Daniel Martín
By Daniel Martín on April 30, 2024

9 box grid: your ultimate guide

In the landscape of talent management, organisations seek tools and frameworks to effectively assess, develop, and retain their workforce. Among these tools, the 9-box grid stands out as a model utilised by HR professionals worldwide.
 In this article, we delve into the 9-box grid, exploring its definition, benefits, creation process, implementation in talent management, and critiques. By understanding the nuances of this widely employed tool, companies can optimise their talent strategies and foster a culture of growth and development.
Content Table

What is the 9 box grid

The 9-box grid, also known as the performance-potential matrix or the talent matrix, is a popular tool used in talent management and human resources for assessing and categorising employees based on their performance and potential for future development.
When making HR decisions, it is crucial to take into account two factors that will influence the success of the organisation: firstly, the current performance of employees, and secondly, their anticipated future performance aligned with your objectives.
The grid typically consists of a 3x3 matrix, with one axis representing current performance (usually labeled as low, medium, and high) and the other axis representing potential or future capability (often labeled as low, medium, and high potential).

Benefits of the 9 box grid

The 9-box grid offers several benefits in talent management and organisational development:
  1. Identifying High-Potential Talent: It helps identify employees with high potential for future growth and advancement. By pinpointing individuals with the capability to take on more significant roles, organisations can focus their development efforts and succession planning effectively.

  2. Succession Planning: This model assists in succession planning by providing a visual representation of current talent pools and potential successors for key positions. It enables organisations to identify and groom future leaders, ensuring a smooth transition in leadership roles.
  1. Talent Development: By assessing both performance and potential, the 9-box grid helps tailor development plans for employees. High-potential individuals can be provided with targeted training, mentoring, and career opportunities to maximise their growth and contribution to the organisation.
  1. Retention Strategies: Understanding where employees stand in terms of performance and potential helps in designing retention strategies. High-performing individuals with high potential can be given challenging assignments and career advancement opportunities, increasing their engagement and loyalty.
  1. Objective Decision Making: The tool provides a structured framework for talent discussions, reducing biases and subjectivity in talent management decisions. It allows for more objective evaluations of employees' capabilities and contributions, leading to fairer decisions regarding promotions, transfers, and development opportunities.
  1. Alignment with Business Goals: By assessing employees' potential in alignment with organisational objectives, the 9-box grid ensures that talent development efforts are directed towards meeting the organisation's strategic goals. It helps in cultivating a talent pipeline that supports the long-term vision and growth of the organisation.
  1. Improved Communication: The visual nature of the model facilitates communication among managers, HR professionals, and other stakeholders involved in talent management. It provides a common language and framework for discussing talent-related issues and making informed decisions collaboratively.
Overall, the 9-box grid serves as a valuable tool for organisations to identify, develop, and retain top talent, contributing to their long-term success and competitive advantage in the marketplace.

How do you create a 9 box grid

Creating a 9-box grid involves several steps:
  • Define Criteria: Determine the criteria you will use to evaluate employees. Typically, this includes current performance (e.g., low, medium, high) and potential for future growth (e.g., low, medium, high).

  • Select a Evaluation Period: Choose a specific time frame for evaluating employee performance and potential. This could be annually, bi-annually, or quarterly, depending on your business´s practices.

  • Gather Data: Collect performance data for each employee based on the predetermined criteria. This may include performance appraisals, feedback from supervisors, peer evaluations, and objective metrics such as sales figures or project outcomes.MOCKUP PROGRAMA

  • Assess Potential: Utilise the performance software's assessment tools to evaluate each employee's potential for future growth and development. This may involve using predefined competency frameworks, self-assessment surveys, or manager evaluations.

  • Plot Employees on the Grid: Use the performance software's visualisation tools to create a 3x3 matrix representing the 9-box grid. Plot each employee's performance and potential intersection on the grid based on the assessment data entered into the system.

  • Customise Grid Display: Customise the grid display within the performance software to include relevant labels, colors, and additional information as needed for clarity and analysis.

  • Interpret Results: Analyse the visual representation of the 9-box grid within the performance software to identify trends, patterns, and areas of focus. Pay attention to clusters of high-performing/high-potential employees and areas where development or support may be needed.

  • Generate Reports: Utilise the reporting capabilities of the performance software to generate detailed reports and insights based on the 9-box grid analysis. These reports can be shared with stakeholders for decision-making and action planning.

  • Develop Action Plans: Based on the insights gained from the 9-box grid analysis, develop actionable plans for talent development, succession planning, and performance improvement using the performance software's features.

  • Review and Update Regularly: Regularly review and update the 9-box grid to reflect changes in employee performance and potential over time. This ensures that talent management strategies remain aligned with your goals and evolving workforce dynamics.
By following these steps, organisations can effectively create and utilise a 9-box grid to assess, develop, and manage talent within their workforce.


