Resources > 9 Box Grid: How to Use it for Your Talent Management

9 Box Grid: How to Use it for Your Talent Management

Updated on: 27 June 2024 | 11 min read
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In the dynamic landscape of talent management, companies constantly seek effective methods to evaluate and develop their workforce. But what often happens is that performance assessments often grapple with abstract elements like initiative and engagement, which can vary in interpretation. This becomes a challenge for organizations who are trying to assess their talent pool, identifying strengths and areas for improvement while forecasting future potential.

The 9-box grid addresses these challenges by mapping past performance against future potential, providing a clear, visual representation of where employees stand. This framework aids HR professionals in recognizing top performers, spotting misalignments early, and fostering employee growth. By incorporating the 9-box grid into their assessment strategy, companies can create a structured and insightful approach to performance management, ultimately driving organizational success and employee satisfaction.

What is the 9 Box Grid?

The 9 Box Grid is a powerful employee assessment tool used by organizations to evaluate and sort their workforce based on performance and potential. Originating from the GE-McKinsey nine-box framework, this model divides employees into nine distinct categories. By plotting these categories across two axes—performance and potential—the grid visually represents where each employee stands in terms of their current job performance and their capacity for growth. It serves multiple purposes, including identifying high-potential candidates for leadership roles and aiding in strategic development planning.

The origins of the 9 Box Grid trace back to the 1970s when it was first employed by General Electric and McKinsey & Company as part of their broader performance evaluation processes. Historically, the nine-box framework was utilized to assess businesses within portfolios, but it has since been adapted to talent management due to its straightforward and effective nature. Over time, the grid has become a staple in modern HR practices, particularly for its role in succession planning and employee development.

9 Box Framework for Talent Management
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9 Box Framework for Talent Management

How to Create & Label 9-Box Grid in Easy 3 Steps

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Step 1: Assess Employees Performance

The nine box grid talent management tool is an invaluable asset for evaluating and categorizing employees based on their performance and potential. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating a 9 box grid:

  1. Identify Organizational Metrics: Start by setting clear benchmarks for performance and potential. These metrics should align with your company’s goals and expectations.

  2. Evaluate Employee Performance: Assess each employee’s current performance. This involves categorizing employees into low, moderate, and high-performance groups based on job descriptions and their achievements.

  3. Evaluate Employee Potential: Assess each employee’s potential for growth. This can be gauged by their willingness to learn, behavior, and progression within the organization.

  4. Plot Employees on the Grid: Once the evaluations are complete, plot each employee on the grid based on their performance (x-axis) and potential (y-axis).

  5. Determine Action Plans: Develop tailored action plans for each category within the grid. This involves creating strategies for development, coaching, or potential reassignment.

Step 2: Place Employees on the Grid

The labeling of columns and rows in the 9 box grid is critical for accurate employee assessment:

  • Columns (Y-Axis) - Growth Potential: The columns represent the growth potential of employees, ranging from low to high.

  • Rows (X-Axis) - Performance: The rows identify whether an employee is currently.

Step 3: Determine Next Steps

Once employees are plotted on the 9 box grid, here’s how to manage and develop them effectively:

  • High Performers with High Potential (Box 1): Assign challenging assignments, offer mentorship, and provide opportunities for leadership roles. These employees are poised for succession.

  • Low Performers with High Potential (Box 3): Offer targeted development programs and regular check-ins. Identifying and removing potential roadblocks is key.

  • Moderate Performers with Moderate Potential (Box 5): Focus on consistent improvement and skill enhancement through coaching and performance feedback.

  • Low Performers with Low Potential (Box 9): Assess suitability for current roles and consider reassignment or exit strategies if necessary.

Leveraging technological solutions such as Creately’s visual collaboration and diagramming platform can enhance the 9 box grid process. With features like an infinite canvas and integrated data visualization, HR professionals can create detailed and visually rich grids. These tools help in performing data-driven assessments, making it easier to strategize and adjust action plans.

In conclusion, creating and properly labeling the 9 box grid can revolutionize talent management by providing clear insights into employee performance and potential. By carefully plotting each individual, organizations can develop strategic action plans that drive both individual growth and organizational success.

