A Complete Guide to Skill Will Matrix

By hrlineup | 03.06.2024

The Skill Will Matrix is a powerful tool used in management and leadership to assess and manage team members’ performance, motivation, and development needs. This guide will delve into the matrix’s intricacies, offering a comprehensive understanding of its application, benefits, and limitations.

What is the Skill Will Matrix?

The Skill Will Matrix is a diagnostic tool that helps managers evaluate employees based on two critical dimensions: their skill level and their will (motivation) to perform tasks. By plotting individuals on this matrix, managers can identify appropriate strategies for development, delegation, and performance management.

The Two Axes

  • Skill: This axis represents the competence, experience, and knowledge an employee possesses related to their job responsibilities. It ranges from low to high.
  • Will: This axis signifies the motivation, commitment, and willingness of an employee to perform their tasks. It also ranges from low to high.

By combining these two axes, we get a 2×2 matrix with four quadrants, each representing a different type of employee.

The Four Quadrants

1. Low Skill, Low Will (Quadrant I):

Employees in this quadrant lack both the necessary skills and the motivation to perform their tasks. They may be new hires, struggling with personal issues, or misaligned with their job roles.

2. Low Skill, High Will (Quadrant II):

These employees are highly motivated but lack the skills required to perform their tasks effectively. They are eager to learn and improve but need proper guidance and training.

3. High Skill, Low Will (Quadrant III):

Employees in this quadrant possess the necessary skills but lack the motivation to apply them. This could be due to burnout, disengagement, or dissatisfaction with their role or the organization.

4. High Skill, High Will (Quadrant IV):

These employees are the ideal performers. They are both highly skilled and highly motivated, often delivering excellent results and contributing significantly to the organization’s success.

Applications of the Skill Will Matrix

Performance Management

The Skill Will Matrix is instrumental in performance management. By identifying where each team member falls on the matrix, managers can tailor their approach to better support and develop their employees.

1. Low Skill, Low Will:

  • Strategy: This group requires close monitoring and a lot of support. Managers should first identify the root cause of the low will. If personal issues are affecting their performance, addressing these empathetically can help. Additionally, providing clear instructions, setting small, achievable goals, and offering frequent feedback can boost both skill and will. Training and mentoring are critical.

2. Low Skill, High Will:

  • Strategy: Focus on training and development. These employees are motivated to learn, so providing them with educational resources, on-the-job training, and opportunities to develop new skills is crucial. Pairing them with a mentor can also accelerate their skill acquisition.

3. High Skill, Low Will:

  • Strategy: Understanding the reasons behind low motivation is essential. This might involve addressing workplace issues, providing new challenges, or altering job responsibilities to better match their interests. Recognition, rewards, and aligning their tasks with their personal or professional goals can help reignite their motivation.

4. High Skill, High Will:

  • Strategy: These employees should be empowered and challenged with advanced responsibilities. They can take on leadership roles, mentor others, and be involved in strategic projects. Recognition and opportunities for further growth are essential to keep them engaged and motivated.

Talent Development

The Skill Will Matrix can also be a valuable tool for talent development and succession planning. By understanding the current capabilities and motivations of team members, managers can create targeted development plans that prepare employees for future roles within the organization.

  • Developing Future Leaders: High Skill, High Will employees are prime candidates for leadership roles. Providing them with leadership training, challenging projects, and exposure to different parts of the business can prepare them for higher responsibilities.
  • Building Skill Sets: For Low Skill, High Will employees, a focus on continuous learning and skill development is key. Encouraging a growth mindset and offering resources for professional development will help them move into higher skilled roles.
  • Re-engaging Employees: For High Skill, Low Will employees, re-engagement strategies, such as job rotation, new projects, or involvement in decision-making processes, can help renew their interest and motivation.
  • Onboarding and Training: For Low Skill, Low Will employees, structured onboarding programs and initial training sessions can provide the foundation they need to develop both skill and will over time.

Benefits of Using the Skill Will Matrix

  • Personalized Management: The matrix allows managers to tailor their approach to individual employees, ensuring that each person gets the support and resources they need to succeed.
  • Improved Employee Engagement: By addressing both skill and will, managers can create a more engaged and motivated workforce, leading to higher productivity and job satisfaction.
  • Enhanced Performance: Targeted interventions based on the matrix can lead to improved performance across the team, as employees are better supported and developed.
  • Better Talent Development: The matrix helps identify future leaders and develop talent pipelines, ensuring that the organization is prepared for future challenges.
  • Efficient Resource Allocation: By understanding where employees fall on the matrix, managers can allocate training and development resources more effectively, ensuring that they have the maximum impact.

