From Skills Matrix to Mentoring
Congratulations! You’ve done the hard work and now have a full and clear view of your services, the skills needed to run them, and who has said skills (regardless of whether or not they pay the bills).
Now is the time to put that knowledge to good use and start skilling up your team. This article is aimed at examining the process of taking a good Skill Matrix and using it to build a mentoring program so that your team can get the career progression they need.
Identifying Personal Needs
Assuming you have some form of PDR process (Personal/Professional/Performance Development Review, delete as appropriate as it seems nobody agrees on which one it is!), you’ll now be asking the questions of each employee: what skills do you need to further develop, and what skills would you like to develop.
These will be skills that the employee has to have to function in their job. Note that these are different from departmental needs which will be covered later. This could be anything from a Health and Safety course to some form of certification or legal requirement.
Employees will almost always have skills which they would like to further develop or to start learning. Identifying these, and how they can fit in with that employees role (or future role in the case of career progression), will help develop a healthy employer-employee relationship.
Statistics show that 1 in 5 surveyed workers say a lack of career development as their top reason for leaving a previous job (Work Institute Retention Report 2017), and that half of workers say that investing more in professional development is one of the highest-impact strategies to fight stress that their company can do ( Overcoming Workplace Stress Study, Udemy). Finding a way to mesh desired skill development with service requirements can be a quick win to improve an employee’s enjoyment of their job and, ultimately, their mental health.
Identifying Departmental Needs
In addition to what individuals may want or need in regards to their skill development, you’ll also need to identify those skills that your services require to continue to run well.
Using your Skill Matrix, you can easily identify those skills that have no representation. It can be a little harder, however, to identify those that are simply under-represented. The ones that have one or two people with low-to-medium levels of proficiency in.
It’s at points like this where automated Skill Matrix tools like Expertise Matrix can be invaluable as they can, with little effort, help you to isolate the under-represented skills, and set about developing your targets so that the gaps can be filled.
You will also need to be aware of upcoming changes to your services which may require new or modified skill sets. These will also require targets so that you can make sure the base skills are there when the service needs to be delivered.
Sourcing a Mentor
Now that you’ve identified your targets and know where training needs to occur, it’s time to think about how best to make those changes. While courses and self-led-learning have their place for many skills, some will benefit greatly from using a mentorship program.
This can take one of various forms: job shadowing, direct training, hands-on-experience, project work, or just plain practice. But identifying a mentor and setting up the program requires collaboration.
Once you’ve identified someone with sufficient proficiency in the skill in question, you must check that they are ok with being a mentor: do they have the time? Do they even feel they could take responsibility for someone else’s learning? If the answer is yes, you then need to come up with a work plan.
A mentoring work plan needs to lay down: what is going to be covered (what skill is being developed), what are the goals of the development (what proficiency is expected of the mentee), and how long do you expect the program to take. We’ve developed a very simple PDF document template which can be used for this, it can be downloaded for free from here.
Planning a mutually agreeable and realistic schedule
In my experience, allowing mentors/mentees to self-regulate their schedule can produce undesirable results. Either results are rushed because one or both are eager to be getting on with other things, or they drag on because one of both don’t want to, or cannot commit to the time required.
For this reason, it is recommended that a mutually agreeable and realistic schedule is set up from the very beginning. The details of this will be dependent on a number of factors, but you may consider the following options:
Allot a chunk of time during a short period to get the mentoring done in one go, sacrificing all other work for the duration.
Set a day and time each week to work on the mentoring for a short period of time each session.
Define a minimum amount of time per week to work on the skill, but allow the mentor/mentee to agree on the exact time slots. Just as long as the minimum amount of time is filled.
Finally, you need to agree with the mentee what are their measures of success. What minimum level of proficiency do they need to achieve for the mentorship process to be considered a success.
Always remember to make sure this is achievable in the timespan you’ve set, and to allow a little wriggle room so that failing to fully reach the lofty goals initially set isn’t considered a complete failure. You may also define failure remediation steps, such as additional mentoring, or other training.