How to Use the 9-Box Talent Review for Talent Management

managers working on the 9 box talent review on the board

In this article, we will help managers in understanding and implementing the 9 Box Talent Review in order to improve performance and identify key investments in employees.

What is 9 box talent review?

The 9 box talent review is a talent management strategy that helps organizations assess and manage their employees' performance and potential. This tool uses a simple grid to categorize employees based on two main factors: their current performance and their future potential.

The goal is to identify high performers and potential leaders, as well as to develop tailored strategies for improving performance and growth.

The 9-box talent grid

The 9-box grid is a matrix with nine categories. The horizontal axis (X-axis) represents employee performance, ranging from low to high. The vertical axis (Y-axis) represents employee potential, also ranging from low to high.

By plotting employees on this grid, organizations can get a clear picture of their talent landscape and make informed talent management decisions.

Components of the 9-box grid

The 9-box grid consists of two main components: performance and potential.

Performance (X-axis)

Performance measures how well an employee meets expectations and job duties. This can be assessed throughperformance reviews, continuous employee feedback, and objective data. High performers consistently exceed expectations, while low-performing employees may struggle to meet basic requirements.

Potential (Y-axis)

Potential assesses an employee's ability to grow and take on more responsibilities in the future. This includes leadership potential, strategic thinking, and the capacity for job enlargement or stretch assignments. Employees with high future potential are seen as capable of taking on more complex roles and contributing to the organization's success.

Categories within the grid

The 9-box grid has nine categories that combine both performance and potential.

  • High performers/High potential: These employees excel in their current roles and show great potential for future leadership. They are valuable employees and ideal candidates for succession planning and strategic decision-making.

  • High performers/Moderate potential: These employees deliver high performance consistently but have moderate potential for future growth. They are key assets to their current business units and may benefit from tailored development plans to enhance their career potential.

  • High performers/Low potential: These employees perform exceptionally well but have low potential for future leadership roles. They are valuable in their current positions and can help maintain stability and high performance in their areas.

  • Moderate performers/High potential: These employees show moderate performance but have high future potential. With proper talent development strategies, they can become high performers and potential leaders.

  • Moderate performers/Moderate potential: These employees have average performance and potential. They meet expectations but may need additional support and development to improve performance and grow within the organization.

  • Moderate performers/Low potential: These employees show moderate performance with low future potential. They are consistent performers but may not be suited for roles with greater responsibilities or leadership potential.

  • Low performers/High potential: These employees have low current performance but show high potential for future growth. With targeted talent management strategies and development, they can improve their performance and contribute significantly to the organization.

  • Low performers/Moderate potential: These employees have low performance and moderate potential. They may need focused development and support to meet expectations and enhance their career prospects.

  • Low performers/Low potential: These employees struggle with both performance and potential. They may require significant intervention or may not be a good fit for the organization's long-term goals.

Steps to effectively implement the 9-box talent review

When managing talent in your organization, it's crucial to have a structured way to evaluate and develop your team.

The 9-box talent review is a powerful tool used by HR professionals to identify employees with high potential and determine their future in the company. Here’s a detailed guide on how to implement this method effectively.

Step 1: Define clear objectives

Before diving into the 9-box talent review, it's essential to set clear objectives. This helps ensure that the process aligns well with your organizational goals.

Align with organizational goals: The first thing to do is to make sure your talent review process helps achieve your broader business objectives.

Ask yourself: What are we trying to accomplish with our workforce? Are we looking to fill leadership roles internally, enhance our innovative capabilities, or ensure we have the right people in the right roles for upcoming projects? Aligning your talent management strategies with these goals sets a clear direction for the review process.

Set specific criteria for performance and potential: It's also vital to define what good performance and high potential look like in your organization. Establish specific, measurable criteria for evaluating an employee's performance. This might include their ability to meet or exceed their job responsibilities, contribute to team goals, or manage projects effectively.

For potential, consider factors like the ability to learn new skills quickly, adapt to change, or take on more complex responsibilities. Clear criteria help managers evaluate employees objectively, making the talent review process more effective.

Step 2: Gather accurate and relevant data

The quality of your talent review process depends heavily on the data you use. Accurate and relevant data on each employee is a must.

Performance reviews and appraisals: Start with formal performance reviews and appraisals that have been conducted over the period. These documents provide a record of the employee's performance, highlighting strengths and areas for improvement. Ensure these appraisals are thorough and reflect the employee's contributions accurately.

360-degree feedback: Incorporate 360-degree feedback to get a well-rounded view of the employee's performance. This feedback should come from peers, subordinates, and supervisors, providing insights into various aspects of the employee's work life, including teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving skills.

Employee self-assessments: Finally, include self-assessments to capture the employee's perspective on their performance and aspirations. This helps understand their self-awareness and motivation for advancement. It also gives employees a voice in the process, which can increase their engagement and commitment to development plans.

