What is 9-box talent review?\n\nThe 9-box talent review grid is a popular HR tool used to measure employee performance and to identify employees with leadership potential.\n\nCreated by McKinsey in 1970, 9-box talent assessment was used by GE to identify key investments and to compare various business units. The process later evolved into a widely used HR tool to assess the performance and potential of employees within the company using the 9-box talent grid or matrix. This visualization tool divides employees into nine groups to identify high-performers and ensure employees get the right training, coaching, mentoring, or talent development they need to succeed.\n\nPart of the popularity of the 9-box assessment is that it can provide a more holistic view of employee performance. The process enables companies to assess an employee\u2019s current performance and their future potential in the organization. The 9-box grid helps identify potential leaders in the organization, which is helpful for succession planning, and can inform businesses on where to invest in training and mentorship.\n\nFor example, an organization may have an employee who is underperforming but shows high potential and can be steered in the right direction. Or you might have an employee who is high performing but doesn\u2019t have the potential or desire for a leadership role. In this way, the 9-box talent assessment can help your organization get a clearer picture of where it stands on talent development.\n\nWhat is a 9-box talent review grid?\n\nA 9-box talent assessment grid contains nine categories or boxes set up in a three by three matrix. The horizontal axis indicates performance, and the vertical axis indicates potential from low, moderate to high.\n\nThe higher an individual falls on the boxes, the more potential they show for growth; the farther right they fall, the better their performance reviews. Those who fall on the low side of the grid show less potential; and the farther left they fall, the worse the performance reviews. With this as the setup, employees who are assessed to be in the bottom left category are the lowest performers, and those in the top right category are the highest performers.\n\nIn between the lowest and highest performers are 7 other categories to identify a worker\u2019s potential and performance. This is useful for identifying talent in the organization that could benefit from additional training or coaching to reach their full potential or to improve performance.\n\nHow to use a 9-box talent review grid\n\nThe first step in using a 9-box grid is to assess an employee\u2019s performance, which is typically done by evaluating performance reviews, reviewing self-evaluations or using talent management systems. Managers are tasked with ranking employees based on performance and behavior, and then those rankings are passed onto upper management and leaders who can then identify and rank employees for their leadership potential. Employees can rank as low, medium, or high performance depending on how well they meet the requirements of their role.\n\nLow-performing employees are those who do not complete job requirements and regularly fail to meet assigned KPIs or other benchmarks. Employees who fall into the medium category are those who meet expectations part of the time and complete job requirements half of the time. High-performing employees reach all their necessary benchmarks and job duties, often surpassing them. \n\nDespite the fact that the 9-box grid puts an emphasis on the highest and lowest performers, it\u2019s not designed to pit workers against one another or to make them feel as if they\u2019re being ranked. Instead, it\u2019s meant to be a way to identify opportunities for talent development and leadership potential, as well key areas for cultivating talent through coaching, training, mentorship, or leadership development. As such, organizations need to be mindful of how transparent they are about the process and what they decide so share with employees. \n\n9-box grid template\n\nThe general template used for the 9-box grid consists of a three by three grid that ranks performance and potential by low, medium, and high. The names of each category may vary by company, but according to WorkDove, these are generally the categories included on a 9-box grid:\n\nIn the left column, categories could include:\n\nIn the middle column, categories could include:\n\nIn the right column, categories could include:\n\nBenefits of the 9-box talent grid\n\nWhen used correctly, the 9-box talent grid holds can help companies identify where and how to invest in talent. It helps upper management and leadership get better insights into employee performance and who to keep an eye on for succession planning. With a comprehensive view of the organization\u2019s talent pipeline, the 9-box talent review gives businesses a holistic picture of talent development needs.\n\nOrganizations that collect regular data around employee performance will benefit the most from the 9-box talent review. Objective data works best with the 9-box talent grid and helps avoid any unintentional or intentional bias that might muddy the results.\n\nOne of the biggest benefits of the 9-box talent grid is identifying the most valuable talent in the organization. Understanding who your highest performers are can help inform talent retention and development strategies. Companies can get a clear picture of where and how to divert resources to support these high potential workers.\n\nFor those who fall outside the highest performance, the 9-box matrix can provide insights into how to support employees who may benefit from more training or mentorship. It is a useful tool for developing necessary performance management action plans to retain and develop talent within the organization.\n\nCriticisms of the 9-box talent grid\n\nThe 9-box talent assessment isn\u2019t without its flaws \u2014 especially as some companies move away from the traditional annual performance review process. Performance reviews can be subjective, relying on a manager\u2019s personal judgment and rating. And because they typically happen only once a year, that doesn\u2019t leave room for regular feedback, which can help employees course-correct throughout the year as needed.\n\nCompanies such as GE, Adobe, Microsoft, Accenture, and Deloitte have shifted to processes that allow for continuous feedback, delivering more consistent insights into employee performance and potential. Even with continuous feedback strategies, however, the 9-box talent template can still be useful for identifying the organization\u2019s highest and lowest performers. And with more regular feedback, management will have more data to use when placing employees on the grid.\n\nBecause the 9-box talent review is subjective in nature, it potentially leaves the process open to bias and discrimination. There\u2019s also the potential for the results to be skewed due to miscommunications with managers or personal biases in the organization. It\u2019s best utilized when organizations have access to objective performance data, such as KPIs or other metrics that help measure performance. There\u2019s also the potential to limit employee growth by labeling them \u2014 it\u2019s all too easy for an employee to be labeled under one category and to be stuck there for years.\n\nSome argue that the 9-box talent review is too limiting and look to a 16-box talent review instead. With a 16-box talent review, there\u2019s more variability in the categories by adding in a fourth label under potential and performance. Instead of low, medium, and high, the 16-box talent review measures by low, low-mid, mid-high, and high. This allows for a broader scope to categorize employees and allows for more nuance in the rankings.