Organizational Wellness

The Quick Guide to the 9-Box Grid for Performance Management

Mar 29, 2023
Last Updated Jan 11, 2024

Ever notice how many different ways there are to solve a single math problem these days? The lattice method, stick multiplication, the box method, criss-cross multiplication…there are so many ways to approach the problem. This lets people pick the best one to find the solution depending on their learning style, thinking patterns, and the math problem in front of them.

Talent evaluation processes have evolved in a similar way. There isn’t just one right way to assess your employees’ skills — and you shouldn’t rely on one approach as a single source of truth anyway. Instead, there are multiple methods that can help you get a sense of your workforce’s performance and potential as you plan to meet company objectives.

A 9-box grid is one of the most helpful tools you can use to plot out how your employees are currently performing and where there’s room to grow. Here’s what to know about this talent management method.


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What is a 9-Box Grid?

A 9-box grid is a type of talent matrix used to evaluate employees and chart their performance. It’s made up of nine squares arranged in three columns and three rows, with each square representing a different level of performance and potential. The grid is typically broken down into nine boxes, as the name applies, with the X-axis representing employee potential and the Y-axis ranking performance. High achievers are sorted towards the top right and under-performers grouped toward the bottom left.

The 9-box grid, also called a 9-box assessment or 9-block assessment, can help you identify:

  • which employees are exceeding expectations
  • who is underperforming
  • who has potential to be promoted or moved into a higher role
  • who may need extra guidance or training

It’s important to remember that a 9-box grid is just one tool for evaluating employees. While it can provide useful insights, consider other factors when making decisions about an employee’s performance and potential. These factors include knowledge, experience, skillset, leadership potential, character traits, and how the person fits in with the organization’s culture. These can all be really useful when assessing individuals for promotions or open roles.


Why Should You Use a 9-Box Talent Assessment?

You should use the 9-box grid in order to get a comprehensive understanding of your employees’ performance. By looking at the different quadrants of the grid, you can spot top performers and those who may need extra attention or guidance. The grid also helps to identify high-potential candidates for growth and promotion opportunities.

Make Informed Decisions About Succession Planning

A 9-box grid helps HR managers and team leaders with succession planning by showing them which employees are doing well in their current roles, who needs extra help, and who may be ready for a new role. By looking at the different blocks within the matrix, the manager can quickly and easily identify future leaders by focusing on those in the top right — high potential, high performance.

Assessing these employees and their abilities through the grid helps the managers make informed decisions about which ones should be given higher-level roles or additional training and development opportunities in order to help them reach their full potential.

Organize Your Performance Management Process

A 9-box grid provides structure and consistency to an organization’s performance management process. Managers and HR professionals can organize employee reviews and assessments around the same standard criteria and then evaluate everyone on the same level playing field. This helps to ensure that the decision process is fair and consistent.

By providing a comprehensive view of each employee’s performance, the 9-box grid brings a consistent structure when it comes to upskilling employees and addressing performance feedback. You can establish a clear path forward for each box on the grid. If a manager sees that there are low-performing employees with low potential in the bottom left of the grid, for example, they can then create a performance improvement plan to aid their growth. 

Easily Visualize Employee Performance and Potential

One of the 9-box grid’s biggest benefits is that it’s a great visual tool. Organizational leaders can quickly see, at a glance, which employees are ready to take the next step and which team members need some extra support and development.

The visual aspect of the 9-box grid also helps to simplify complex conversations about performance and potential. Thestructure is easy to follow and it helps save time by allowing managers to quickly assess the team’s performance in a standard tool. It also makes it easier to see everyone’s performance at once, so it’s easier to make decisions about your workers.


How to Conduct a 9-Block Assessment

When used correctly, a 9-box talent assessment can be an integral part of your talent management strategy. But how does it work?

  1. Determine Your Criteria: The first step in conducting a 9-box grid assessment is to determine the criteria for performance and potential. This should be based on the specific job, role, or tasks that each employee is expected to perform. If you’re assessing salespeople, for example, you may want to consider factors such as customer satisfaction levels, number of deals closed, and overall sales figures.
  2. Evaluate Employees: Once you’ve identified your criteria, it’s time to score each employee on performance and potential. You can use any type of rating system (e.g., a scale of 1-5) or percentage scale for this. It’s also a good idea to evaluate employees using a variety of sources, such as performance reviews with their manager, 360-degree feedback from peers, and self-assessments.
  3. Label Your Boxes: After you’ve scored each employee, it’s time to plot the results on the 9-box grid. Thetraditional way to set up the grid is to label the x-axis as “Performance” and the y-axis as “Potential”. Therefore, the boxes to the left signify low performance and those to the right signify high-performing employees. The boxes at the bottom, meanwhile, signify little room for growth, while those at the top show employees who have a lot of potential.
  4. Create Action Plans: Once you’ve plotted the results on the 9-box grid, it’s time to create action plans for each employee. You’ll have to determine the best way to support your team members no matter where they place. With employeds rated as low performers with high potential, for example, you can discuss ways to help them unlock that potential through coaching, upskilling, or communicating performance expectations. If they’re rated as high performers with high potential, you’ll want to keep them engaged through career development: giving them challenging assignments, providing job shadowing opportunities, and identifying pathways to move up in your organization.


Employee Engagement is a Crucial Metric for Talent Management Success

No matter what talent assessment tool you use, employee engagement is always a top priority. After all, it’s one of the leading indicators for measuring employee potential and performance. You should strive to create an environment where employees feel supported and have the resources they need to succeed.

By providing opportunities for upskilling, mentoring, and career growth, you can keep employees engaged with your company — and help improve employee retention as well. By supporting and identifying career development opportunities within your organization, you’ll keep some of your best talent around. After all, employees are 87% more likely to stay with their employers after an internal move, compared to 75% of those who don’t make one, according to a LinkedIn survey.

Your talent management process is just one method you can use to foster employee engagement. You can also try implementing a wellness program as part of your organization’s benefits package. Wellness programs can help your team members improve their overall health while reducing stress and boosting morale.

Providing those perks can help them feel more connected to your organization. Speak to one of our wellbeing specialists to learn how to craft an engaging wellness offering for your team!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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