Using the 9-box Grid for Talent Management

9 Box Framework for Employee Development
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9 Box Framework for Employee Development

When strategically deploying the 9-box grid for talent management, it becomes essential to address various categories of employees effectively. Here are specific action plans for different types of team members within the 9 box model:

  • Managing Problem Teammates: For those who fall into the low performance and low potential quadrant, it’s crucial to identify the root causes of their underperformance. Develop a comprehensive performance improvement plan and, if no progress is made, consider an exit strategy. Transparency and consistent feedback are key here.

  • Action Plan for Inconsistent Teammates: These individuals may show fluctuating performance but have potential. Targeted training, regular performance check-ins, and specific short-term goals can help bring their performance to a consistent level. Use the 9 box grid to track their progress closely.

  • Potential Stars: Employees with high potential but currently moderate or low performance can be your future leaders. Assign them stretch goals and provide mentorship opportunities. Regular feedback and a structured development plan can help them realize their potential faster. Tools like Creately’s visual collaboration platform can chart their development journey, allowing a more interactive and transparent approach.

  • Adequate Teammates: These employees meet but do not exceed performance expectations and display moderate potential. Regular motivation and rotational tasks can keep them engaged. Setting clear and achievable goals while providing the necessary resources can uplift their performance.

  • Core Teammates: Reliable and high performers with moderate potential can be your organization’s backbone. Emphasize maintaining their motivation and engagement. Integrating tools like Creately’s infinite canvas can help visualize their career path and keep their developmental discussions engaging.

  • Rising Stars: High performers showing significant potential are your prime candidates for leadership roles. Offer leadership training, challenging assignments, and networking opportunities. Keep their career progression visible and transparent using tools to track milestones, such as Creately’s data visualizations and visual modeling features.

  • Trusted Teammates: Consistent high performers with low potential should still be recognized and rewarded, but without overly incentivizing them beyond their capacity. Keep the job interesting and purposeful, and show appreciation through nominal incentives.

  • High Performers: Consisting of individuals with strong performances and potential, these employees should be given significant responsibilities and strategic tasks. Facilitate their growth with skill enhancement workshops and frequent performance appraisals to ensure they meet leadership criteria.

  • Rockstar Teammates: High performers with high potential, often positioned in Box 1, need to be groomed for top leadership within six months to a year. Regular check-ins, executive coaching, and exposure to various departments can prepare them for higher roles. Leverage Creately’s integrated data visualization to plot their progress and make informed decisions.

The efficacy of the 9-box grid is greatly enhanced when paired with robust tools like Creately. With its infinite canvas, visual collaboration, and integrated data visualization capabilities, Creately empowers HR professionals and managers to make data-driven decisions, thereby revolutionizing talent management practices.

The Role of the 9 Box Grid in Succession Planning

9 Box Talent Grid
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9 Box Talent Grid

Identifying Future Leaders

The 9 Box Grid plays a pivotal role in succession planning by systematically identifying future leaders within an organization. By plotting employees based on their current performance and potential, HR professionals can clearly pinpoint high-potential candidates. Individuals placed in the upper right quadrant of the grid are typically those with the highest potential, making them prime candidates for leadership roles. This visual employee assessment tool is thereby instrumental in succession planning efforts, helping ensure a continuous pipeline of capable leaders ready to step up when needed.

Allocating Development Resources

Once future leaders are identified using the 9 Box Grid, it becomes easier to align development resources effectively. High-potential employees warrant strategic investments in their growth, whether through targeted coaching, challenging assignments, or advanced training programs. By using visual collaboration capabilities, such as those offered by Creately, organizations can enhance visibility of talent data and seamlessly integrate development plans. Creately’s features, like an infinite canvas and integrated data visualization, facilitate detailed and data-driven assessments, ensuring that each high-potential employee receives the attention and resources they need for their development.

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By leveraging this structured approach, organizations not only nurture their emerging leaders but also ensure a stable and unbroken leadership transition. The 9 Box Grid thus serves as a cornerstone of effective succession planning, enabling HR professionals and business leaders to make informed decisions about leadership grooming and resource allocation.

