Best Practices for Achieving Talent Success Maturity

The Nine-box

  • Who it’s for: 
    Managers within your organization, HR managers
  • What you’ll get: 
    Nine-box template
  • Why you need it: 
    To increase talent development and identify areas for improvement and potential leaders within your organization
  • When it applies in the talent success process: 
    During talent management and development

Nine-box Grid Template

Below is a template for a nine-box grid.

Using a template for the nine-box grid will help you consistently apply best practices to your talent development and management processes.

Why You Should Create a Nine-box Grid

As SHRM puts it, the nine-box grid “is a versatile tool used by groups of senior executives to compare employees within one department and across divisions with multiple managers.” * Essentially, the nine-box grid enables you to evaluate your talent pool, have an accurate representation of your talent pool, identify areas for improvement, and identify potential leaders within your organization. It’s a visualization tool that has practical uses for your organization.

How to Build a Nine-box Grid

The nine-box grid consists of two axes — the X axis and the Y axis. These axes typically create a three-by-three matrix, but organizations can customize their grids to meet their needs based on what they are measuring (four by four, two by two, etc.). Read more about the axes below and decide what kind of grid would be best for you.

Defining Your X Axis

In a typical nine-box grid, your X axis represents performance. The three typical X categories are Under-performance, Effective Performance, and Outstanding Performance. Using the three categories, place the employee you are evaluating where you believe they best fit according to their performance at work.

Defining Your Y Axis

In a typical nine-box grid, your Y axis represents potential. The three typical Y categories are High Potential, Medium Potential, and Low Potential. Using the three categories, place the employee you are evaluating where you believe they best fit according to their potential within your organization.

Creating Additional Categories for Your Axes

Although performance and potential are the typical categories of the axes in a nine-box grid, creating a grid with additional categories can yield interesting results, depending on what you and your staff are trying to determine about your employees. Imagine creating a nine-box grid with categories like company-wide values, job-specific competencies, and more. The nine-box grid can help you find the answer you’re looking for within your talent.

How to Interpret the Nine-box Grid

Now that you have created your nine-box grid, chosen your axes, and populated the areas with the grids you believe your employees fit into, you may start to notice some trends. This populated grid should help you identify areas where your talent pool needs to improve — like leadership — or employees who could become potential leaders if given the right opportunity. Ultimately, what you will walk away from your nine-box grid assessment with is actionable areas where changes need to be made.

Identifying Areas for Organizational Improvement Using the Grid

You may notice you have several high-performing employees, but their potential doesn’t seem like it can move much further past its current state. If that’s the case, it might be time to invest in a leadership program for your high-performing employees, organize a leadership retreat, or purchase strategic leadership training. The nine-box grid is a diagnostic tool. You must prescribe the treatment.

Identifying Employees Who Can Improve Using the Grid

Perhaps you noticed a few employees who have great potential but aren’t performing as well as they should. It might be time to consider creating incentives for those employees or creating stretch tasks that will push them to a state of higher performance. The nine-box grid will help you identify where these performance problems exist. You will need to decide how to move them into the next box and on to better performance.