When creating a competence or qualification matrix, the number and definition of levels are particularly important. There are several proven models for this, which are presented in this article.
What is a skill matrix?
The skill matrix, also called competence or qualification matrix, is a tool to show deviations between the existing competences and the job profiles ( based on the competence catalog of an organization.
For this, it is necessary to make all skills measurable and comparable. A competency model is needed.
The competency model
A competency model defines the degree to which a skill or competency is developed. Only through the competence model do skills become standardised and comparable. One of the best-known competency models is the school grading system.
Example: School grading system (Austria)
The grade “excellent” is awarded for performance in which the student meets the requirements of the syllabus in the comprehension and application of the subject matter as well as in the performance of tasks that go far beyond the essentials of their job.
The grade “good” is awarded to performances in which the student fulfills to an extent that goes beyond the essential. Or with appropriate guidance, skills to tasks that are new to him or her. the ability to apply his or her knowledge and
“Satisfactory” is awarded for performance in which the student fully meets the requirements of the curriculum in terms of comprehension and application of the subject matter. the requirements of the curriculum in the comprehension and application of thesubject matter as well as in the execution of the tasks.
“Sufficient” is awarded for performance in which the pupil predominantly fulfils the requirements of the syllabus in the comprehension and application of the subject matter and in the performance of the tasks in the essential areas.
The grade “Not Sufficient” is given to performances with which the student does not even meet all the requirements for the grade “Sufficient” (Paragraph 5).
Source: § 14 LBV (Leistungsbeurteilungsverordnung)
Each level of the competence model consists of a name and a universally applicable description. The levels are applicable regardless of the school subject.
Features of a competency model
The following characteristics apply to most competency models.
- Universally applicable to many competences
- Natural order of levels (Very Good, Good,…)
- The levels consist of a name and a suitable definition.
Competency models for practice
In the corporate context, several competence models are often used simultaneously to map different parts of the competence catalogue. There is usually one main model, such as the action-based model, which is applied to the majority of competencies. However, certain groups of competencies, such as spoken languages, are mapped with a specialised model such as the CEFR.
In the following, we present the most important models in practical use.
Career stage model
This model is based on known career stages in the company.
An IT company classifies developers into three career levels: Junior, Middle, and Senior. Based on these career stages, the individual competencies of the developers can now also be classified. With this model, a middle developer could have already reached the senior level in some competencies and only the junior level in others. However, from his position as a middle developer, he is expected to fulfil at least the middle level in most competencies.
- Junior: knowledge, experience and competence like a junior developer
- Intermediate: Knowledge, experience and competence of an intermediate developer.
- Senior: Knowledge, experience and competence as a senior developer.
If there are already appropriate career stages in the organisation, this model is quick to implement and easy for employees to understand. The number of levels is flexible and adapts to the career stages.
If there are many different career paths in different departments, the model can quickly become complex and the advantage of simple comprehensibility is lost.
This model should be used with caution, as people often associate their career level with their status in the organisation. Therefore, there might be overestimations to justify one’s career level. An unintended effect of this model could also be an increased sense of competition in the organisation.
This model is based on how a person can actually use a particular competence. Due to its simplicity, it is particularly recommended for organisations that are introducing competency management for the first time and can be applied to almost any industry. The level names can be freely chosen to suit each organisation.
- Supportive: Can support others with this skill but cannot work fully independently.
- Independent: Able to work independently with the ability to take responsibility for projects.
- Expert: Can work independently with the ability and also take responsibility for complex decisions, as well as coordinate with other people with a lower level of competence.
- Trainer: Can train others in this competence.
Simple and universally applicable model. Particularly suitable for the initial introduction of competence management. The levels can be freely adjusted. The last step “trainer” can be omitted if necessary.
For the core competencies of the company, the model is not always accurate enough. Placing a person at a competence level is often a subjective decision.
In the knowledge-based model, measurable criteria are defined for the individual competence levels. The criteria for the individual levels, as well as their number, must be defined individually for each company.
- Level 1: Basic theoretical knowledge. Little practical experience is available.
