The 9 box model, also known as a 9 box grid or a 9 box matrix, is widely used in talent management. It was developed by McKinsey & Company and has been around since the 1970s. This management consultancy firm worked extensively with General Electric. It seems like it still has much to offer in the 21st century.
The remarkable thing about the 9 box matrix is that it was used to compare business units, not employees. Also, the criteria used were different. The model quickly proved to be transferable to other areas. HR professionals apply the grid to identify employee growth potential based on current performance scores.
This article explains the 9 box grid and what it is used for. We also cover the pros and cons of using this method and raise awareness of the potential pitfalls. We summarize a quick list of dos and don'ts when applying the model.
Hopefully, in the end, you'll have a clear idea of how to incorporate this model into your talent management strategy.
What is the 9 box grid model?
The 9 box model is a way to display company employees' distribution based on two criteria on a two-dimensional matrix or grid. These two criteria are usually performance and potential. It allows managers and HR professionals to identify the employees with the highest growth potential and invest wisely in the company's talent pool.
The 9 box grid is a talent management tool with a common application in succession planning and performance management. Perhaps the most quoted use is for identifying future leaders and preparing them for their critical roles.
In such a case, 9 box talent review tool has been useful for more than five decades. It has proved itself in various scenarios and has helped hundreds of companies. At this point, the crucial part of the 9-box talent review instrument is its use cases.
What is the 9 box grid used for?
The most common use of the 9 box model is for succession planning. To make a good succession plan, you must identify suitable candidates for future promotions. To find out, you must look at how well your employees are doing and how likely they are to keep up the good work in a role with more responsibilities.
The 9 box model works well for succession planning because it shows how people score on both criteria. To qualify for the leadership team, one must have moderate performance and moderate to high potential. Ideally, your future leaders would be the top performers with the highest potential. Such people attract the management's attention for a reason, but they are rare.
The odds are that most of your employees will fit within the middlebox - moderate performers with moderate potential. This is where you would be looking most of the time in your succession planning process. People at the corners are likely to be a minority. Also, there's only one corner that's critical for succession planning.
Once you have identified your potential leaders, it's time to figure out how to prepare them for their future roles. The 9 box grid is also used for workforce planning and investment strategy.
A succession plan would be useless if your MVPs get bored, frustrated, or feel undervalued. High-performing employees must feel rewarded if you want them to stick around while setting future leadership roles. The 9 box grid indicates where you should invest the most. As a result, with a broad range of the model’s applications, it is no wonder companies have stuck to it for such a long time. Yet, the talent review 9 box is the tool that has even more to offer.
9 box assessment grid
The 9 box assessment tool is an evaluation instrument dividing and plotting employees across 9 distinct data points. As a grid-based method, it has various points of employee assessment. These proved to have a major impact on how 9 box assessment questions can be used to evaluate a person’s performance and present potential growth opportunities. At this point, scoring plays a vital part in the overall system, something we discuss further in detail.
How do you score a 9 box talent assessment grid?
There are five main steps for creating a 9 box matrix. They may seem easy at first, but each of them can be a separate progression in itself.
- Set up a blank grid.
- Evaluate performance, or use already available data.
- Evaluate the potential of all employees.
- Combine the scores for every individual.
- Put the results on the blank grid to draw the big picture.
Let's look at all five steps to highlight the main things to watch for.
1. How to stack the nine boxes?
To prepare the grid, you must first put the two criteria on the X and Y-axis. The most used configuration puts performance on the horizontal and potential on the vertical axis. The next thing is to make three arbitrary descriptive value brackets for both criteria. Traditionally, the model uses Low, Medium, and High. That is how you get the 9 box matrix (3x3 grid).
The main thing is to have low performers on both criteria on the bottom left. High performers on both criteria end up in the top right corner of the 9 box grid. All other combinations fall somewhere above or below the diagonal.
The 9 box assessment model doesn't show precise performance scores. It is up to the management or the HR professionals to decide the boundaries between low, mid, and high performance.
2. Assessing employee performance
Once the blank grid is prepared, we can evaluate performance. Usually, you'd have recent data for most employees. Usually, newcomers are the only ones that don't have a performance score just because it's too early for their first evaluation.
The best thing about evaluation is using your existing assessment system. Also, if you use performance review software, you'll have all the data you need available in an easy-to-use form. Even something as simple as an exported Excel sheet would work.
3. Evaluate growth potential
When you have assessed employee performance, it's time to evaluate the growth potential. This is perhaps the trickiest part of the process. The most pitfalls of using the 9 box grid are at this stage. We discuss this later in the chapters about the pros and cons of the model.
4. Combining the data on the 9 box talent review template
Once every employee has scored for both performance and potential, it's time to place them under the applicable categories. Then, you must plot the data on the 9 box assessment template. This should paint a decent picture of the company's talent pool state.
5. Visualizing data
You can further format the data to visualize the distribution of your workforce on the 9 box grid. For instance, the number of people in every box can be presented in absolute values or percentages. You can color it as a heatmap to show the most common combinations of scores.
Keeping the above insights in mind, it is important to add one more thing - for the 9 box assessment model to operate correctly, you must meet a certain prerequisite. More specifically, all employees must be assessed by matching criteria. It should be done to allow you to cross-reference and compare all of them later. These conditions must be met for both productivity and growth potential factors.
How can Effy help?
Effy.ai is a talent management software that allows reviews and data gathering on employee performance easily and seamlessly. For your convenience, there are pre-made templates for assessing performance and growth potential. At Effy, we strive to empower the building of versatile and high-performing teams. Our main goal is to facilitate the growth of innovative companies by making people management painless and hassle-free. What is more, you can use our services for free.
Besides, in the upcoming release, we plan to add a 9 box talent assessment review template. However, for the system to design and implement this new tool, you need to conduct several dozens of reviews. So, without further delays, sign up and check the platform’s functionality. If you have any questions, you can use our tool and book a meeting with Effy’s representative, who will help with the product’s configuration and answer all 9 box assessment-related questions.