Step 3: Assess performance and potential

Once you have gathered all relevant data, it’s time to assess both the performance and potential of your employees.

Establish performance metrics: Use the specific criteria you set in step 1 to establish performance metrics. Assess each employee against these metrics to get a clear picture of where they stand in terms of meeting current job expectations.

Evaluate potential through assessments and feedback: Evaluating potential is more subjective than assessing performance, but it's equally important. Use the collected feedback and past performance data to gauge an employee’s ability to grow within your organization.

Consider their problem-solving skills, willingness to take on new challenges, and how they handle increased responsibility.

Step 4: Plot employees on the 9-box grid

With all the assessments done, it’s time to plot each employee on the 9-box grid based on their performance and potential.

Visual representation: The 9-box grid is a visual tool that helps categorize employees into nine different boxes from low to high performance, and low to high potential.

It provides a snapshot of talent distribution across your organization, helping to identify which employees are ready for leadership roles, which need development, and which may not be suitable for advancement.

Collaborative discussion with managers: It’s important to have collaborative discussions with managers about where they believe their team members should be placed on the grid.

These discussions should be based on the data gathered and assessments conducted. They help ensure a shared understanding of each employee's capabilities and development needs.

Step 5: Conduct talent review meetings

Once the employees are placed on the grid, the next step is to conduct talent review meetings.

Prepare and facilitate effective discussions: Prepare for these meetings by creating agendas that focus on discussing the development needs and potential career paths for employees in each box of the grid.

Facilitate discussions that are constructive and focused on finding ways to help each employee develop and contribute more effectively to the organization.

Ensure objectivity and fairness: During these meetings, it’s crucial to ensure that all assessments and decisions are made objectively and fairly.

This involves checking biases and focusing on the data and criteria established for the review process. Fairness in these discussions not only improves the quality of decisions made but also enhances trust in the talent management process.

Step 6: Develop individual development plans (IDPs)

Based on the outcomes of the talent review meetings, develop individual development plans for each employee.

Tailored development programs: Create development plans that are tailored to the specific needs and career aspirations of each employee. These might include training programs, new project assignments, or formal education, depending on what will best help the employee grow.

Coaching and mentoring: Incorporate coaching and mentoring into the development plans. Pairing employees with coaches or mentors can provide them with the guidance they need to navigate their development and career progression effectively.

Step 7: Monitor and review progress

The final step in the talent review process is to monitor and review the progress of each employee.

Regular follow-ups: Schedule regular follow-ups to discuss the employee's progress with their development plans. This helps keep the plans on track and allows for adjustments as needed based on the employee's evolving needs and business requirements.

Adjust plans as needed: Be prepared to adjust development plans as you review progress. Changes in business direction, job roles, or the employee's performance and aspirations might necessitate updates to ensure the plans remain relevant and effective.

Implementing the 9 box talent review effectively requires thorough preparation, objective and detailed assessment, and ongoing commitment to employee development. By following these steps, you can enhance your talent management strategy and help your organization achieve its long-term goals.

Best practices for successful implementation

business people working on project in meeting room

For the successful implementation of performance management and talent management practices, it's essential to follow certain best practices. These help ensure the process is effective and beneficial for both the organization and its employees.

Ensure leadership buy-in and support

The first step to a successful implementation is to get the support of your leadership team. When leaders are committed, they not only provide the necessary resources but also set a tone that emphasizes the importance of the talent review process.

They should actively participate and advocate for the program, demonstrating its value to the entire organization. This creates a positive environment where the process is taken seriously and executed diligently.

Promote transparency and fairness

Transparency and fairness are crucial in any talent management practice. Make sure all parts of your talent review process are open and clear to everyone involved. Explain how decisions are made and on what basis employees are evaluated.

This transparency helps in building trust and ensures that decisions are accepted more readily by the team. Fairness must be maintained by using objective criteria for assessing performance and potential, reducing biases as much as possible.

Use technology and tools

Incorporating the right technology and tools can greatly enhance the efficiency and accuracy of the talent review process. Use software that helps in tracking employee performance, gathering feedback, and visualizing talent pools.

Technology can automate many aspects of the process, from scheduling reviews to analyzing performance data, making it easier to manage and more scalable. This not only saves time but also helps maintain consistency in how information is processed and presented.

Continuous improvement

Finally, a successful talent review process is not static; it needs continuous improvement. Regularly solicit feedback from participants and review the outcomes to identify areas for enhancement. Stay updated with new trends in talent management to ensure your process remains current and effective.

This commitment to continuous improvement will help you refine your approach over time, making your talent management efforts more impactful and aligned with organizational needs.

How to determine the action steps to boost performance?

Improving performance within an organization involves identifying clear and actionable steps that address specific areas needing enhancement. Here’s how you can effectively determine these action steps to boost performance.