Using the 9 box grid in talent management

The 9-Box Grid consists of nine sections in which workers can be placed. This allows for classification based on their abilities, comparison of profiles, and calibration according to different criteria, something that a quality performance evaluation software facilitates.
High Potential – High Performance
In this quadrant of the 9-box grid, standout profiles are found, representing future business leadership. They are role models, rising stars, and employees with exceptional skills. Although they still need development to take on high-responsibility roles, they show great potential, and it is crucial to provide appropriate follow-up.
With the right training and development, these workers will be able to tackle high-profile projects outside their comfort zone, lead the creation of new products, or act as mentors to their peers.
High Potential – Medium Performance
Employees in this quadrant demonstrate leadership skills and attitudes, making them suitable for leading a team. Although they still need to develop their skills to achieve higher job performance and levels of responsibility, it is essential to encourage the improvement of their competencies and provide them with opportunities in roles where they can exercise leadership.
These individuals are future stars who have already shown their potential but need to refine their capabilities. Their progress and advancement will depend on the attention and support provided to them, their level of motivation, and the opportunities the company can offer.
Medium Potential – High Performance
They represent a consistent worker profile with excellent performance and significant contributions to the projects they are involved in. They are key to achieving objectives, but their potential is limited. They do not show qualities to support leadership roles, and if the company wants to retain them, it will need to keep their motivation high.
High Potential – Low Performance
These employees are considered diamonds in the rough. Although they have high growth potential, their current performance is low, so it is important to discover the reason behind it. It may be that the worker lacks motivation, their position is not suitable for them, or they do not identify with the company's values.
Losing these employees would be a mistake, as with enough time and preparation, they could reach leadership positions and high responsibility. It is recommended to closely monitor their work, design an effective incentive plan, and analyse if there is a more suitable position that fits their skills.
Medium Potential – Medium Performance
These workers are considered key and have a promising future despite being average. Most employees can be placed in this category since their potential and performance are balanced. In this situation, it is important to carefully observe their behavior to distinguish those who stand out from the others.
Low Potential – High Performance
Professionals in this group are characterised by having extensive experience but do not demonstrate interest or skills for leadership. It is important to proceed with caution when dealing with this type of profile, as moving them from their position may result in a considerable decrease in their performance.
These employees are accustomed to performing specific tasks in which they excel, so it is advisable to continue with their specialisation, maintain their motivation, and carry out good talent management. Although their potential is low, their work capacity and effort are valuable for any project they are involved in.
Low Potential – Medium Performance
The performance of these workers is adequate for their position, as they meet established expectations. However, they do not show qualities or skills indicating potential to take on higher responsibilities. There are several possible explanations for these results.
On the one hand, it could be a new hire who still needs time to adapt and acclimate to the work environment. In this case, it is important to provide support and appropriate training to facilitate their development.
On the other hand, it may be a worker who has been with the company for several years but whose performance has declined compared to other quadrants. In this case, external factors could be affecting their performance, or they may be experiencing a lack of motivation. It is essential to proceed with caution and address the situation appropriately to find solutions and improve their performance.
Medium Potential – Low Performance
Employees in this group show potential for growth, but their current performance is not suitable for their position. They are somewhat inconsistent, but this does not mean they are unsalvageable. They may need a personalised training plan, a change of position within the organisation, or additional support to encourage their motivation and commitment. With the right measures, they are likely to overcome difficulties and achieve optimal performance.
Low Potential – Low Performance
These employees demonstrate low potential and performance compared to the average. They may not identify with the company, and their commitment to their work may be unsatisfactory. It is important to proceed with caution and take appropriate measures.
They will be provided with adequate feedback to assess their reaction, interviews will be conducted to understand their situation, and an urgent training plan will be designed. If no significant improvement is observed or if the employee confirms their lack of interest, offboarding or dismissal should be considered.
In the case of those who have occupied higher quadrants in the past, it is advisable to invest more effort in understanding the causes of the decline in their performance and exploring possible solutions.

Disadvantages of 9 box grid

While the 9-box grid is a widely used tool in talent management, it also faces several critiques:
Simplification of Talent: Critics argue that the 9-box grid oversimplifies the complex nature of talent by reducing employees' performance and potential to two dimensions. Human potential is multifaceted and influenced by various factors beyond what can be captured in a two-dimensional grid.
Subjectivity and Bias: The process of placing employees on the 9-box grid can be subjective and prone to bias, depending on the criteria used and the individuals making the assessments. This subjectivity can lead to inconsistent evaluations and unfair treatment of employees.
Limited Predictive Validity: Some studies question the predictive validity of the 9-box grid in identifying future high performers or leaders. Critics argue that performance and potential are not always accurately assessed, leading to mismatches between employees' placement on the grid and their actual career trajectory.
Lack of Context: The 9-box grid may lack contextual relevance to specific culture, industries, or job roles. What constitutes "high performance" and "high potential" can vary significantly across different contexts, making the grid less effective as a universal talent management tool.
Static Nature: The 9-box grid tends to portray employees' performance and potential as static attributes, overlooking the dynamic nature of talent development and career progression. Employees' performance and potential can change over time, but the grid may not adequately capture these changes.
Stigmatisation: Employees placed in the lower quadrants of the 9-box grid, particularly those deemed as having low performance or potential, may experience stigmatisation and negative consequences, such as limited development opportunities or reduced career prospects. This can undermine morale and employee engagement.