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Maximising Talent Management: A Strategic Approach to the 9 Box Performance Grid for HR Leaders.

March 23, 2023
Maximising Talent Management: A Strategic Approach to the 9 Box Performance Grid for HR Leaders.

The 9 Box Performance Grid, a widely used talent management method, categorises employees into nine groups based on their performance and potential. Managers assess employees based on their current performance and predicted future performance or growth potential.

As per the 9 Box Performance Grid, highly skilled employees, such as All-Stars, and dedicated employees with limited advancement opportunities, are valuable additions to any team. However, low-potential employees require significant management support and are less likely to improve without a tailored strategy.

As an HR leader, you can leverage the potential of the 9 Box Performance Grid to evaluate employees and get a comprehensive picture of the talent pipeline. Let’s discuss the various aspects of the 9 Box Performance Grid further and learn more about its useful applications.

Did You Know!

In a survey, 72% of the participants believed that receiving corrective feedback from their managers would enhance their performance.

Decoding the Creation Process of 9 Box Grids

The 9 Box Performance Grid is a straightforward three-by-three structure. Plotting employees’ future potential (high potential, moderate potential, low potential) on the y-axis and their current performance on the x-axis will allow you to make your own 9 Box Performance Grid (low performer, moderate performer, high performer). Although this is the most common and simple form of the nine-box grid, many businesses like to add their own branding to each square to more clearly communicate what each performance and potential level means to them.

  • Someone that consistently performs above expectations seizes leadership opportunities with enthusiasm, and is up for new challenges is considered to have great potential.
  • Someone who meets role requirements and has shown a willingness to lead must be developed and nurtured in order to advance. They are a moderate performance with moderate potential.
  • An employee who falls short of expectations for the role and performance is a low performer with limited potential. They exhibit a lack of drive and agreement with the organisation’s mission.

Alternately, you may group each box in a more “approachable” manner:

  • A “Star Employee” is a top performer with great potential.
  • A “Core Player” is a player with average performance and potential.
  • A “Wrong Hiring” is a person with low potential and low performance.

Maximising the Efficiency of a 9 Box Performance Grid

The 9 Box Performance Grid is a reasonably straightforward technique that can deliver great results when used efficiently. Here’s how to maximise the effectiveness of this employee evaluation tool.

Ensure Everyone Sails in the Same Boat 

Together, you and your team should go over the 9 Box Performance Grid to decide how you will evaluate performance and potential. Consider:

  • What standards and parameters will categorise the performance or potential of an employee as low, moderate, or high?
  • What will the structure of your succession plan for staff members who reach your high-performing, high-potential standards look like?
  • What will happen to employees who are classified as low achievers or low potential going forward?

Evaluate the Performance of Each Employee

Create a framework for each employee’s assessment that is unique to them based on their duties and job description, and be as clear as you can with your performance expectations.

A fundamental model for performance might be, for instance:

  • Low: Did not achieve sales targets for the previous quarter, did not perform up to expectations set forth in the job description or by the boss, etc.
  • Moderate: Employees perform at a moderate level, meeting expectations.
  • High: The employee performs at or above expectations.
Do You Know!

Almost 40% of workers are actively disengaged at work when they get little to no feedback from the managers.

Evaluate the Potential of the Employee 

Employee behaviour, not results, is the strongest indicator of their potential. A high-potential employee is often one who is eager to learn new things, continually expanding their skill set.

  • Have they already advanced inside the business? If yes, how?
  • Are they able to advance in their current position?
  • Are they better suited for another position or division?
  • Has the employee expressed a desire to advance within the business?

Put Workers in The Grid

Determine where the employee fits on the 9-box grid based on your evaluation of their performance and potential. To correctly place the employee, management, HR, and leadership should work together on this activity. You must promote open dialogue to obtain a complete and objective understanding of the employee’s capabilities and performance.

What Functions Does the 9-Box Performance Grid Serve?

The 9-Box Performance Grid is a popular talent management tool that assists in evaluating employee performance and potential. Here are the various functions of the grid and how it aids in strategic workforce planning.

