Continuing to share insights from the design management team at Wrike, it’s now time to reveal our skills matrix on soft skills, as I promised in my previous piece dedicated to the hard skills specific to web designers.
This matrix is relevant to our entire design department at Wrike, which includes graphic designers, motion designers, web designers, and design operationists. Given its broad applicability, the matrix’s creation involved the collective effort of the entire design management team.
Just as a reminder, soft skills refer to personal qualities that facilitate effective communication, engagement, and collaboration among team members, essentially determining how well you navigate and contribute within a team setting. Serving as transferable skills spanning multiple jobs and industries, soft skills transform this article into a valuable guide, particularly beneficial for all design professions and anyone in the roles of team management, project leadership, or coordination within the design or creative industries.
Now, without further ado, let’s delve straight into the matrix, followed by some insightful tips based on our experience working with it.
Soft skills matrix for designers
Just like the hard skills, our soft skills matrix also stretches across five levels of proficiency:
It incorporates skills from three main sectors:
- Portrait and work ethic
- Work process
For your convenience, you can either check out the matrix in the spreadsheet or continue reading its breakdown in the ensuing description.
Portrait and work ethic / Ownership
- Learns: Fosters a sense of ownership with team support. Shows dedication to personal tasks.
- Knows: Asserts autonomy over outcomes. Contributes field expertise. Prioritizes the company in work.
- Does: Accepts personal work outcomes. Strives for improvements and guides junior members.
- Helps: Actively leads design reviews and leverages expertise to augment team value. Embraces extra responsibilities.
- Teaches: Owns company-wide outcomes. Instills a sense of accountability in leaders. Entrusted with prime company objectives.
Portrait and work ethic / Problem solving
- Learns: Addresses design issues using best practices from senior team members. Needs guidance for complex scenarios.
- Knows: Tackles common design problems independently. Seeks help for cross-functional challenges.
- Does: Adapts gracefully to changes and investigates issues beyond the immediate scope. Anticipates risks and communicates complex issues.
- Helps: Focuses on long-term solutions across the team. Faces high-level challenges and implements effective solutions.
- Teaches: Harnesses a deep understanding of the company and industry to tackle complex problems strategically. Provides company-wide mentorship.
Portrait and work ethic / Personal development
- Learns: Shows enthusiasm in skill development aligned with departmental goals, with active managerial guidance.
- Knows: Eager to improve skills for department goals but needs guidance from senior team members.
- Does: Utilizes feedback for personal improvement. Independently seeks skill enhancement resources.
- Helps: Proactively employs feedback for performance improvement and knowledge expansion.
- Teaches: Consistently seeks job knowledge improvement opportunities. Invites feedback and contributes to team skill development.
Portrait and work ethic / Creative thinking
- Learns: Creates new visuals under guidance, employing creative techniques.
- Knows: Applies creative techniques to visuals under guidance. Aims to acquire more techniques.
- Does: Uses various creative techniques for project visuals. Suggests technical optimizations.
- Helps: Integrates creative techniques in design processes across team projects.
- Teaches: Mentors the team in creative techniques and standardizes their use in marketing production.
Portrait and work ethic / Critical thinking
- Learns: Decisions are driven by personal biases.
- Knows: Acknowledges biases in the decision making process and gathers task-related information.
- Does: Strives for objectivity and introspects biases. Conducts extensive research around design problems.
- Helps: Guides the team towards goal-aligned decisions, prioritizing business goals.
- Teaches: Highlights biases’ impact on decisions and instills team accountability. Employs industry insights for preemptive measures.
Communication / Presentation skills
- Learns: Delivers presentations based on group research. Utilizes audiovisual aids progressively.
- Knows: Delivers presentations from personal experience. Requires guidance in developing presentation skills.
- Does: Delivers presentations based on the group’s research. Practices optimal presentation techniques.
- Helps: Delivers presentations, speeches, and pitches from personal research. Balances body language, content, and audiovisual aids.
- Teaches: Delivers presentations from personal expertise. Adapts to various audiences. Negotiates presentation specifics to ensure justice for research.
Communication / Communication skills
- Learns: Requires guidance for clearer explanations and idea sharing.
- Knows: Presents ideas concisely and communicates confidently on routine tasks.
- Does: Communicates effectively across both spoken and written forms. Delivers clear and concise thoughts.
- Helps: Communicates effectively and utilizes a precise vocabulary to express thoughts. Focuses on comprehensive feedback.
- Teaches: Displays excellent oral and written communication skills. Succeeds in explaining in a universally comprehensible manner.
Communication / Receiving and giving feedback
- Learns: Learns from senior team members and their manager. Requires repetition in feedback reception. Gives feedback occasionally.
- Knows: Understands feedback’s importance and transforms it into self-improvement actions. Shares feedback within the team.
- Does: Leverages feedback for improvement, identifying growth areas. Gives constructive feedback for process enhancement.
- Helps: Proactively seeks, receives, and gives feedback for growth. Assimilates global best feedback practices.
