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9 Box Talent Review: What Is It? How To Use It Effectively? Best Practices & Worst Mistakes

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If you’re trying to figure out who has potential and who needs to improve, 9 box talent reviews can come in really handy. 

Although 9 box talent reviews can’t solely determine the potential of your employees they can give you an overview and help identify who can excel. Furthermore, 9 box talent reviews will help you pinpoint the employees with leadership skills.

Below you will find how to conduct a 9 box talent review, the benefits and limitations of conducting a 9 box talent review, and more! So, without further ado, let’s get started!

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What is a 9 box talent review?

9 box talent review

What is a 9 box talent review? As the name suggests, it is a grid-based method and it’s used to measure different levels of performance and potential. It is convenient because it allows you to compare how your employees stack up on a single visual chart, in other words, you get a bird’s-eye view of your team’s talent landscape.

Furthermore, you can use 9 box grid talent reviews to develop an effective succession plan.  

How to conduct a 9-box assessment?

Below you can find a step-by-step approach that will yield the best results in your 9 box performance reviews.

1. Prepare for the assessment

Before you dive into your 9 box review, it’s a must to talk about what you will assess and how you will do the assessment with your team. This is especially important if you have fresh faces in HR.

While doing so, you should also provide example criteria you will use to put employees into categories based on their potential and performance.

2. Appraise performance

It’s time to evaluate how your employees are doing. In this step, you need to use performance expectations, goals, or both to rate the performance of your employees. The questions below can help you reveal significant data points about the performance and potential.

  • How would you rate an employee’s current performance?
  • Has the employee’s performance evolved?
  • What is the employee’s growth potential in your organization?
  • What is the employee’s leadership potential?
  • Can employee collaborate with their team members effectively?
  • Is the employee committed to their personal growth?
  • Is the employee committed to the organization’s values and culture?
  • What is the employee’s capacity to inspire and motivate others?

3. Identify potential for growth

Another important step in conducting a 9 box talent review is linking the growth potential levels with specific personality traits.

To do this, you need to determine the behaviors that are associated with high potential such as pursuing opportunities for skill development and actively seeking new ways to serve your company by requesting new responsibilities.

4. Put employees into categories

9 box talent reviews can be tricky since it’s hard to categorize people and your biases can sneak in while categorizing. Therefore, you need different views that can provide you with an objective perspective about an employee’s stance in the 9 box rating.

To avoid biases in a 9 box performance review, include managers and executives in the evaluation of employee performance and potential.

It’s also a good practice to finish up one department before jumping to the next.

5. Discuss the results with management

Once you’ve put employees into categories, you can now talk to the management and debate future steps. The topics you need to discuss with the management include:

  • Selecting employees that require a pay raise or a promotion.
  • Talking about the people you can mentor or train.
  • Creating employee development plans based on the findings of your 9 box talent review.
  • Cultivating an aspiration for a job enlargement if you see that your employees have a similar ambition.
  • Establishing an action plan for employees who exhibit low potential and poor performance.

6. Present the assessment results

Sharing the growth potential level to employees is not easy because you are putting them into a box (literally) so some companies avoid disclosing this important information.

Keeping them in the loop is important and this information can be critical for them to improve their skills. They might need this information to improve their skills by taking courses or making some other improvements.

However, you need to use a positive tone when you disclose the growth potential and convey the message that it’s not a definitive result.

7. Make an announcement after a position opens

Another step of conducting a 9 box talent review is announcing an open position. You should avoid mentioning the potential vacancies and wait until the position actually opens. Spilling the beans too soon can frustrate your employees and you may even lose your talent.

8. Use software with built-in 9 box grid capabilities

To have an effective 9 box talent review, you need comprehensive performance review software that can collect data about different employee performance metrics. You should keep in mind that measuring performance is a complex task and solely relying on a 9 box grid would be oversimplifying it.

You need to have comprehensive review software because there are so many performance metrics to measure. Thankfully, Teamflect has got everything sorted out for you!

Teamflect: performance review - 9 box talent review

The all-in-one performance management tool Teamflect offers some of the most powerful performance evaluation features available in the Microsoft Teams ecosystem.

As you use Teamflect to conduct performance evaluations, you will have access to essential data on all the distinctive factors that affect employee performance, including task completion rates, employee recognition, goal achievement rates, and 360-degree feedback.

You can use all of these functions together through Teamflect’s integrated 9-box grid succession planning feature!

What are the benefits of conducting a 9 box talent review?

1. Gives you the big picture

A 9-box assessment is a visualization of your team’s talents and it allows you to quickly organize your employees into groups based on their performance and future potential.

2. Encourages dialogue

A 9 block rating will help you open up conversations about future leadership, succession planning, and talent management. It’s not set in stone but it sparks useful discussions.

3. Provides new perspective for talent investment

The 9-box grid helps you and your management see who could be your future leaders and where to invest talent-wise.

What are the limitations of using a 9 box grid for performance reviews?

9 box talent review is a convenient method of measuring your organization’s talent pool but sadly it has some limitations and these limitations can create serious problems. Here are the most common limitations of using the 9 box talent review method.

1. It is subjective

A 9 box talent review has limited validity because the person who conducts the review can be biased. On top of that, the potential of your employees can’t be objectively measured by it. After all, it’s not a reliable test used by psychologists. There can be unexpected variables affecting a person’s performance.

2. Personal opinions can create problems

When your 9 box talent review is not based on truly objective data, it won’t yield reliable results. Therefore, KPIs and measurement metrics should be used when gathering data instead of using personal opinions.

