At Pinkman, we wanted to scale and transform our design team from 25 to 50 people. But due to high costs of ready-made employees and the small amount of them on the market, we couldn't hire them. That's why we decided to hire junior people with different backgrounds, and grow their skills.
We implemented Skill Matrices in Google spreadsheets to help juniors clearly understand what kind of result they need to show on each skill. It helped me to monitor weekly progress and see how our team scales.
The system with a lot of spreadsheets was created just for us, however, there were several disadvantages:
- Every 2 weeks an Excel formula was braking, and it was a time-consuming process to fix it.
- If we needed to add new skills or employees to the system, we had to rewrite half the formulas altogether.
- The system wasn't transparent for talents, so they couldn't impact their own growth
Not surprisingly, I periodically looked at third-party software and tried to find a replacement for the handwritten system.
Evolution of the skill matrix: what skills to review?
At the beginning, PINKMAN developed creative promos to wow users. The Era of WoW promos is passing: we realised that beautiful pictures don't solve a client's business problem.
Analytics, UX, unit economics, marketing skills are needed to build products. All these skills gradually expanded our skill matrix. The latest version contained skills like Google Analytics and "Google Tag Manager" that could be equally put into an UX Analyst skill matrix.
We create complex interfaces and corporate websites, design brands, and create videos with 3D graphics. Each of them requires particular skill sets. Each skill presents a specific result. For example, the result of "UX analysis skill" is to "Be able to create Customer Journey Map".
It is harder to formalise soft skills and during review lead Designers still somehow "express" their personal opinion, so if someone is pleasant to you – you overestimate soft skills.
To mitigate this we came up with the idea to collect feedback from other departments. Lead designers reviewed designers' hard skills, Account/Project Managers reviewed soft skills, etc. And designers also reviewed their own skills.
How we moved to Vectorly
Mike Rosoff, the founder of PINKMAN, suggested to try the new software, which has recently appeared on the market and had already managed to get some significant positive feedback from Raiffeisen team and other prominent companies.
During the first call with Vectorly, I showed them our system, and they told me how we could use Vectorly to our advantage.
If you are a head of a department, the workflow with Vectorly will consist of the next steps:
- Sign up
- Invite the team
- Create the skillboard (skill matrix in Vectorly)
- Set requirement for different grades (Junior, Middle, Senior)
- Organise knowledge base
- Review and Personal Development plans
- Team analytics
The first 2 steps are self-explanatory, so let me start with the 3rd step.
1. Create skillboard
Vectorly has a preset of skills for different designer profiles. We didn't use them, because we already a skill matrix.
At first skill matrix Interface in Vectorly was confusing because it looked like a Kanban board: even the cards are dragged from column to column. Each column represents a group of skills and each card is a separate skill.
Also, we used tags to help designers navigate the skill matrix much easier: "Core" - the main competencies in the skill group. and Branding, Service Design, Corporate Web tags - these are special products of the agency from which I have drawn up the skill matrix. Thanks to these tags you can analyse and filter each designer skill set.
2. Set requirements for different grades
Vectorly skill board can look differently: with 2 clicks it turns into a table where each skill corresponds to a certain grade.
It is important to carefully spell out what it means to be junior, middle, senior at each skill, so that reviewers had no problem rating each designer.
3. Organise Knowledge Base
We had a separate problem of organising materials for designers to upskill themselves. We tried to store e-books in a shared Dropbox, to write notes in Notion, or to use the project manager tool to collect references and articles. All the ideas started briskly and quickly died, because no one updated it.
In Vectorly, we assigned skills to different team leaders, who are responsible for creating knowledge base, and now the list of books, articles, and courses in the knowledge base is constantly growing and updates regularly.
4. Review and Personal Development plans
You can configure review access for each team member: whether they can edit skillboard or review someone. Also Vectorly promised to add the ability to let review only certain skill group. (UPD: added) In our case, we wanted developers to review skills of designers in basic CSS/HTML.
Vectorly supports 360 degree reviews: the designer reviews herself, and got reviewed by her reviewers. Vectorly displays the average score for each skill.
When the review is done, you can add skills to personal development plan of designers. Designers can use learning materials from the knowledge base to quickly upskill.
5. Team analytics
You can use review data in 2 ways.
The first is to display a table where you can see the level of different skills. You can use powerful filters to see data for a particular member or display designers with the highest skill scores, etc.
The second view is the pie chart diagram, that shows how much the whole team or specific designers can handle the work (have skills in certain level) on a particular project.
This display format is ideal for managers who are assembling a project team with required skills according to client requests.
For example, on this screen, we look at Anton's skills and see that he is best with "corporate websites" skill group displayed in purple color and the worst in "branding" skill group in yellow.
We can look in detail to "branding" skill group to understand which skills Anton needs to pump up and see that "Font design" is the lowest developed skill and affects the average "branding" score.
Observations on working with Vectorly and the conclusion
To switch completely to Vectorly, you'll need to devote 3 days entirely, or 2 weeks doing another work in parallel.
Once you've entered all the data, you'll have a sort of "virtual farm" in which you'll need to "pull weeds" from time to time: updating the knowledge base, making reviews, creating new personal development plans.
- By the end of June 2020, we had 22 people. In November 2020 Pinkman team was 50 people.
- Team leaders see how the team performs on a monthly basis
- Employees find new growth areas and know how to develop them
- Project Managers know the skills of every employee and who is best suited for which project.