Competency vs. Skill Matrix: How to Use Them Strategically to Boost Talent Management
"An organization's ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage." Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric.
As a celebrated leader, Jack Welch's reflection is a testament to the importance of organizational skills and competencies.
Welch understood the value of skills—acquired through learning—and competencies—which translate learning into action, for instance, through problem-solving, decision-making, or adaptability.
This article will:
- Explore how competency and skills matrices can be used as strategic tools in talent management.
- Discuss the similarities and differences between a competency vs skill matrix. Though closely related, they're not the same.
- Show how, when used together, competency and skill matrices provide a comprehensive framework for assessing, developing, and leveraging talent at your organization.
💪 What is a skill matrix? How is it used in an organization?
A skill matrix is a grid that maps specific skills against employees to identify strengths and skill gaps.
You can view skill matrices as inventories of your people's skills. They also help to identify skills gaps that can be addressed through training and development.
The benefits of skill matrices are:
- Identify skills gaps: Skill matrices offer a systematic way to highlight skill gaps in teams or departments.
- Support decision-making: They assist task allocation and project planning by clearly outlining the skills within each team.
- Simplify recruitment: They offer a template for the skills required from new hires, streamlining the recruitment process.
🌟 What is a competency matrix? How is it used in an organization?
A competency matrix is a tool that maps the skills, knowledge, behaviors, and capabilities required for a team or organization to perform effectively.
A competency matrix is closely related to a competency model, which is a framework that outlines the competencies needed for each role in an organization.
So, a competency matrix is more comprehensive than a skills matrix, offering a holistic view of the attributes required for performing in different roles.
A competency matrix maps competencies to different organizational roles and measures and assesses those competencies.
The core competencies of managers, for instance, would include:
- results orientation;
- communication skills;
- decision-making expertise;
- the ability to set goals and prioritize projects.
Other examples of core competencies required in organizations include:
- willingness to learn;
- building work relationships;
- time management;
- data handling.
But the expected level of mastery for each competency would be different across levels.
For example, there will be considerable differences between an intern content marketer and a senior content marketer. The competency matrix shows the differences in skill mastery and behaviorally anchored expectations from the role. The focus is on what the employee has to achieve and HOW they do it.
The benefits of competency matrices are:
- Holistic employee evaluations: A competency matrix considers hard skills and soft skills, behaviors, and attitudes. This enables a more comprehensive assessment of an employee's suitability for their role.
- Targeted professional development: By identifying gaps in skills and behaviors, a competency matrix can guide more personalized and effective professional development plans, enhancing individual and team performance.
- Improved succession planning: By identifying high-potential employees based on a wide range of competencies, succession planning becomes more accurate and efficient.
➡️ Looking for concrete examples of how to map competencies to roles in your organization? Check out this competency matrix template to help shape success for your people's careers.
🆚 Competency vs. skill matrix: Key differences and similarities
Differences between competency and skill matrices
The key differences between competency and skill matrices relate to their scope and application.
A competency matrix has a broader scope than a skill matrix since it includes attributes beyond skills, such as knowledge, abilities, behaviors, and attitudes. A skill matrix, on the other hand, is focused on specific skills for employees.
A competency matrix is used for organization-wide purposes, including strategic planning for recruitment, performance management, and career progression frameworks.
A skill matrix is used in a more operational manner, such as for workforce planning, task allocation, and identifying areas for training and development.
➡️ Looking for inspiration in mapping your people's career progression? Check out these curated career progression examples to help boost your career pathing efforts.
Similarities between competency and skill matrices
The key similarities between competency and skill matrices are:
Both are used to assess and manage talent within an organization. They help to identify gaps, plan for future needs, and align individual capabilities with company goals.
Both take the form of grids that map competencies or skills along one axis and job roles or individuals along the other axis. Each cell in the grid indicates the level of proficiency of the individual or role in the competency or skill.
Facilitating career development
Both skills and competency matrices are used to support career development by identifying training needs and areas for improvement, whether for an individual or a team.
More relevant and targeted training programs can be deployed based on skill and competency-based evaluations.
When to use a skill matrix vs. a competency matrix
Which type of matrix is best to use in different situations?
Let's consider a few examples.
🕵️♀️ When should I use a skill matrix vs a competency matrix? 7 Scenarios explored
Here are some real-world scenarios to further illustrate how competency and skill matrices are applied.
Scenario 1: Industry undergoing significant change
If your industry is undergoing significant change, use a skill matrix to audit your people's skills. Then compare them against expectations for future skill demands.
Consider the case of a traditional publishing company facing the rise of digital media. The company needs to transition from print to digital publishing to stay competitive.
With a skill matrix, you can survey the skills of the company's people and identify what's missing for future adaptability.
You may find, for instance, that strong skills exist in traditional publishing but are lacking in digital media, e.g., search engine optimization (SEO) and digital content management skills.
A skill matrix will help you identify these gaps and help the company focus its training and development on what's required for future adaptability and growth.
