The Nine-Box Grid for Talent Management- A Study

Choosing the right person for hiring in magnifying glass

An Introduction

A leader comes across a wide range of people in her team. If some team members are excellent, others could be mediocre. There are also subordinates who can improve their qualities when they receive proper opportunity. It is the unwritten duty of a manager to observe and assess the capabilities of her team members. This way she can provide the required training, so that they can develop themselves. In this article, we will discuss the Nine-Box Grid for Talent Management. This study will help the leader in realizing the steps she needs to take in order to develop her people.

An Idea of Nine-Box Grid for Talent Management

The nine-box grid is used to assess an organization’s talent pool. It a matrix tool and is based on two factors. These two factors are potential and performance. The vertical axis indicates potential of a team member to develop and the horizontal axis indicates performance of the person. It is measured by the performance review of that subordinate.

The nine-box grid is often used in performance review processes. During the talent review process, managers collaborate with each other and place their team members on the X-Y axis to assess which employees have high potential and which employees need to work on developmental areas.

Each of the nine boxes has a different action linked to it. There are team members who are good performers but their performance level is maintained only in a particular role. They do not want to get into leadership because they may not be able to show their excellence.

Nine-Box Grid

Advantages of the Nine-box Grid

The following benefits entail the use of the nine-box grid.

  • The matrix tool acts as a catalyst for dialogue among leaders in senior positions.
  • It helps leaders to assess their team members on two major dimensions. They are performance and potential.
  • The company comes to know about its talent pool.
  • It assists in recognizing development areas and planning improvement strategies.

The Nine-box Grid in Details

The nine-box grid is not a tool to label the performance of employees; it is rather used to track development and progress of employees. Managers decide on the training, which helps in the development of the employee and the organization. Development actions include feedback, training and assignments. Managers should not only develop strategies to improve the potential of employees, but also follow up the performance of the latter and meet on a regular basis. Meetings help in drawing more intelligent plans to help in the improvement of employees.

Article signup banner

Here is an example of the nine-box grid for a company X.

Does not meet expectations Meets expectations Excellent performance
(High) A team member has just been initiated in to the role and has not yet got the opportunity to prove herself. The leader should think of plans to develop her. If she has been in the role for sometime then it is a serious problem. This team member is quite a performer and has met company’s expectations. However, there are chances that she can improve. Her potential has not yet been fully utilized and the leader has to focus on developing her so that she can meet greater challenges in the future. The team member has shown her expertise in the current role and is waiting for a different challenge. The leader should make sure that this resource gets challenging roles that bring out hidden skills. It is important to retain her as she can emerge as a future leader.
(Medium) This team member shows potential but performance is still not up to the mark. The leader should try to assess the reason for performing badly and try to improve her performance. If that does not work, she has to design a different improvement plan for the team members. This team member has the potential to meet current expectations and can take up responsibilities for the present role. The team leader should focus to increase the contribution of the team member towards the organization. She should also assess the potential growth of such a subordinate. This team member exceeds the leader’s expectations and is ready to develop and grow as a performer. The leader should be careful while planning the improvement plan for this team member. She should take into account the gaps, filling which her subordinate can move on to take the next level of responsibility.
(Low) This team member does not meet the company’s expectations and has low potential. The team leader should try to improve the performance level of this team member significantly by finding a more suitable role. This team member performs consistently but has low potential. The team leader should focus on increasing the performance of the team member. She should also think of a more suitable role and assess the future potential of that subordinate. The team leader should also plan for a successor if she thinks that the present team members may not perform as per expectation even after training. This team member is a good performer but chances of her going to a more powerful role are bleak. To ensure that the employee is motivated throughout her stay in the company and is retained by the management, the team leader should keep her engaged in different kinds of assignments. In the long run they are able to provide support to other resources by way of their experience and knowledge.
(Low) (Medium)

The nine-box grid helps in identifying future leaders of a company. The employees who are in the third box of the top row are those who are excellent in their present jobs and are waiting for new challenges. On the other hand, the employees in the first box of the bottom row are those who do not meet expectations of the management and have low potential. These underperformers can be improved through improvement plans by the team leader.


From this article it can be understood that the nine-box grid assists managers to understand the excellence of employees and take necessary actions to develop underperformers.

Other tools you might find interesting