When hybrid working became the new normal, the HR function was setting off on a long journey. They had one goal in mind – adapting work processes to support team members while boosting business agility. Sounds straightforward, right?

For project-based businesses, there are multiple complex factors involved, introducing several hair-pin bends on the road to workforce transformation. For instance, skill mapping has become critical to quickly identify the right individuals for a project. While there are many facets that HR have to consider when sourcing the skills and people, the impact of a skill matrix is quite underrated. A skill matrix is a chart containing information about all the key skills needed for the business and how individuals in the business rank in terms of expertise on these skills. Its importance can only be understood if we dive into the HR’s point of view.

This is something Chris Prat, HR Manager at a multinational project-based organization called out as we spoke to him about why he is getting a skill mapping platform implemented. He said, “The quick benefits of a skill map translate into an accelerated hiring process with better end results. We are witnessing the change in conversations in the HR team now. The fire-fighting mode that the talent acquisition team was often seen in has changed to future hiring and strategy hiring mode. It changes the course of in-team conversations really.”

Here is a sneak peek into our conversation with Chris.

Q. Congratulations, Chris! A fantastic quarter for the business as well as the HR team?

A. Thanks! Yes, it has been a great quarter. The business has grown well, and the project team has recently delivered a project and received client accolade. It is all green in our accounts books as well! The HR team is now sharing the limelight with them since over 50% of the team were fresh hires. We were able to onboard the new hires and train the entire team well ahead of the project kick off date. Needless to say, the project completed all the milestones well-within time and budget. It feels great to be a part of the winning team!

Q. Before we delve into the nitty gritty of skill mapping, could you help us understand what is the need for it?

A. Sure, yes, let’s look at it. At the onset, skill mapping sounds like a linear process – make a list of the key skills that are needed in a business, assess each individual team member’s proficiency along these skills, help them add on adjacent skills with learning journeys, and use this matrix when you need to identify resources for a new project.

Q. Before we delve into the nitty gritty of skill mapping, could you help us understand what is the need for it?

A. Sure, yes, let’s look at it. At the onset, skill mapping sounds like a linear process – make a list of the key skills that are needed in a business, assess each individual team member’s proficiency along these skills, help them add on adjacent skills with learning journeys, and use this matrix when you need to identify resources for a new project.

Without this, we work from a place of sheer instinct – we would pick the individuals who are most visible for new projects, we could be overloading a few team members while the others don’t get the opportunities for learning or growth, we could be assigning tasks to colleagues who are not qualified for the job. It could break team dynamics, impact productivity, affect retention, and deter individual growth. The worst-case scenario would be a business that loses trust from employees and clients, and brand value. Especially for a project-based business, a skill-matrix approach to managing people has to be the norm – I cannot emphasize this enough. It would help in picking the best individuals for specific projects.

Q. We hear you Chris– it’s an insight-based way to work. So, you mentioned the impact on individuals. How about other functions in the business – how does the lack of a skill matrix impact them?

A. Say a new project kicks off. The sales team may have soft booked resources, but as the project kick off time approaches, the project management office has to assign team members for it. Suddenly, you realize that the team members you had in mind are still working on another project that was delayed. You have to now raise this with HR who has to scout externally or internally for the right people – delays become inevitable. This has an impact on the client’s trust and the company image. With urgent hirings, there’s an additional cost as you may have to pay recruitment agencies a premium to scout on short notice – the bottom line takes a hit.

Without a skill matrix, this phase of resourcing would seem like sitting in traffic for days, hoping to get to your destination. The angst is real for delivery and HR teams. All of this could be avoided if the HR and delivery teams had knowledge about current gaps and could forecast for future projects through a skill matrix.

Q. So, if it makes complete business sense, why do project-based industries still face roadblocks on this front? And what is the potential that this matrix can bring for a business?

A. Well, like I said, building a skill matrix seems like a linear process. But there’s a lot of thought that needs to go into maintaining and using this – this matrix has to be regularly updated, we have to account for mixed teams working across different geographies (so the time zones in which they are available to collaborate in and the languages they speak become add-on dimensions), and what’s more, we need to consider individual career aspirations. All of this is necessary if the project-based organization wants to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to hiring and resourcing. This will be the norm in the future, especially as businesses contend with critical worldwide talent gaps. We know this, but there is more potential to consider while investing our time in building one.

HR could use the skill matrix to create a bird’s eye view of the training and development needs for each function or role. They could then deliver short training capsules that can be easily consumed by team members between their project stints. Ultimately, to deal with the serious talent shortage, it becomes the onus of companies to optimize upskilling journeys. They can tailor and align upskilling to short-term project needs while also accounting for the long-term business strategy.

The skill matrix and analytics of past projects can also help identify existing skills which have shown significant demand in market and identify business opportunities based on such insights. We could also make insight-driven hiring and promotion decisions, and see how upskilling can help the existing workforce take up new opportunities. It’s a relief and quite empowering for HR and other functions. Imagine, no more last-minute hires – that’s the power of having a more systemized mode to mapping skills and bridging gaps. No more shots in the dark. A fool-proof way to build strong project teams.

Building a more cohesive mode of acquiring and retaining talent

When businesses are caught in the whirlpool of driving growth, delivering consistently, and finding talent, they don’t prioritize building a skill matrix. What they don’t realize at this juncture is that a skill matrix is central to all the other outcomes.

Without a detailed skill matrix, they are working with a lot of variables when they could be moving confidently towards the future with comprehensive insights. It is also critical for them to have integrated systems of record that can give a snapshot of current skills that are available to all the relevant users across functions like sales and delivery. This is the way to move away from chaos and introduce a greater degree of predictability to your processes.

If you are looking to learn more about how to adapt or fortify your talent strategy, start here and check out these blogs.

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