➡️ Check out the leadership skills your people need to adapt and thrive in a changing workplace.
Scenario 2: Updating career progression framework
If you're updating your career progression framework to help retain and grow top talent, use a competency matrix. This will outline the competencies required for each role in your organization and show your people what's needed for progression.
A competency matrix will give your people a good understanding of what's required for success. It will help support planning and discussions during performance reviews.
Giving your people clarity like this should improve their engagement, retention, and overall satisfaction.
🗺️ Check out our analysis of the best career management software and how they stand out.
Scenario 3: Establishing a new L&D program
If you're starting a new L&D program, use a skill matrix to identify the current gaps within your workforce while considering future skill requirements (as in scenario 1).
Consider the example of a manufacturing company that wants to establish a new L&D program to improve productivity and output quality.
A skill matrix can be used for a gap analysis and to identify where critical skills are missing.
For instance, the skill gap analysis may reveal that training in lean manufacturing and quality control is required. So use this insight when designing your new L&D program.
Scenario 4: Improving performance management
The competency matrix is your first step to enabling this process. It will come in handy for creating clear role descriptions and setting out performance expectations.
Suppose a financial services company is having issues with vague role descriptions and unclear performance expectations. In that case, a competency matrix will help clarify what's required for each role.
A competency matrix provides a coherent framework for performance management so that the company's people are evaluated against the specific competencies associated with their roles. This will facilitate more objective and transparent performance management frameworks, enhancing employee satisfaction and performance.
Scenario 5: Running competency-based performance reviews
To enable competency-based performance reviews at your organization, use a competency matrix.
There's a clear connection here—competency-based reviews evaluate people based on competencies, and a competency matrix articulates the competencies required for each role.
For example, consider a healthcare company that moves towards competency-based reviews to provide a more holistic evaluation of its staff.
A competency matrix defines the expectations for each role, not only on technical skills but also critical behavioral competencies, such as teamwork and patient care.
Competency matrices enable a more comprehensive understanding of your people's performance and targeted development plans.
➡️ Use our competency-based performance review template as a shortcut for your next review cycle.
Scenario 6: Merging two teams
If you're in the process of merging two teams at your organization, use a skills matrix. This will help you understand each team's competencies and where the gaps are.
Consider a tech company that acquires a smaller startup.
In this scenario, a skills matrix can identify areas of overlap and gaps between the teams at the two companies. This helps inform how the teams are integrated and how well they're balanced across the core competencies required for the merged entity.
Scenario 7: Launching a new product line
If you're launching a new product line and want to equip your sales teams with skills relevant to the latest products, use a skill matrix.
For example, if a retail company is launching a new product, a skill matrix can assess the team's current skills and identify what's missing in relation to the new product. The matrix may reveal a need for targeted training on the product's technical features, unique benefits, and specific sales techniques that will work best for the new product.
🤹🏽 How to combine a competency matrix and a skill matrix for more effective talent management
As we've seen, competency matrices and skill matrices have their specific uses and benefits, and either may be a good choice depending on your particular context.
But what if we can use both? Would this lead to better talent management?
There are many situations where using both matrix types enhances organizational talent management. By leveraging the strengths of both tools, you can apply a more comprehensive and complete approach to talent management.
Here are a few examples.
➡️ Zavvy: Your one-stop-shop for developing your people
In talent management, competency and skills matrices are essential tools to help align your people's capabilities with your business objectives. Both have important roles to play in different situations.
Better still, you can combine the benefits of both to boost your talent management approach. When working in tandem, they offer a more powerful and comprehensive framework for your people's performance, training, and development.
With Zavvy, our sophisticated tools work in an integrated system to enhance the value both types of matrices bring to managing talent and career paths at your organization.
- Define competency matrices across departments, roles, and levels. Compile them in structured career paths.
- Conduct competency-based performance reviews using the competency matrices as guidelines for your evaluators.
- Scrutinize skill and competency profiles at individual, team, department, and company levels.
- Bridge skill gaps with an extensive learning library with over 10.000 learning resources tagged by skills and competencies.
📅 Book a free 30-minute demo to see how to bring out your people's full potential with Zavvy's 360° growth system.
What is the difference between a skill and a competency?
A skill is a specific learned ability required to carry out a task or job, usually gained through training or experience.
Examples include proficiency in a foreign language or the ability to use a specific type of software.
On the other hand, competency is a broader concept that includes skills but also encompasses knowledge, abilities, behaviors, and attitudes that contribute to a person's capability to perform effectively in a job or situation.
Competencies often underline how a skill is applied or used effectively in the workplace.
For example, a competency could be effective communication involving skills such as speaking, writing, and listening.
Is competency mapping the same as skills mapping?
Skills mapping focuses strictly on identifying and tracking specific skills within a workforce. In contrast, competency mapping is broader, encompassing the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors contributing to job performance.
In other words, competency mapping provides a more holistic view of an employee's capabilities and potential.