February 12, 2013

The Five Stages of Learning as a Skills Matrix

Back in my corporate life, I was tasked with coming up with a way to show what skills and levels employees in my department had.  It was easy to come up with the skills necessary to do all the different jobs.  It was a little harder to come up with a way to measure those skills and get people to be honest about their own level of achievement without having to create tests. 

To make a skills matrix for the group, I used an Excel worksheet placed on the group server so everyone could access it for updates as they completed on-the-job or more formal training.   The worksheet had tabs for each type of team – an example of teams for Information Technology (IT) might consist of tabs for Programmers, Tech Writers, and Help Desk/Customer Support.  Down the first column were all the employee names.  Then across the top was the skills list.  Each employee was to find their name, then move across the skills list filling in their skill cell with a letter that indicated their level if it applied.  The cell was left blank if they did not have the skill or were not aware of what it was.  In the footer of the worksheet was a definition of the 5 Stages of Learning to be used to indicate different skill levels: 
  1. Novice (awareness only)
  2. Beginner (low skill requiring some help)
  3. Competent (can do average requirements)
  4. Proficient (high skill working alone)
  5. Expert (can teach others)

An alternative scale to use for a skill matrix is the 5 steps of progressive learning and Development outlined in The Outstanding Organization.  This is a numerical scale that corresponds somewhat to the 5 stages that fit into 3 categories of Learn (levels 1-2), Do (levels 3-4), and Coach (5th level).

  1. General awareness
  2. Deep understanding
  3. Beginning skill development
  4. Advanced skill development
  5. Master status
Having this matrix allowed us to know which people to put on jobs requiring high skills levels so the work could be done quickly.  It also allowed us to develop the skill-levels of those who were in the lower levels by partnering them with experts on other projects in which they wanted to increase their skills in a particular area. It also increased our awareness of where more formal training might be required for many members of the group if we did not have any people in the high skill levels.  In that case, we could arrange to have formal training brought in as we would have enough people to fill a class, typically at a discounted rate.  If a skill was important, yet we did not need a large number of people proficient at it, we could send someone who had an interest in learning the skill to a college course or out-of-plant training opportunity.

If you are in a training function, you may want to review the following white papers to help develop training plans to increase employee skills as well:
- Five Steps to Realizing Workforce Training Success
- 5 Steps for Success: Making the Business Case for Learning and Development

1 comment:

Anna Smith said...

Anyone tried Skills Base (http://www.skills-base.com)?