- Level 2: Advanced theoretical knowledge available. Practical experience has already been gained in at least one independent project.
- Level 3: Advanced theoretical knowledge available. The practical application of the competence can be proven by a continuing education certificate.
- Level 4: In-depth theoretical knowledge and practical experience of at least 120 project hours.
The number of levels, as well as their exact criteria, are very flexible and can be tailored exactly to the needs of the organisation.
It can be challenging to define criteria that can be universally applied to many competencies. In most cases, several variations of the model have to be created in order to represent different areas of competence appropriately. Creating a knowledge-based competence model, therefore, takes significantly more time than other models mentioned here.
In the binary competence model, there are only two expressions: The competence is present or not present. It is mostly used as a supplement to other competence models to map competencies for which a multi-level model does not make sense.
Valid B-class driving licence.
- Not available: No valid B-class driving licence available.
- Available: Valid B-class driving licence available.
Note: One might think that driving licences could also be mapped in a multi-level model, since there are several classes such as A, B, C, and D. However, this class does not have a natural order and does not have to follow one after the other. For an F-class driving licence, it is not necessary to have done A, B and C before.
The binary model is the simplest competency model. It is well suited to map competencies for which a multi-level model is not appropriate.
Due to the lack of levels, the model quickly reaches its limits and should usually only be used as a supplement to a multi-level competence model.
The experience-based model is suitable for mapping competencies that are difficult to measure. It relies on the natural experience that comes with the ongoing application of competence. Levels are measured by the time someone has spent exercising the competence.
Sales experience in a car dealership.
- Newcomer: At least 6 months of practical experience in car sales.
- Advanced: One year of practical experience in car sales.
- Expert: Four years of practical experience in car sales.
Allows the recording of competencies that are otherwise difficult to measure by precise criteria. The number of levels and their definition can be precisely adapted to the company.
Experience does not necessarily mean competence. Depending on their talent, some people learn faster than others. Even novices could suddenly achieve better results than people with a lot of professional experience if they have learned a new state of the art through prior theoretical training.
Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR):
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, also abbreviated “CEF”, is a European Union standard for language competencies. The individual levels are:
- A1 – Beginners
- A2 – Basic knowledge
- B1 – Advanced language use
- B2 – Independent use of language
- C1 – Competent language skills
- C2 – Approximate mother tongue proficiency
The meaning of the individual levels has not been taken over due to lack of space and can be read hereafter.
The model is very well known and has become the standard for assessing language competencies.
With six levels, the model is comparatively complex in the corporate context. It may be useful to map certain language competencies with a simplified model to reduce complexity.
The Achievement Model measures competencies by the achievement of certain goals, or milestones. It is particularly suitable for core competencies of the company, the learning of which usually involves a certain process. What is special about this model is that it shows employees their progress and can thus have a motivating effect. The motivating effect can be further enhanced if positive incentives and rewards are linked to the achievement of milestones.
Telephone sales in a call centre.
- Level 1: You have completed your first client!
- Level 2: You have won more than €5,000 worth of business deals!
- Level 3: You have won over 20,000€ worth of business deals!
- Level 4: You have won over 50,000€ worth of business deals!
- Level 5: You have won over 100,000€ worth of business deals!
The achievement of certain levels can be measured precisely. The criteria for the levels can be freely defined. If the model is designed correctly, it can have a motivating effect on the workforce.
Milestones do not always go hand in hand with actual competence. The creation of the competence model is particularly time-consuming because individual milestones have to be defined for each competence and the stages are not universally applicable.
This model can only be mapped with a professional skill management system like Skilltree.
Which model suits my company?
The right competence model always depends on the company’s requirements and industry. In principle, however, it is recommended to keep the competence model as simple as possible.
For a small to medium-sized company introducing competence management for the first time, we recommend mapping core competencies with the action-based model. Less critical competencies can also be depicted with the binary model. Language skills should be mapped with the CEFR model.
Before you commit to one or more of the competency models described here, be sure to check whether your skills management system can map it. Many skill management systems are limited in their flexibility. Skilltree supports all of the described models.