Role Atomisation – How It Can Help To Upskill Your Digital Team

While role atomisation isn’t necessarily a new term, it has been used fairly sparingly in the infancy of the digital age. If you’ve not come across it as yet, atomisation is all about breaking down a specific role. Once its been atomised, you can determine what tasks can be automated or outsourced, so your team are utilising their core skills as much as possible and not being bogged down with an inefficient workload.

The theory is that you’ll have more satisfied employees, a more optimised workflow and of course, there are then knock-on commercial benefits that will no doubt appease the board.

However, atomising also serves another purpose. As well as defining roles, it allows us to also break down a digital team’s capabilities to understand specific strengths and potential skills gaps.

Setting up a digital skills atomisation project

Step One

While it’ll take a collaborative effort from HR and digital leaders, setting up a skills atomisation project is fairly simple and can be done within a spreadsheet. Some HR software tools may also provide the function to carry out these projects, but as a spreadsheet is more universal, we’ll use that in our example.

Step Two

Within the spreadsheet, create a table with your digital team members listed vertically down the A column, and all the digital skills required across row 1. You can be as broad or as granular as you prefer with the skills: wider digital teams may prefer to generalise skills such as ‘design’, ‘development’ or ‘SEO’; specific teams may opt to go more granular and list software or languages such as ‘Adobe Photoshop’, ‘PHP’ or ‘SEMRush’.

Step Three

Once your table is complete, consult with your digital team individually and ask them to rank their skills within each category. It may be that they choose between ‘beginner’, ‘intermediate’ or ‘advanced’.

Step Four

After each person’s skills have been inputted (and their rankings have been verified by their line managers), you’ll have a comprehensive overview of your teams’ capabilities. This matrix can then be used to highlight your digital team’s strengths and potential skills gaps.

Actions after atomising

Your skills matrix can inform structured learning and development plans for your digital team. If you identify large gaps within the capabilities, you can invest in the relevant training courses to address this.

Or if you’ve identified a specialist within your team, you could encourage a HR-facilitated collaborative learning scheme. The experts can lead sessions with their colleagues to share their knowledge and experience in the particular subject.

Another use is if you cross-reference with workload capacity data – probably easier if your team works with an agile methodology – you’ll also be able to make informed hiring decisions too, both for permanent employees and temporary workers.


When building your matrix, another area to consider is future skills. Technologies such as machine learning, AI or voice search are likely to be a large part of any digital team in the coming years, so planning ahead could be a worthwhile investment.

The final benefit of skills atomisation is about future-proofing. Atomisation could play a big part in how digital teams are formed in the coming years – especially with what we deduced around project-based work in our Future of Work Report. And with the digital talent crunch and skills gap set to deepen, developing your own future superstars could be invaluable.

If you’re looking at conducting your own digital atomisation project, but would like assistance from experts, get in touch with our InHouse team.


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