Advantages of Using the 9 Box Grid

Aptly identifying and managing talent within an organization is crucial, and the 9 Box Grid offers numerous advantages that streamline this process.

  • Simplifies Employee Assessment: The 9 Box Grid provides a clear, visual representation of where each employee stands in terms of performance and potential. This makes it easier for managers and HR professionals to quickly grasp and communicate employee status.

  • Encourages Strategic Development Planning: By revealing insights into employee capabilities, the nine box grid talent management approach aids in the creation of tailored development plans. This ensures employees receive the right coaching, mentorship, and training to reach their full potential.

  • Identifies High Potential Employees for Leadership Roles: The grid effectively highlights those who exhibit high performance and high potential, making it straightforward to pinpoint future leaders within the organization. This is particularly beneficial in succession planning.

  • Visual Categorization Aids in Transparent Decision Making: The visual nature of the 9 box model allows for transparent discussions among leadership teams regarding employee promotions, reallocations, and development investments. This transparency fosters a culture of fairness and clarity within the organization.

Utilizing tools like Creately can enhance the effectiveness of the 9 Box Grid. Creately’s visual collaboration capabilities allow teams to create detailed and visually rich 9 box grid templates. The integration of data visualization tools provides deeper insights, enabling more informed talent assessments. By facilitating visual modeling on an infinite canvas, organizations can dynamically update their grid as employee performance and potential evolve, ensuring real-time, data-driven talent management strategies.

Limitations of the 9 Box Grid

The 9 Box Grid is a powerful tool for talent management, yet it is not without its limitations. Understanding these drawbacks is crucial for its effective implementation.

Unclear Metrics

One of the primary criticisms of the 9 box grid is its reliance on subjective metrics. This subjectivity can often lead to inconsistent evaluations and affect the grid’s overall reliability. Different managers might interpret performance and potential differently, causing variations in assessments that can skew the results.

Potential Bias

Bias is another significant challenge when using the nine box grid talent. Despite aiming for objectivity, human nature makes total impartiality difficult to achieve. Biases—whether conscious or unconscious—can impact how employees are assessed, leading to unfair placements on the grid and potentially hindering the growth of deserving individuals.

Labels Employees

Another drawback is that the 9 box grid can result in labeling employees. Once employees are placed in specific categories, there is a risk that they become confined to those labels, which can limit their opportunities for development and growth. Managers might overlook the potential for improvement in low-rated employees or place unwarranted expectations on high-rated ones without considering individual circumstances.

How Creately Enhances Employee Management

Visual Canvas for HR Planning and Management

Creately provides an intuitive visual canvas that simplifies the mapping of HR strategies and workflows. With its drag-and-drop interface, HR professionals can create and customize 9-box grids effortlessly, making the assessment process more interactive and visually engaging.

Versatile Frameworks for Performance Assessment and Development

Beyond the 9-box grid, Creately offers a range of visual frameworks to assess employee performance from multiple perspectives. Whether conducting performance reviews, creating development plans, or identifying training needs, Creately’s versatile templates ensure comprehensive employee evaluations.

Collaborative Space for Open Feedback and Transparent Conversations

One of Creately’s standout features is its collaborative environment, allowing HR teams, managers, and employees to work together in real-time. This shared space facilitates feedback, fosters open communication, and ensures everyone is aligned on performance expectations and development goals.

Centralized Resource Hub for Easy Employee Access

Creately acts as a centralized hub where employees can easily access essential resources. From performance metrics to development plans and feedback forms, everything is stored in one place, making it convenient for employees to stay informed and engaged in their professional growth journey.

By integrating Creately into your HR toolkit, you can enhance the effectiveness of the 9-box grid, promote a culture of continuous improvement, and ensure that your performance management processes are both efficient and impactful.

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Chiraag George
Chiraag George Communication Specialist

Chiraag George is a communication specialist here at Creately. He is a marketing junkie that is fascinated by how brands occupy consumer mind space. A lover of all things tech, he writes a lot about the intersection of technology, branding and culture at large.

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