The 9-box grid is a well-known talent management and human resources tool. In this model employees are divided into nine groups based on their performance and talents. In reality not all employees add value to the organization and it is good to know, who is there to stay and who has to let go. The 9-box grid model allows quick and easy identification of the best employees in the company. In spite of fact that this model has its limitations it is recognized internationally for simplicity and transparency.

9-box grid – table of content:

  1. How to create a 9-box grid?
  2. Two types of multiskilling in the workplace
  3. Potential drawbacks of multiskilling
  4. Summary

How to create a 9-box grid?

The model of 9-box grid comprises two axes, which represent two variables. The x-axis shows the performance of the employee, which can be either: low, average (normal) or high. While the y-axis shows the potential (sometimes called the talent) of the employee, which similarly can be either: low, average (normal) or high.

The y-axis shows the possibility of future development of skills and talents of the individual under scrutiny. After assessing the performance and potential of each individual, the combination of nine boxes may be filled up with names of team members and become a part of the evaluation process.

9-box grid

How to use the 9-box grid?

The most difficult part of the 9-box grid method is the evaluation of the potential. There is no tools or tests, which could reflect individuals’ potential and every manager has to develop own apparatus to check this feature. Many HR specialist suggest that some activities may bring better results and recommend such actions as:

  • making list of required skills for job positions
  • using different tools of evaluation repeatedly
  • examining of academic background
  • checking on personal achievements
  • interviewing to find out about employee’s: motivation, intelligence and concentration

It is much easier to asses individual’s performance. As long as the goal of the company is known and the employee knows his duties there is no huge problem with the performance assessment. The manager needs to remember about only three factors, which may impede employee’s efforts for good performance, which are: knowledge about task (deadlines, goals), ability to perform (resources, tools, place), and willingness to work (present or not).

As soon as the employee’s performance and potential has been evaluated there is a time to draw the grid and see the results. There are three most common results of the 9-box grid assessment including three types of employees:

  • The employee with the high performance and high potential who should be promoted to top managerial position;
  • The employee with average performance and average potential who should never be in decision-making position as well as should never hold managerial position;
  • The employee with low performance and low potential who should be allowed to leave;

There are two more types of the results on 9-box grid which encompass: employees with better performance than potential and those with more potential than performance. In case of high potential accompanied with lower performance it is advisable to provide mentoring and coaching programs. The second possibility, where performance is much higher than potential is quite rare, although if occurs it should be taken care of.

In many cases ambitions and potential of the employee don’t match. Again, it is rare to find individuals with potential, who are not ambitious and not motivated. If there is no obvious reason for that state those employees should be leave as they are. The manager should avoid pushing them too hard or trying to change them.

The second scenario of discrepancy between ambitions and potential is more common. There are many people with huge ambition, who in reality have no required potential. As it is very hard to admit to own limitations the manager should always check person’s ability to meet goals – the proof of this measurement, in case of low potential, should stop employees from unwarranted expectations.

Benefits of the 9-box grid

There are several benefits of using the 9-box grid for talent management including:

  • simplicity of the concept
  • neatness of the structure
  • background data and research is not required
  • facilitates comparisons between candidates
  • helps with decision making
  • can be based on observation only
  • gives visual representation talents in organization
  • saves time and energy


The 9-box grid is a method of categorization of talents. The simplicity, practicality, and clarity of the model contributes to its high recognition among the management professionals. It is used by HR departments, leaders, and other experts dealing with development, training and talent management. It allows fast identification of talented employees which can be promoted and placed in managerial positions.

Read also: Top tips to stay motivated at work

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What is the 9-box grid employee assessment? nicole mankin avatar 1background

Author: Nicole Mankin

HR manager with an excellent ability to build a positive atmosphere and create a valuable environment for employees. She loves to see the potential of talented people and mobilize them to develop.

The most important questions

  1. What is the 9-box performance grid?

    The 9-box grid is a well-known talent management tool. In this model employees are divided into nine groups based on their performance and potential.

  2. How to create a 9-box grid?

    Simply draw a table with two axes – the x-axis representing the performance (low, average, high) and the y-axis representing the potential (low, average, high) of the employee.

  3. What are the benefits of the 9-box grid?

    The main benefits of the 9-box grid are: simplicity, neatness, efficiency regardless time and energy, and easiness of comparisons and decisions making.