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What is the Skill Will Matrix?

What is the Skill Will Matrix?

What is the Skill Will Matrix?

Definition: Skill Will Matrix is a method that helps managers use the correct management style with people who have different levels of Ability and Motivation (Skill and Will).

How does the Skill Will Matrix work?

When using the Skill Will Matrix, we measure people against two fundamental criteria:

  • SKILL: their level of native ability, education, knowledge, training and experience.
  • WILL: their level of motivation, commitment, dedication and determination.

If we use SKILL and WILL as two base lines for a Matrix, then we can draw a 2x2 grid that generates four categories of worker, and four corresponding management styles.

Let us look at the four types of employees and the corresponding management styles:

Low Skill and Low Will.

These workers have low ability and low-level motivation. Consequently, our management style should be more directive and regulatory. We keep a close-eye on people who are in this group and we do whatever we can to train and motivate them.

We call this style of management, Supervisory.

Low Skill, High Will.

This means employees have low ability, but are highly motivated and committed. Consequently, our management style should be more focused on training new skills and building their knowledge and experience. They are willing to learn, so this is rewarding work.

We call this style of management, Supportive.

High Skill, but Low Will.

Which means they have a lot of ability, knowledge and experience, but have negative emotions, are cynical and demotivated.

Consequently, our management style is focused on motivating them to give us their best efforts, which we do by using incentives and encouragement.

We call this management style, Coaching.

High Skill, High Will.

This means staff have a great deal of ability, knowledge and experience, combined with a high degree of self-motivation and confidence. Consequently, we use a management style which allows them maximum freedom to express their creative talents.

We manage this group using a very light touch, because these people can manage themselves. So, we call this management style, Delegating.

How to use the Skill Will Matrix when recruiting

Recruiters should use the Skill Will Matrix in this way:

1. Prioritise your recruitment search to find High Skill Will candidates.

Determining high skill is easier than determining high will, because skill is an objective measure which can be verified by a person's educational qualifications, past achievements, and track record.

Determining high will is not easy because people put on a good performance at an interview and can fake a good attitude.

Consequently, recruiters should think carefully about what questions would give a reliable measure of an interviewee's genuine level of desire, commitment and will, to add value to an organisation.

2. Give second priority to Low Skill, High Will candidates.

Willing workers can easily be taught new skills, since they are willing to learn. Ensure they have the sufficient basic intelligence and education that permits them to learn necessary new skills.

We prioritise Low Skill, High Will because it is much easier to teach new skills, knowledge and information, than it is to try to motivate highly skilled, but cynical and negative people.

3.Give third priority to High Skill, Low Will candidates.

It is easy to justify employing people based upon their high skills, and it is tempting to do so.

But if High Skill, but Low Will, employees employ enter a workplace (ie they are cynical, disinterested, negative and lazy) then they cause more trouble than their skills are worth.

4.Deselect those prospects who fall into the category of Low Skill and Low Will.

Obviously, employers do not want people who have both low skills and a don't care attitude.

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About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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