- Teaches: Demonstrates feedback expertise and employs methodologies for improvement. Elevates the team’s feedback culture.
Communication / Mentoring and coaching
- Learns: Learns from mentoring and the coaching practices of senior team members.
- Knows: Acquires basic mentoring and coaching knowledge. Discusses professional development goals.
- Does: Implements basic mentoring and coaching. Holds one-on-one meetings and informal learning discussions.
- Helps: Demonstrates robust mentoring and coaching skills. Supports colleagues’ growth. Assists in onboarding.
- Teaches: Proactively mentors various individuals. Advocates for learning activities and assignments.
Work process / Business knowledge
- Learns: Gains knowledge about business operations and team metrics. Assisted decision making.
- Knows: Understands business operations and applies industry trends to work.
- Does: Seeks business insights connected to work. Uses expertise for better solutions and business understanding in the team.
- Helps: Comprehends all business aspects. Guides others in incorporating business needs.
- Teaches: Develops actions for business benefits. Establishes a design strategy aligned with business goals.
Work process / Project management
- Learns: Gains knowledge in practical project management techniques. Works under supervision.
- Knows: Applies project management methods. Manages task planning and execution.
- Does: Defines project roles and timelines. Manages intermediate-complexity tasks within one team.
- Helps: Shares project management knowledge. Handles multiple cross-team projects.
- Teaches: Provides project management methodology guidance. Leads multiple cross-department projects.
Work process / Teamwork
- Learns: Participates in team meetings and teamwork sessions. Assists team members upon request.
- Knows: Spurs teamwork sessions for project solutions. Assists team members when requested.
- Does: Initiates teamwork sessions. Regularly shares expertise with the team.
- Helps: Enhances team meetings and teamwork sessions. Supports team members and establishes company-wide relationships.
- Teaches: Conducts teamwork sessions and hosts knowledge sharing sessions at various levels.
Work process / Time management
- Learns: Learns time management basics. Depends on senior team members for their timelines and workload.
- Knows: Understands time management principles. Prioritizes daily tasks.
- Does: Plans their personal workload. Handles tasks and projects flexibly.
- Helps: Seeks new time management techniques and shares them with the team.
- Teaches: Champions time management. Independently plans team resources.
Work process / Design proactivity
- Learns: Focuses on delegated tasks. Actively seeks feedback. Participates in team discussions.
- Knows: Actively seeks optimal solutions. Contributes to process improvements.
- Does: Works on personal and team projects. Actively researches and evaluates solutions.
- Helps: Integrates in team projects. Proactively engages with stakeholders and initiates work process improvements.
- Teaches: Addresses company-wide projects. Initiates department- and company-wide ideas and tasks.
Work process / Traffic management and coordination
- Learns: Manages their personal workload under supervision. Follows the team’s production processes.
- Knows: Delegates work considering the team’s workflow. Creates fitting subtasks and shares project status.
- Does: Coordinates tasks within their own design area. Aligns with the team’s schedules, plans assignee tasks, and takes accountability for projects.
- Helps: Coordinates tasks at the team level. Assists others in prioritizing work, ensures balanced workload distribution, and is accountable for area-level results.
- Teaches: Coordinates major multifaceted projects. Is accountable for the team’s performance. Collaborates with others, coordinates tasks, and provides project statuses.
Work process / Level of deliverables
- Learns: Executes technical design tasks under supervision. Needs further iterations and reviews for asset completion.
- Knows: Handles medium-sized projects. Focuses on quality technical execution, which might have some flaws and need additional iterations.
- Does: Handles complex tasks and projects. Delivers high-quality, mostly flawless assets. Incorporates new design techniques and considers user experience.
- Helps: Works on multiple department-wide projects. Regularly employs new design techniques and assists the team in elevating work quality.
- Teaches: Handles the most complex, company-wide projects. Sets the design direction for the team and works to continually improve overall deliverable quality.
Risks of using the skills matrix
At the creation stage, I hadn’t anticipated some of the snags we would encounter, but experience proved to be a great teacher. The primary risk is differing reactions.
For some, the skills matrix is a highly useful tool that clearly delineates growth areas and formulates steps for improvement. However, for others, this format might breed discomfort. Growth areas can be misinterpreted as problem areas. In such instances, it’s crucial to remind everyone that the skills matrix is merely a support tool. One can outline a career plan in any other format and use the matrix solely for progress correlation.
It’s also paramount to keep the assessments of web designers’ skills confidential to maintain privacy. Each career path is unique, and this sensitive information should be handled delicately. I can only share aggregated data publicly.
It’s worth mentioning that every team member has an individual career path. Based on their interests and skills, we provide a path for growth that aligns with both their personal aspirations and the company’s business value.
Lastly, there might be some misinterpretation of certain matrix formulations. Some parts of the job descriptions are deliberately kept abstract because we’re dealing with a web designer’s trajectory, not a legal document where ambiguity is unacceptable. I address the understanding and vision of each skill during individual meetings, emphasizing our principle of flexibility.