Identify performance gaps

Start by analyzing current performance levels and compare them with the desired standards or goals. This comparison will help identify the gaps between what is currently being achieved and what needs to be achieved. Use performance reviews, productivity metrics, and quality assessments to get a clear picture of these gaps.

Gather feedback

Feedback from employees, managers, and stakeholders can provide invaluable insights into the factors contributing to performance issues. Conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups to collect feedback. This approach not only helps in pinpointing problems but also engages the workforce, making them part of the solution.

Analyze the root causes

Once you have identified the performance gaps and collected feedback, analyze this information to determine the root causes of the performance issues. Look for patterns or recurring themes that could indicate systemic problems, such as inadequate training, outdated processes, or lack of resources.

Set specific, measurable goals

Based on the root cause analysis, set specific and measurable goals for improvement. These goals should be clearly defined, achievable, relevant to the business objectives, and time-bound. For example, if a root cause is poor customer service skills, a goal might be to improve customer satisfaction scores by 20% within six months through enhanced training and support.

Develop action plans

For each goal, develop a detailed action plan that outlines the steps needed to achieve the goal. These plans should include what actions will be taken, who will be responsible, what resources are needed, and when the actions will be completed. Ensure that each plan has clear milestones and performance indicators to track progress.

Implement the plans

Roll out the action plans with clear communication to all involved parties. Ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities and has the resources needed to execute their tasks. Regular check-ins and support from management can help maintain momentum and address any challenges that arise during implementation.

Monitor progress and adjust as necessary

Continuously monitor the progress against the set goals and adjust the action plans as necessary. Use the performance indicators to assess if the actions are leading to the desired improvements. If progress is slower than expected, investigate the reasons and make adjustments to the plans or goals as needed.

Common challenges and how to overcome them

Implementing talent review processes can face several challenges that might hinder their effectiveness. Understanding these challenges and knowing how to address them can help ensure a smoother and more successful implementation.

Bias and subjectivity

One of the biggest challenges in any review process is the presence of bias and subjectivity. Managers might have personal biases that influence their judgment about an employee’s performance or potential.

Solution: To combat this, it’s important to train managers on recognizing and managing their biases. Additionally, using multiple sources of feedback can help balance subjective views, ensuring a more fair and objective assessment.

Training for managers

Managers play a crucial role in the talent review process, but they often lack the necessary training to conduct effective evaluations.

Solution: Provide comprehensive training for managers that covers how to assess performance and potential accurately. This training should also include how to give constructive feedback and support employee development.

Standardized criteria

Without standardized criteria, assessments can vary greatly between departments or managers, leading to inconsistencies in how talent is evaluated.

Solution: Develop clear, measurable criteria for performance and potential that are applied consistently across the organization. This standardization helps ensure fairness and comparability in evaluations.

Resistance to change

Changes in management processes can often meet resistance from employees and managers who are comfortable with the existing systems.

Solution: To address resistance to change, it’s crucial to communicate the benefits and the need for the new system effectively. Engage with those affected early in the process to listen to their concerns and get their input on the changes.

Change management strategies

Implementing a new talent review process can be a significant change that needs careful management to ensure successful adoption.

Solution: Employ change management strategies that include clear communication, training, and phased implementation. This allows employees to gradually adapt to the new process without overwhelming them.

Involving stakeholders early

Stakeholders might feel disconnected from the process if they are not involved early on, leading to lack of support or engagement.

Solution: Involve key stakeholders in the planning and development stages of the talent review process. Their early involvement helps ensure that the process meets the needs of all parts of the organization and gains wider acceptance.

Data accuracy and reliability

Inaccurate or unreliable data can lead to poor decisions during the talent review process.

Solution: Ensure that the data used for assessing talent is accurate and reliable by regularly updating employee records and using robust systems to track performance and feedback.

Robust data collection methods

Collecting comprehensive and relevant data can be challenging, especially in larger organizations.

Solution: Implement robust data collection methods that ensure all relevant information is captured efficiently. This might include automated systems, regular performance check-ins, and ensuring that data collection tools are user-friendly and accessible.

Validation and cross-verification

Even with good data collection methods, there's a risk of errors or inconsistencies in the data.

Solution: Use validation and cross-verification techniques to check the data’s accuracy. Regular audits of the data can help identify and correct errors, ensuring that decisions are based on reliable information.

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Effectively implementing the 9-box talent review and addressing common performance challenges requires a structured approach and commitment from all levels of the organization.

By setting clear objectives, using accurate data, and continuously refining the process, companies can enhance their talent management practices and drive significant improvements in performance. Remember, the key to success is not just identifying what needs to be improved but also taking decisive, informed actions to make those improvements happen.

With dedication and strategic action, organizations can achieve their goals and foster a thriving, productive workplace.

Topic: HRM
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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