9 box grid

9 box grid model for talent management - toolshero

This article explains the 9 box grid (or nine box grid) in a practical way. After reading, you will understand the basics of this human resources management and talent management tool.

What is the 9 box grid model?

The 9 box grid model is a tool designed to reveal the performance, talents, and potential of employees. In addition, it offers ways to better monitor these talents and develop them further. It is an instrument that can be used for team and talent development and talent spotting. Team development becomes more transparent and supervisors will gain valuable information about their employees’ strengths. The 9 box grid model received international recognition thanks to Jack Welch, the CEO of the American company General Electric. He emphasised increasing employee performance. He does so by recruiting the right people and committing the best employees to the company. In practice, it means that some employees have to be let go because they do not add value or are not a good fit for the organisation.

Nine Boxes

The 9 box grid model is formed by a grid with two axes. The x-axis shows the employee’s ‘performance’, which can be ‘low’, ‘average/normal’, and ‘high’. The y-axis shows the ‘potential’, which comes down to the ability to further develop the talents of individual employees. This factor can also be ‘low’, ‘average/normal’, and ‘high’. Together, these combinations form nine different boxes, each with their own characteristics. You can then enter names of individual employees into the grid. The 9 box grid model makes it possible to see the value of each staff member at a single glance.

9 box grid template for talent management - toolshero

In most cases, the manager decides in which box of the model employees should be placed. The employee’s performance, the supervisor’s experience with that employee, and his estimate of the employee’s (growth) potential all decide how the 9 box grid model is filled out. A supervisor can use a pen to write down the employee names, but using Post-It notes is often easier. That way, names can easily be moved, and the box in which an employee is placed is not permanent. By making it a team activity, it can lead to interesting discussions about what ‘performance’ and ‘potential’ mean exactly and how they can be seen in the work people carry out. The nine boxes each have their own characteristics, which have been briefly described below:

Box 1: Low performance / Low potential

Within the nine box grid mdoel, this is the box for the so-called underperformers. In their work and performance, they do not meet the requirements set by the organisation, meaning they are not suitable for their current position. There is a termination risk for the employment contract, as organisations want to employ as few underperformers as possible. It is possible that the employee is in a role that is completely wrong for them and is overwhelmed by their responsibilities. In such cases, it is a good idea to look at the employee’s current position together and look at what role would better suit them. If there is a vacancy that matches that, it is always a good idea to give that a try. If there is no other option, then letting them go will be the best option. An outplacement procedure can be offered by the organisation.

Box 2: Average performance / Low potential

This is the box for solid performers who meet all quality requirements set by the organisation. However, they do not really excel in any of their tasks. Such employees can be assigned to different positions of a similar level. It is important that sufficient attention is paid to them, and that they are supervised and monitored on their jobs. Only then will their performance grow and improve. In the long term, that improved performance might lead to a promotion.

Box 3: Low performance / Average potential

Inconsistent performers can be found in box 3 of the 9 box grid. That means they are a risk factor; a company can’t rely on them to perform well consistently. Their results are often unsatisfactory. If it’s a new employee in a new job, then it’s logical that their performance is not up to standard at first. But it is expected that they will grow to become a stable and good performer in the short term. If that does not happen and the employee continues to perform badly, it should be investigated why this is, and how their performance can be improved. It is not a matter of talent development. A possible solution is reassigning the employee in question to a lower position. If that does not help, then it is time to let them go.

Box 4: High performance / Low potential

Within the 9 box grid model, this box contains the professional experts; specialists who perform excellently, making them valuable to the organisation. However, their talent development is low, and they are unlikely to be promoted to a position with more responsibilities. Often these are older, experienced employees who are no longer interested in developing their talents, as they will be retiring in a few years anyway.

Box 5: Average performance/Average potential

This is the box for the basic professionals; the quality of their work is fine, and they are open to developing their talents. This is a favourite for most organisations, because the company has a lot of options for employees like that. There are plenty of opportunities to have them grow into more demanding roles with more responsibility.

Box 6: Low performance / High potential

Box 6 is home to potential top performers. These are often employees who are just starting out, new to the company with little or no experience, but with proper training. It makes sense that their performance is not yet up to the standards of the business, as they do not have enough experience yet. Their talent development is high, and they are open to participating in any kind of training programme. It is a good idea to set goals together with these employees and regularly assess their performance based on those goals. After a period of about three months, there should be noticeable progression in their work performance.

Box 7: High performance / Average potential

Good performers can be found here. They perform at the top of their field and there are decent opportunities to develop their talents further. They are eligible for more demanding roles. In many cases, they set the right example within the organisation, making them very valuable.

Box 8: Average performance / High potential

This is the box of the rising stars; the ultimate talents within the organisation. In addition to performing well, they have high talent potential, meaning there is plenty of opportunity for them to rise through the ranks or develop further in their current position. It is important for an organisation to cherish and retain many such talents because they are the driving force behind the success of the business.

Box 9: High performance / High potential

These are the top talents who do not just perform at the top of their game, but who are equally able to get even more out of their talents. They are usually in positions with a lot of responsibility and will quickly rise to middle management. Sometimes these top talents can become demotivated or bored when they are not sufficiently challenged in their current role. In such cases, it would be a good idea to offer clear career opportunities and come to proper agreements on promotions. Personal career counselling is certainly warranted here.

9 box grid : Follow up

The 9 box grid model help managers evaluate their employees. If the outcome is positive, everything is fine. A poor evaluation will mean that it is necessary to talk to the employee in question. It might be necessary to take follow-up steps. Each box in the 9 grid model determines which follow-up steps would be most effective for that specific employee.

An employee who works hard and achieves good results might be at their best and no longer able to develop themselves any further. Their quality is high, and their potential is low. A logical next step would be to keep the employee in their job for the time being and to monitor their performance to ensure it remains stable. If their performance does suffer, they will have to be let go.

Vice versa, it might be an employee who does not perform all that well, but who does have strong potential for development. By talking to them, a supervisor can discover the issue the employee is having and what kind of support they need. Specific training or the prospect of a new position within the organisation can help the employee get back on track.

9 box grid template

Stakeholder matrix template
Stakeholder matrix template
Start to reveal, monitor and further develop the performance, talents, and potential of employees with this 9 box grid template.
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Now It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Do you recognize the explanation of the 9 box grid model? What are your experiences with mapping and monitoring the performance, talents and potential of employees? Do you have any tips or comments?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Ashton, C., & Morton, L. (2005). Managing talent for competitive advantage: Taking a systemic approach to talent management. Strategic HR review, 4(5), 28-31.
  2. Davies, B., & Davies, B. J. (2010). Talent management in academies. International Journal of Educational Management, 24(5), 418-426.
  3. Martin, A. (2015). Talent management: Preparing a “Ready” agile workforce. International Journal of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 2(3-4), 112-116.

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Patty Mulder
About the Author

Patty Mulder is an Dutch expert on Management Skills, Time Management, Personal Effectiveness and Business Communication. She is also a Content writer, Business Coach and Company Trainer and lives in the Netherlands (Europe).
Note: all her articles are written in Dutch and we translated her articles in English!

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