  • Assess the potential, risk, and impact of losing current talent.
  • Obtain a comprehensive understanding of the talent pipeline, both within and across business units, and identify significant gaps that need to be addressed.
  • Develop strategies to improve, retain and leverage existing talent.
  • Facilitate discussions about bench strength across organisational and functional boundaries.
  • Identify potential successors both locally and throughout the organisation.
  • Increase internal recruitment opportunities for senior positions that become available.
  • Determine the optimal target market for high-potential development prospects.
  • Expand discussions on developing diverse leadership talent.

Advantages of the 9-Box Performance Grid

The 9-Box Performance Grid is a valuable tool for assessing employee performance and potential. Here are some of the advantages of using this tool for talent management and strategic planning.

  • Straightforward and Simple: It is a well-known tool with a relatively easy-to-understand structure. Simply place the individual in the appropriate box during the employee review, depending on their performance and potential. Even for people who are completely unfamiliar with this technique, the grid’s visual representation makes it easy to understand.
  • Discovery of valuable talent: You may discover high-potential performers in your organisation using the 9-Box Performance Grid and tell what they need to work on in advance. Your choice of where and how to allocate resources to engage and grow these employees will be supported by the statistics.
  • A comprehensive method of talent evaluation: This tool gives you a method of performance management that is more comprehensive. You may evaluate both an employee’s present performance and potential for the future without becoming caught up in any one aspect of the performance.
  • Excellent Flexibility: It is a flexible tool that may be used for workforce planning as well as talent management. For instance, using the 9-Box Performance Grid gives you a clear picture of your employees’ potential and the roles they might excel in the future. To put it another way, it simplifies succession planning. Alternatively, you can use the 9-box grid to find workers who have the potential to be leaders and transition them to management career paths.
Did You Know!

Organisations that have implemented continuous performance processes have shown a 39% improvement in their ability to attract top talent and a 44% increase in their ability to retain talent.

Problems with the 9-Box Performance Grid

While the 9-Box Performance Grid is a widely used talent management tool, it has its limitations. Here are some of the potential problems associated with the use of this grid.

  • Differentiating between potential and performance: Distinguishing between potential and performance can be difficult when both concepts lack clear definitions or understanding. While companies usually have a well-defined process for assessing performance, evaluating potential is often less common, resulting in inaccurate assessments. Additionally, unconscious biases can affect employee ratings in the absence of established procedures for identifying high-potential team members.
  • Lowering employee morale: Being transparent and sharing performance information with employees can sometimes have negative consequences, such as lowered morale and discouragement. Employees who are labelled as “poor performance” or “low potential” may react unfavourably, and creating a hierarchy among succession candidates based on this information can harm teamwork and relationships within the organisation.
  • Leading to prejudices: The 9-Box Performance Grid assigns a single label to employees, which can influence how they are perceived by management. For instance, if an employee is identified as having low performance and potential, a manager’s treatment and perception of them may differ compared to an employee with high performance and potential.
Master 9Box Performance Grid in 60 seconds!

●  The grid consists of a 3×3 matrix that plots an employee’s performance and potential, helping managers make informed decisions about employee development and career progression.

●  The horizontal axis of the grid represents an employee’s performance, while the vertical axis represents their potential.

●  The 9-Box Performance Grid provides a visual representation of an employee’s current and future value to the organization, enabling managers to identify high-potential employees and make strategic decisions about talent development and succession planning.

●  While the 9-Box Performance Grid is a useful tool, it is important to ensure that it is used in conjunction with other performance management practices, such as regular feedback and coaching, to provide a comprehensive view of an employee’s strengths and development needs.

●  Organizations that use the 9-Box Performance Grid or similar tools have reported higher levels of leadership effectiveness and employee retention, making it a valuable tool for talent management.

Final Take!

The 9-Box Performance Grid is a useful tool for managing employees with different levels of performance and potential. It can be used for talent management, performance management, and succession planning. However, it’s important to remember that the purpose of the grid is not to label employees but to facilitate conversations about their achievements and development strategies. Transparency about talent management strategies is crucial throughout the process.

While the 9-Box Performance Grid may provide initial categorisation, its real value lies in the conversations that follow. It can serve as a starting point for discussions with management about an employee’s position and potential but should not be used to make ultimate decisions. Labelling employees won’t lead to their success in the organisation, but the process can bring the right people together to discuss goals and achievements and create a roadmap for the company’s future success.

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