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Global Work Glossary

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Why use the 9-box model?

The limitations of the 9-grid model

How to use the 9-box grid to evaluate employee performance and growth potential

Manage your global team effectively

What is the 9-box grid?

The 9-box grid is a talent management tool that helps HR professionals in performance reviews and proactive people planning by grouping and plotting personnel across 9 key data points.

It’s a common talent management approach where you evaluate an employee’s potential and performance and place them into one of the nine categories, identifying potential leaders, high-performing employees, low performers who need assistance, and more.

The 9-box matrix is a visual tool that consists of two axes: the horizontal axis (x-axis) for employees’ current performance and the vertical axis (y-axis) for employees’ growth potential.

This framework aids in strategizing and directing your organization's resources sensibly to engage and nurture the company's future leaders and enables you to manage an organization's entire workforce.

Why use the 9-box model?

The 9-box assessment offers several benefits for HR and leadership teams.

1. Ease of use 

The 9-box grid model has an easy-to-understand framework. To properly evaluate your staff, you need to classify each member into the most suitable category, taking into account their performance and future potential. This tool is intuitive even for unfamiliar users due to the grid's visual representation.

2. Effective talent pool assessment 

The 9-box grid helps you identify high-potential employees in your organization and where they need to improve to reach their full potential. You will have data to support your decision of where and how to allocate resources for engaging and developing these employees. You'll also clearly know who to consider for internal promotions and leadership positions.

3. A holistic method for evaluating talent

The 9-box model offers a more comprehensive, holistic approach to performance management. You won't get caught up in a single aspect of an employee's performance, and you'll be able to evaluate current and future performance.

4. A versatile resource 

The 9-box talent grid is beneficial for both talent management and workforce planning. This assessment tool provides a comprehensive evaluation of the future potential of your personnel and the positions in which they are likely to flourish. This facilitates succession planning in all business units.

The limitations of the 9-grid model

The 9-box grid comes with its share of limitations. Here’s what you might find challenging.

1. Difference between performance & potential

It can be challenging to differentiate between performance and potential without a clear definition or comprehension of both concepts.

While most companies have a straightforward procedure for assessing employee performance, many still lack experience evaluating potential, leading to inaccurate individual ratings, especially with potential metrics often being unclear. 

2. Employee reactions

Employees' morale and motivation could take a hit if you are open and honest about their performance. Low-ranking employees may respond negatively to labels such as "low performer" or "low potential," and with good reason.

This information can also establish a hierarchy within the company, which can harm productivity and morale. If the assessment results are transparent and available for everyone to see, that could create a gap between top performers and team members who may need additional training to improve their skill set and fulfill job requirements.

3. Employee labels affecting future opportunities

The 9-box grid assigns employees to a specific label, which influences how management perceives them. For example, describing an employee as a poor performer with low potential on the grid could alter how management treats and perceives that employee in the future, even if they develop great competency and become a high performer.

How to use the 9-box grid to evaluate employee performance and growth potential

The nine-box grid allows managers to create individualized growth plans for each employee based on their category.

Below is an action plan for improving the performance of the 9-box grid's employees.

1. Poor performer-low potential

  • Determine the personal obstacles causing poor performance
  • Identify a more suitable job role for a better fit
  • Create an exit strategy for the individual if there is no justifiable reason for poor performance and no other suitable position

2. Moderate performer-low Potential, low performer-moderate potential

  • Design employee development plans after analyzing skill gaps
  • Provide mentorship on how to be more inventive
  • Provide measurable expectations and precise descriptions of what leadership considers a successful performance
  • Assess the plan's progress once a month
  • Identify a more suitable job role for a better fit
  • Create an exit strategy if there is no performance improvement within the specified timeframe

3. High performer-low potential

  • Assess their potential in light of how their work will evolve and assist them in preparing accordingly
  • Can be considered for raises and mid-level management positions

4. Low performer-high potential

  • Communicate your expectations to enhance their current performance
  • Allow them time to grow and continue to monitor their performance
  • Individuals with high potential should make significant progress within six to twelve months
  • Invest in additional coaching or training for these employees if necessary

5. Moderate performer-moderate potential

  • Communicate expectations and role requirements
  • Allow time for performance development and evaluation
  • Consider them for promotions to same-level positions
  • Motivate employees by consistently praising their achievements and good performance
  • Give them challenging tasks or projects
  • To overcome performance barriers, provide peer coaching from a high-achieving employee (You can also provide classroom training and opportunities for on-the-job learning to help them overcome skill deficiencies)
  • People management coaching could benefit them

6. High performer-moderate potential, moderate performer-high potential

  • Schedule routine check-ins and acknowledge their efforts
  • Offer 360-degree feedback
  • Assign challenging tasks to grow in the current role
  • Delegate challenging tasks to groom the employee for a future leadership role
  • These employees may require assistance in enhancing their strategic thinking

7. High performer-high potential

  • Provide challenging tasks to cultivate your top talent through leadership development
  • Regularly assess their satisfaction with their current position and look for signs of discontent
  • Make them feel valued for their contributions
  • Provide mentoring and networking opportunities with senior organization members
  • Reward them and ensure they are compensated competitively

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