What is the 9 Box Grid?
A ‘nine-box grid’ is a matrix tool used to evaluate and plot a company’s talent pool based on two factors, which most commonly are performance and potential. Typically on the horizontal axis is ‘performance’ measured by performance reviews. On the vertical axis is ‘potential’ referring to an individual’s potential to grow one or more levels in a managerial or professional capacity.
Nine-box grids are actively used during the talent review process. During this process, a group of managers/leaders work together to manually place individuals on the X-Y axis to help identify the highest potential individuals, who needs development, and who needs coaching on performance improvement.
4 Top Benefits of Using the 9 Box Grid
High-performing organizations look to the future by strategically identifying top talent and investing in ways to professionally develop employees who exhibit leadership potential. The following list highlights the advantages of using the 9-box grid for leadership succession planning.
1. Develops Future Leaders
The 9-box grid is designed to provide a visual of employees who have a record of high past performance and display behaviors that indicate strong leadership potential. A tool like the 9-box offers a simple, easy-to-use way to highlight those stellar employees and place them on the path to coaching and development faster.
2. Reduces Bias
Without a coaching tool like the 9-box grid, leadership succession planning is often dependent on tenure or likability. The tendency is for current leaders to promote employees who have traits they see in themselves or who have a history of high performance without considering other important factors. Assessing both performance and potential through open discussions and performance data helps to reduce subjectivity in selecting leaders and therefore significantly decreases the risk of biased 9-box decision-making.
3. Identifies Coaching Opportunities
Because the boxes within the 9-box model cover the range of low to high performance and potential, the 9-box grid also highlights those employees who require coaching and direction. For example, an employee who is placed in the High Potential, Low Performance box can then work with their manager to create an individual development plan to lead them to increased performance results.
4. Increases Accountability
The ‘potential’ category on the 9-box grid elicits structured discussion amongst current leadership. Organizations can decide beforehand the competencies and behaviors they are looking for when identifying employees with potential so that once it is time to make placements into the 9-box grid, conversations can be centered around a set of standards. These discussions bring to light multiple perspectives across various roles and departments, increasing accountability for employees and those in decision-making positions.
How to Use the 9 Box For Measurement
As stated above, a 9-box grid measures two factors: performance and potential. The understanding is that future leaders of an organization must possess a track record of exceeding performance expectations and must display behaviors and competencies that indicate their ability to take on leadership roles. The 9-box model provides a visual representation of both of these components on an x and a y-axis.
Typically, the ‘Performance’ axis is calculated based on appraisal results that measure performance objectives, goals, or a combination of the two. This axis relies upon documented performance data for accurate 9-box placements. There are a few ways organizations determine how to translate performance data to the 9-box grid but most commonly performance is separated by low, moderate, or high performance placements.
- Low- The employee’s performance has not met expectations
- Moderate- The employee’s performance has met expectations
- High- The employee’s performance has exceeded expectations
Some organizations may choose to associate a number range to performance categories, such as 0-3 is low, 4-6 is moderate, and 7-10 is high. Regardless of what measuring tactics work best for each team, each of the boxes in the 9-box grid indicates a certain level of performance efforts.
In contrast, the ‘Potential’ axis in the 9-box grid is unique to each organization. Some teams identify leadership competencies and skills that every potential leader must demonstrate prior to 9-box grid conversations and placements. High-performing teams will learn from past leaders how to best identify future ones. Often this looks like recalling and documenting positive traits and skills in successful leaders and less desirable traits or skills in problematic leaders.
The most important factor to consider when placing employees on the potential axis is that a general set of standards is applied. Though the concept of ‘potential’ justifiably leaves plenty of room for nuance, specific leadership abilities should be identified and formally discussed before placements are made in the 9-box model.
How WorkDove Uses the 9-Box Grid with the Performance-Values Matrix
Many organizations choose to utilize WorkDove’s 9-Box leadership succession planning tool alongside WorkDove’s Performance Matrix. The impetus for using both resources together is due to our clients seeing great value in gaining data insights to identify top performers and potential successors. The evidence is clear that the two tools complement each other by providing deeper knowledge about individuals’ performance and potential development opportunities.
9-Box Grid Example
WorkDove’s 9-box grid labels each of the 9 boxes with specific verbiage to help leaders share a common language when making 9-box placements, such as ‘Potential Gem’ or ‘Star.’
Performance-Values Matrix Example
Similar to the 9-Box, WorkDove’s Performance-Values Matrix (PVM) rates two dimensions: the employee’s performance and core values/behavioral alignment.
“Stars” in the upper right section of both grids are coached for succession; transpose the lower right-hand boxes and the upper left-hand boxes from the PVM, and it’s visible to see who has potential and who needs further development. The lower left-hand corner in both grids represents employees who require a “crucial conversation.”
Increase Accuracy in the 9-Box Grid with WorkDove
Leaning on the Performance-Values Matrix, managers’ star ratings in the performance review of the employee’s performance and behaviors are combined to form a single Total Performance Score.
This Total Performance Score then serves as the X-axis on the 9-Box. As discussed previously, the Y-axis (potential) is determined by a group of leaders to assess and decide together through candid conversations. It is important to note that the emphasis here is on the conversation as it allows for further accountability and additional perspectives beyond the employee’s direct manager.
The power of using the Total Performance Score from the PVM is that it 1) gives a more holistic view of the employee’s overall performance and 2) reduces subjectivity by relying on a documented performance review process.
We have created an easy-to-use 9-Box template to help get you started today! You can access this template by clicking the button below to schedule a brief demo with a WorkDove 9-Box model expert.
In the template, Performance and Behavior ratings are added together to calculate the Total Performance Score. Performance and Behaviors are each rated on a 5-star scale, so the Total Performance Score will consist of a number from 1-10.
Using this data, managers and other leaders can see which employees would be considered high performers. From there, they can rate the selected employees’ leadership-identified potential on the same 10-point scale and enter that number into the template. This then automatically populates the employee’s placement into the 9-Box grid.
Final Thoughts on the 9-Box Grid
A 9-box grid takes into account the perspectives of several people, reducing bias and increasing visibility. WorkDove’s Performance-Values Matrix informs raters with reliable data. The two grids complement each other, and ideally, both grids should have similar data points for each employee. If there is a marked difference between the 9-Box placement and PVM placement, we recommend you do some digging. Is the person’s manager evaluating the employee fairly? Do they struggle to assess employee efforts with objectivity?
WorkDove’s 9-Box app allows for a custom configuration so you can adjust the labels on the 9-Box grid to what makes the most sense for your organization. The Performance-Values Matrix can track something called Leadership Identified Next Position and Employee Identified Position(s), both of which populate into a Leadership Succession Report. This report gives insight into the employee’s overall performance scores, their desired next position, and the next steps for their growth identified by their direct manager/leader. For WorkDove users, you can reach out to your Customer Success Manager at any time for help adjusting your account settings, 9-Box grid, or PVM.
Ready to implement the 9-Box grid alongside the Performance-Values Matrix?