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fish bowlIt all starts with an employee coming into your office and saying the dreaded “I am giving you my notice. I am going to…” fill in the blank. You are genuinely happy for them as they pursue their dreams of trekking in the wilderness or as they take their next logical career step, but deep down your heart is sinking and you can fill the blood drain from your face as you muster up the energy to give them a smile and wish them well.

Having an employee leave, especially someone who has been a stellar employee for a long time, can throw an organization into a state of chaos. Or not, depending on how you look at it.
One of the ways to mitigate the impact of an employee departure is to consistently keep track of the skills you have in your organization. Then when someone leaves, you are clear about what you need to look for when replacing them. One way to keep track of this is with a Skills Matrix.

A skills matrix is completed for a team or a department within an organization and it assists for both the assigning of work for current employees and also for identifying where the gaps are in the skills that exist within the organization. You can also easily identify training needs if someone has a skill set but not at the level that they wish. A skills matrix is an excellent support to the performance management process.

Here is how it works:

Start a table and list all your employees in the department or the team across the top. Down the left hand column, indicate the skill set that you require for that position. Then indicate which employee has which skill set. To make it even more useful, indicate to what level the employee has the skill (i.e. beginner, intermediate, advanced). This then gives you a very clear picture of what you have in terms of skills and what you need. It makes it very easy to see a gap in skill set, making it easy to set your hiring priorities.

skills-matrix

This is just an example of what a skills matrix can tell you.

In this case, it is clear that if Peter left the organization, there would be a need to replace him with someone who had advanced skills in project planning and budget management of projects (less than $2M dollars in size) that did not rely heavily on technical knowledge. This also shows that Sue could grow her skills in becoming intermediate in her skill set and John could benefit from some experience in managing projects that are over $2M in size. Suddenly, replacing Peter doesn’t seem so overwhelming when you clearly understand what skill set he has expertise in.

Your Engaged HR Assignment:

Start with one team and complete a Skills Matrix for them. Discuss it with the team and collaboratively design what skills are important to track. Sit down individually with members of the team and discuss where their skill level is and take advantage of this performance discussion opportunity. You just may be surprised at what you learn! Would love to hear how it goes for you – feel free to comment below.

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