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Managing a team of employees comes with numerous challenges, and differences in their abilities and willingness to put in effort makes coming up with a strategy or managing technique even more difficult. The Skill Will Matrix is a model that can provide you with the guidance you need to best manage your employees. 


What Is the Skill Will Matrix? 

It is a tool used by managers and leaders to assess an individual skill level and willingness to perform a specific task. It assesses an individual’s performance based on two factors: skill — which is essentially their competencies — and will — which is their motivation. The matrix helps managers understand different types of individuals and apply management techniques that will help those individuals perform better at their tasks or roles. 

The Skill Will Matrix was derived by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard from the Situational Leadership Model. A model they created in the 1970s that helps managers match their leadership style to a specific situation and individual with the aim of improving the outcome and overall team condition.

The Difference Between Skill and Will 

Skill is the competency an employee has at doing specific tasks or how effective they are in their role. This can be an employee’s capabilities based on their experience, training, knowledge and natural ability. An employee’s skills can be evaluated and measured objectively in terms of proficiency. 

Will, on the other hand, signifies the employee’s motivation to complete a task or to be effective in their role. There are numerous factors that can affect an employee’s will, factors such as the employee’s personal and professional goals, their support system, employee confidence, their leadership and overall workplace environment. 

It is clear that you need to be engaged with your employees in order to be knowledgeable about their skills and understand the motivating factors that impact their will. Having this knowledge will give you the ability to use their strengths to better their performance, and improve their weaknesses to achieve the same result.

The Difference Between Skill and Will

The Four Quadrants of the Skill Will Matrix 

The matrix is divided into four quadrants. Employees fall into different quadrants depending on the combination of competency and motivation to complete a task. The quadrants help you make an informed decision on the managing techniques that will work best for each of your employees. 

1. High Skill, High Will 

These are your high-performing employees; they have both high levels of skill and will. They are able to motivate and drive themselves to complete tasks effectively. This employee has above-average capabilities and excels in their role. They tend to have the ability to deliver without management intervention. This is often an experienced type of employee who is looking to advance their career. 

2. High Skill, Low Will 

These employees are potential detractors. They have the ability to perform the task well and excel in their role but lack motivation and drive. They may not be engaged in their work because they need a new challenge, or they might simply be bored in their position. They may need to find a new goal or incentive to work towards. 

3. High Will, Low Skill

These employees are contributors. They show all the motivation and willingness to work and complete the task but lack the necessary skills to perform it effectively. These employees are typically new and enthusiastic about getting the job done. They are great candidates for coaching and training as they are eager to learn and develop new skills. 

4. Low Skill, Low Will 

These are your low-performing employees. They don’t have the skill or will to complete the task or excel in their role. They are usually individuals who are in the wrong role, or beginners who are still learning but afraid to reach out for help. 

Coaching Individuals in Each Quadrant 

The Skill Will Matrix allows you to understand different types and employees and apply coaching techniques that will help you better their performance. Managers and leaders apply a specific coaching technique depending on the quadrant an employee falls under.

1. Empower 

This is for employees who have both high skill and high will. Since they are often looking to grow in their roles, you should empower their success. You can do this by encouraging them to take responsibility and involve them in the decision-making process. Praising and rewarding them will keep their motivation high. A good example would be assigning this type of employee as a peer coach or allowing the employee to shadow you while you manage. 

2. Motivate

This is for employees who have high skill but low will. They have the skill but lack the motivation, and many of them may have had the motivation at some point but lost it over a period of time. There are numerous factors that may have contributed to their current lack of motivation. You should find out what motivates them, develop incentives, praise their work, and recognize and reward success. For example, you could shift the employee to another section or department that fits their skill set, giving them new challenges and tasks. 

3. Direct

This is for employees who have low skill and low will. You should identify the reason for the employees’ low motivation. Find what motivates them and provide them with it. To increase and improve their skill set, you should identify and provide the necessary training and tools to help them complete tasks. You should also set clear rules and deadlines, monitor their performance and provide feedback, and give them praise when necessary. 

4. Guide 

This is for employees who have low skill but high will. They are typically new to the job or task and they are often enthusiastic but lack the necessary skills it takes to perform effectively. You should identify the employees’ skills gaps and invest in training and tools early on. It is important to create a risk-free environment for employees to learn. As with all the other ones, managers should provide feedback and praise the employees. 

When Is the Skill Will Matrix Useful? 

The Skill Will Matrix can be useful when organizations are going through transition periods or just experiencing significant changes, like getting a new employee or improving leadership. The Skill Will Matrix is a great tool to help you understand your employees’ capabilities and motivations.

It can also be helpful when an employee is re-entering the workforce. They could’ve been away from work for a number of reasons, such as maternity leave, or because of an illness. But, in any case, returning to work can be challenging. Managers can use the Skill Will Matrix to help them easily transition back into their professional life.

This framework can also be beneficial for you as it gives you an opportunity to learn how to have essential conversations with employees that can help ensure that they are placed in a position they will succeed in. 

Wingmate Insights Future of CRMs

The Will Skill Matrix is a useful and valuable framework that is a good starting point for assessing your employees’ performance and the coaching techniques that they require. This framework allows you to identify and bridge your employees’ skill gaps, utilize their strengths for better performance and use what motivates them to increase their willingness to succeed. This not only betters the employees’ work experience but also helps you manage them effectively.

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