How a Skills Matrix can Supercharge Employee Progression

    By Lee Payne, Managed Services Engineering Lead

    Lee Payne

    This article was originally published on the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) website on October 3rd 2023.

    Staff and talent development pipelines are key to the success of modern organisations. Without a robust pipeline and process, companies risk significant competitive disadvantage.

    Organisations that prioritise talent development build a more skilled, motivated, engaged and adaptable workforce – it’s been found that retention rates are 34% higher in organisations that do so. They also deliver better products and services to customers. That’s not to mention how important effective talent development initiatives are for achieving the strategic goals of the organisation.

    This came into rapid focus for us at BJSS when the rapid growth of a new business unit left our junior engineers requiring additional support and advice around their training and progression opportunities.

    Prior to the new business unit being formed, BJSS tended to hire engineers who were already experienced in their field, which required a different way of working than bringing in graduates or early-career individuals and nurturing them through the ranks to become senior engineers.

    It made us realise we needed more formalisation for our employees’ skills and talent development. We wanted to provide resources and opportunities to empower our employees to take ownership of their career trajectories. By developing their self-sufficiency in learning and encouraging them to set goals, they would be able to acquire new skills and take on challenges with confidence.

    This prompted a redesign of our talent development pipeline – and, as we hoped, the new process has elicited additional investment in development from those who have engaged with it.

    This is how we did it.

    Grand (re)design

    The ultimate goal was to provide a simple-to-use, robust system to remove ambiguity around employee progression.

    As with any such project, our first step was to identify the current state of existing processes and procedures across the entire organisation, to help identify any required improvements and align any adjustments as closely as possible to them.

    Having consulted CMI Insights and CMI’s ManagementDirect to identify some best-practice approaches (and avoid reinventing the wheel), we ultimately landed on a documented skills matrix as the best strategy, since it helps people to understand the process and identify any areas for improvement. There are many variations of these; we used a simplified version of that from MindTools.

    Where am I now? Where am I going

    First, employees fill out a skills matrix to help determine what their current skill set is. The matrix scores employees’ perception of their skills from 0–10, with 0 being they’ve never heard of it and 10 meaning they know almost everything about the topic.


    Person 1

    Person 2

    Person 3

    Infrastructure as code








    Continual service improvement




    An example skills matrix

    To help them, they use the documented internal competency map for their role, which details what an employee should be able to do at each level (this also generally aligns with junior, middle and senior levels).


    Level 1

    Level 2

    Level 3

    Infrastructure as code

    Be able to create simple configurations

    Be able to create reusable modules

    Be able to design a suitable architecture


    Create simple scripts in your language of choice

    Be able to use cloud specific APIs

    Be able to create generalised scripts with advanced features

    Continual Service Improvement

    Work with delivery managers to implement CSI

    Be able to identify and document CSI activities

    Be able identify strategi CSI and support the management of the backlog

    An example competency map

    Having filled in the skills matrix, the employee now has a good idea of what level they are currently at and what’s required to get to the next level.

    This process also fulfils the requirement for tactical training, either plugging the gaps needed for a promotion or to ensure the employee has the skills required for the client they are currently working with.

    The five-year action plan

    We believe in long-term development, so we also introduced a career development plan (based on CMI’s Personal Development Planning template and modified to fit the needs of the company) to take into account the employee’s long-term goals. These goals are set by the individual with input from a senior member of the team who can advise them on the skills required beyond those that are purely function based.

    This feeds into a three-to-five year action plan aligned with BJSS’ strategic goals to develop staff for future roles. We work with each individual to ensure that their personalised long-term plan will set them up for success given the future plans of the business.

    Their plan looks at both the functional and non-functional requirements of advancement, as well as technical skills for the role. It includes areas such as personal marketing, understanding finance, understanding other parts of the business, and so on.

    This is to help staff become the “T-shaped employee” that a lot of modern organisations are keen to have. A T-shaped employee has deep knowledge and expertise in a given area, such as computing or finance, but also has a broad range of exposure in several other areas such as marketing, service management, sales, etc.

    Already seeing results

    This initiative is still in the early stages, and we are gathering information about how the process can still be improved. However, we have already seen a drive to complete the items identified on the personal development plan and a clearer focus on what needs to be accomplished in order to progress.

    This information has allowed employees to better focus on the things which are required for more senior roles rather than being unsure of what is required of them.

    It has also allowed for better documentation and identification of the skills required throughout the organisation – allowing for better resource utilisation, internal upskilling, and a robust talent pipeline which holds a wide pool of organisational knowledge, as well as the more generic skills required to succeed.