How to start skills growth in a design team?

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Vectroly users for
12 month

How to start skills growth in a design team?

min read
Skills growth is an ongoing process, the action never stops and requires special attention and approach. Upskilling existing designers in the team is indeed challenging, but in Vectorly we believe that you can simplify this task.

So, how to start and how to handle skill growth in a design team? In this article we will answer these questions step-by-step. 

1. Create a skills matrix

First thing first - create a skills matrix. A skills matrix is a basic HR template, it helps you to get precise information on employees' skills. Generally, HRs and team managers use the matrix to identify the skills that a team will need to complete a project successfully. As far as the effectiveness of design teams is measured in successful projects, this tool has a great impact on productivity of your design team.

Creation of a skills matrix is based on 4 relatively simple steps: 

  1. Determine the skills relevant for your project/team
  2. Evaluate team members based on their present skill levels
  3. Define an employee's interest in skills growth
  4. Incorporate all the data into the skills matrix and work with it 

Skills matrix is made up to you and the needs of your team. You can use our 4-step guide, and adjust it as you like, when you get a hold of the process. We already shared information about creating a skills matrix in our previous article. If you want more details on these steps you can find it here [ссылка на статью в блоге - How to create a skills matrix (обновленная статья)]. 

Another useful tip is to split up skills into groups before creating a skills matrix. This will help you to organize your work and don't get into a muddle of employees and their skills. The easiest way is to split skills into hard and soft ones.

Hard skills

  • Product thinking and analytics
  • User research
  • Information architecture and interface design
  • Visual design
  • UX writing
  • Front-end

Soft skills

  • Result driven
  • Communications and teamwork
  • Creative thinking 
  • Systems thinking

List of skills really depends on the team. Different projects require different approaches, so it is really not a golden rule whatsoever. 

2. Specify skill levels

The next thing you need to do is to specify skills levels in your team. The leveling process can be tied with salaries, job titles, and even with employee's feelings, but most importantly levelling is influenced by skills in your team. Talking about design team, we can point out next features of leveling: 

  • Clarifies roles and responsibilities, and increases teamwork productivity
  • Creates an environment for personal and professional growth
  • Makes the promotion and salary decisions fully transparent 

So what levels can be considered for a design team? As usual, there are a lot of ways to select those levels. It can be plain and simple, for example, AIHR [ссылка на статью analytics in hr] refer to leveling process, where you have just 4 levels and evaluate designers' skills from "No capability" to "Advanced level of capability".

Also you can choose a complex way to level designers. Designer Fund  [ссылка на designer fund article] revealed some insights on how Coursera [ссылка на Coursera] evaluated their design team. They created 7 levels for required hard and soft skills, and combined them to 3 groups: Knowledge, Craft, and Influence. Moreover, we see that they split up job titles up to the certain level. So, if your skills are on L4 or L5 level, then you are on a level of Senior Product Designer. That's a pretty good example of how you can change a standard office tool up to your needs. 

Maker Rubric

3. Write descriptions for each skill level

However, in order to make your skills matrix as transparent as possible, a list of skills groups is not enough. You also need to prepare descriptions for each skill level. You can keep it simple, and write 1-2 sentences, or go bigger and write deeper explanations, but the main idea is the same - level descriptions are certain expectations of the team's management towards designers' skills. 

We have already seen how the designer's skills matrix looks like, now let's take a look at an example of leveling description. We liked how Brennan Hartich covered levels in his article about leveling for Design Ops [ссылка на статью]. Here is his skills matrix for designers with 4 levels. Each level has its explanation of what particular things a designer needs to know and do to reach a certain level. 

Example Levels

Let's take a closer look at a skill called "Design Systems". Skills descriptions expand by steps, there is no dramatic change on each level. 

For instance, level for beginners in this matrix starts from basic understanding of how a design system works, while the 2nd level requires competences in brand guidelines, design patterns, visual frameworks. 3rd level includes adoption of design components and patterns. And to reach the final level you need to fully understand the business logic and dependencies between design, front-end and backend technologies. 

Explanations like this can be used not only with designing skills, but also with soft skills, like communication, leadership and etc. It is a great way to make the growth in your team transparent and easy. When designers see where to develop, it is much easier for them to set the right goals and development plans. 

Vectorly can also help you with skill leveling. Here [ссылка на пабликлинки готовых темлпейтов] you can find ready-to-use skills matrix templates for different design roles. You can also modify skills levels and descriptions for each level after sign up.

The skill growth of a team doesn't stop here, the work is never done, it is a constant process. But, at least, this guide can be a great start for new-comer design managers.