his or her information.

  1. Develop a Competency Development Plan

The identified skill gaps will be basis of your organizational training program which you may fulfill by planning inhouse/open house training programs and wherever applicable On-job Training or Mentor-Mentee programs can be introduced.

  1. Keep Track on Training Program Fulfillment

Keep a regular check on fulfillment level of the training programs for the nominated employees and seek the intervention of the management wherever needed such as during non-fulfillment of training needs after a considerable time span. Refer figure 2.

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7. Your Competency Matrix: A Live Document

Remember that your Competency matrix is a live document. It must not sit on the shelves. Hence you should keep a track of training plan and update the completed or replanned training dates in your matrix by highlighting it in the pre-determined colours. Refer point no. 4.

The Qualityze Training Management suite makes it easier for companies to Certify Employees for Compliance, Drive Efficient Training Processes, Improve Employee Effectiveness with Organizational Oversight while facilitating IT and Regulatory Compliance.

Qualityze Training Management Software is a comprehensive solution for ensuring employee job quality and compliance by managing personnel skill sets/certifications and streamlining course management activities. The system fully supports your organization’s enterprise training process and will help you anticipate and proactively respond to training needs – enabling you to build consistent, efficient employee behaviors to increase productivity, reduce job quality issues, and meet industry and regulatory requirements.

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Author - Deepak Mishra
The writer is associated with Qualityze Inc and has implemented and audited quality management systems for over a decade. He served as implementer within quality and operations and led the competency development programs mostly in the large sized organisations. His credentials include certifications as a Quality Management Systems Lead Auditor and an MBA.