Limitations of the Skill Will Matrix

While the Skill Will Matrix is a valuable tool, it does have some limitations that managers should be aware of.

  • Subjectivity: Assessing skill and will can be subjective and may vary based on the manager’s perceptions. It’s important to use objective data and feedback from multiple sources to make accurate assessments.
  • Dynamic Nature of Skill and Will: Both skill and will can change over time due to various factors, such as personal circumstances, changes in job roles, or organizational changes. Regular reassessment is necessary to keep the matrix relevant.
  • Overemphasis on Individual Performance: Focusing too much on individual performance might overlook team dynamics and how employees interact with one another. It’s important to balance individual assessments with an understanding of team performance.
  • Simplicity: The matrix simplifies complex human behaviors and motivations into two dimensions. While useful, it might not capture all the nuances of an employee’s performance and potential.

Implementing the Skill Will Matrix

Step-by-Step Guide

  • Assess Skills and Will: Begin by evaluating the skill and will of each team member. Use performance data, feedback, and self-assessments to gather information. Ensure that evaluations are as objective as possible.
  • Plot Employees on the Matrix: Place each employee in the appropriate quadrant of the matrix based on their assessed skill and will levels. This visual representation helps in understanding the overall distribution of the team.
  • Develop Strategies for Each Quadrant: Create tailored strategies for each quadrant, focusing on the specific needs and characteristics of the employees in those quadrants. Use the strategies discussed earlier in this guide as a reference.
  • Communicate and Implement: Communicate the findings and strategies with the team members. Ensure that they understand the purpose of the matrix and how it will be used to support their development. Implement the strategies and monitor progress.
  • Regular Review and Adjustment: Regularly review the matrix and adjust strategies as needed. Ensure that the assessments are updated to reflect any changes in skill and will levels.

Best Practices

  • Use Multiple Sources of Data: Gather data from various sources, including self-assessments, peer reviews, and objective performance metrics, to ensure a comprehensive evaluation.
  • Be Transparent and Supportive: Transparency in the assessment process and the intention behind using the matrix helps build trust. Employees should feel supported rather than judged.
  • Focus on Development: Emphasize development and growth rather than just categorization. The goal is to help employees move to higher levels of skill and will.
  • Balance Individual and Team Focus: While the matrix focuses on individual assessments, remember to consider team dynamics and how individuals contribute to the team’s overall performance.
  • Adapt and Evolve: Be flexible and ready to adapt the strategies based on changing circumstances. The workplace is dynamic, and the matrix should be used as a flexible tool rather than a rigid framework.

Case Studies

Case Study 1: A Tech Company

A tech company used the Skill Will Matrix to improve the performance of its software development team. Initially, the team had a mix of experienced developers who were disengaged and new hires who were enthusiastic but lacked skills.

Action Taken:

  • For the experienced but disengaged developers (High Skill, Low Will), the company introduced job rotation, allowing them to work on new and exciting projects. This reignited their interest and motivation.
  • For the new hires (Low Skill, High Will), the company implemented a comprehensive training program, pairing them with experienced mentors.


  • Within six months, the performance and engagement levels improved significantly. The experienced developers brought fresh perspectives to new projects, while the new hires quickly became proficient and contributed effectively to the team.

Case Study 2: A Marketing Firm

A marketing firm faced challenges with a team that had several low performers. Using the Skill Will Matrix, the firm identified that many of these low performers were in the Low Skill, Low Will quadrant.

Action Taken:

  • The firm held one-on-one meetings to understand the underlying issues affecting these employees. Some were facing personal challenges, while others were misaligned with their roles.
  • Personalized development plans were created, including training, counseling, and in some cases, role realignment.


  • Over the next quarter, there was a noticeable improvement in performance and morale. Employees felt more supported, and those who were misaligned were moved to roles that better suited their strengths and interests.


The Skill Will Matrix is a versatile and effective tool for managing and developing employees. By providing a structured approach to assessing and addressing both skill and motivation, managers can create a more engaged, productive, and satisfied workforce. However, it is essential to use the matrix as part of a broader, more nuanced understanding of employee performance and potential. With careful implementation and regular reassessment, the Skill Will Matrix can be a cornerstone of effective performance management and talent development strategies.