The 9-box grid is an assessment tool to assess employee potential. It is often used in Succession Planning to assess the organization’s talent pool. It can also be used by individual leaders to assess their teams in order to determine a development strategy for each employee.
If an org utilizes a Talent Management System, the ratings from the annual performance review are pulled into the succession task, then each manager reviews those employees with higher performance scores for potential promotion, or development for a new position or promotion. It is especially critical for developing senior leaders, for readiness can take years for some industries and positions to develop.
The challenge comes in determining potential – leaders often have widely diverse opinions on what constitutes potential. See my blog post on a framework for determining potential.
Tips for using the 9 Box tool:
- Identify emerging leaders – outside of the formal succession process, leaders can use a 9 box to determine who is ready for additional development beyond their role.
- Tracking Employee Development – If you have employees who year after year are stuck in the same “box”, then you have a problem. This indicates inertia – higher performing employees are at risk for leaving. Having a chronic under-performer is disengaging and demoralizing the employee, as well as a detriment to your organization.
- Employee Development Diagnostic – in the example shown, each box has a suggested development strategy.
- Develop – actively identify the employees strengths and challenges and together with the employee craft a personal develop plan to move them to the next higher box.
- Stretch – these employees are ready for “stretch” projects – job rotation in another department, special projects, etc. Stretch these employees with challenging assignments.
- Feedback – Constructive feedback and positive reinforcement helps employees succeed in their day-to-day jobs; think of it as calibration to get to peak performance.
- Observe – Observing is paying closer attention – what are the employees strengths? What is keeping them from moving to a higher performance level? Observe to determine next steps and use as a retention strategy. Don’t go to sleep at the wheel with solid performers; they can become disengaged.
- Coach – a more active form of feedback, coaching involves observing the employee perform and giving feedback. It is particularly useful when an employee is trying new skills.
- Counsel – Counseling involves giving direct feedback about potential consequences of non-performance. Counseling should never be undertaken without feedback and coaching first.