3. Labels employees

When you use the 9 box talent review method, you are labeling people which can cause self-esteem issues. They might have to endure toxicity at work because their colleagues may perceive them negatively.

9 box talent review limitations

4. Can be abused as a result of office politics

Office politics is a sad reality in any workplace and it has symptoms like favoritism and subjectivity. 9 box talent reviews can be abused if managers are playing favorites and are ready to label people they don’t like as bad employees.

5. May lead to conflicts

9 box talent reviews can lead to conflicts in the workplace because they can reveal office politics or biased attitudes. Your employees might also not be happy with their classification and it can create drama.

Meetings where you discuss the results of your 9 box talent review can be stressful for both employees and their managers.

How to manage employees on different sides of the 9 box talent grid?

The 9 box grid is a three-by-three framework that includes performance on the x-axis and potential on the y-axis and it’s important to know how to manage the employees that fall into different categories in the grid.

Below you will find nine different categories that you will analyze when you conduct a 9 box talent review.

1. Stars

These employees are your rock stars and they deserve rewards and recognition. To make sure that they are happy in their roles you can do the following:

  • Assign them with challenging tasks. Since they are highly capable, they might feel like they are wasting their potential if you give them easy assignments. Furthermore, stars will be able to pull off difficult tasks easily as compared to anyone in your team.
  • Make sure that they are happy in their position.
  • Mentor them, and provide networking opportunities for them with senior leadership and other high performers.

2. High Potentials

These employees have tons of potential but might not be hitting their peak yet. This might be related to not having enough time to fully grow in their position.

High potentials can be your future stars but you need to provide them with coaching or training opportunities to give them a push needed for career advancement.

3. Dysfunctional Geniuses

Dysfunctional geniuses are employees who score low in performance but high in potential. These employees should be able to adapt to work easily since they have high potential. The expected interval to reach high to moderate performance is within six to twelve months.

To help them succeed you can communicate performance expectations clearly and you should also tell them that you believe in their potential, and they need to see that too.

4. High Performers

High performers are already making meaningful contributions but if they feel ambitious, they need to join classes to improve their skills so that they can perform better. Strategies with high performers include:

  • Appreciate your high performers and keep them happy.
  • If your high performers are content with their position, that’s also a good result.

5. Core Players

These are your reliable employees who have potential for career advancement. You can bring core players to the right side of the 9 box grid by:

  • Making sure they know what’s expected performance-wise.
  • Assigning new tasks to juniors to improve their performance.
  • Praising their contributions.
  • Assigning them a peer coach to solve personal or professional problems that might interfere with their success.
  • Offering them classroom or on-the-job learning to improve their skills.

6. Up or Out Dilemmas

These employees who are also called inconsistent players have potential but their performance is poor. So, you need to analyze why they are performing poorly. To make sure you understand the reasons for poor performance you can do the following:

  • Craft a personal improvement plan.
  • Be clear with your performance expectations.
  • Check in regularly and measure progress each month.

7. Workhorses

These employees perform well but they don’t have potential. So, you can’t promote them or give them extra responsibility. However, you should keep them content in their roles, because they’re reliable.

8. Up or Out Grinders

Grinders perform well enough but they have low potential. So, investing in them might not pay off. However, you should give them a chance by:

  • Creating a development plan and letting them know that they can level up.
  • Encouraging them to push for improvement.

9. Bad Hires

If your 9 box talent review results indicate that someone is a bad hire, then you should try to analyze the potential roadblocks that prevent them from performing well.

  • Figure out what’s holding them back and try to address it.
  • But don’t go overboard because it’s unfair to your other team members.

It’s important to remember that each employee is unique and you should approach them differently to make sure that they are succeeding!

Best Use Cases for the 9-Box Grid

While the 9-Box Grid may seem like it is just a bunch of boxes lined up in rows of three it is a very versatile management tool.

Sure its overall impact has been diluted over time through constant memes and social media posts it has plenty of different use cases and applications in the workplace. We listed a few of them:

Succession Planning: The 9-Box Grid helps identify potential leaders and plan for future leadership roles, ensuring a smooth transition and organizational stability.

Employee Development: By pinpointing strengths and areas for improvement, the grid aids in creating tailored development plans, fostering employee growth and skill enhancement.It is a must-use in every employee development plan.

Career Pathing: The 9-Box Grid can be used to guide discussions about career aspirations and possible trajectories within the organization, aligning individual goals with company needs. This in turn results in your employees being aware of the fact that you see a future with them.

Talent Retention: When an employee knows that their organization has something in store for them, or simply sees a long-term future with them, their chances of leaving are decreased heavily. This results in high employee retention rates and low employee attrition rates.

Workforce Planning: Understanding the distribution of talent across the grid allows for strategic decisions regarding hiring, training, and resource allocation, optimizing the overall workforce performance.,

9 Box Assesment Questions

Here are sample 9 box talent grid questions across various topics:

Communication Skills

  1. How effectively do you articulate complex ideas to both technical and non-technical stakeholders?
  2. Can you provide an example of a challenging communication situation you successfully navigated in a team setting?

Leadership

  1. Describe a situation where you demonstrated strong leadership skills, inspiring and guiding your team to achieve a challenging goal.
  2. How do you handle conflicts within your team, and can you share an example of a successful resolution?

Problem Solving

  1. Share an instance where you identified a critical issue, devised a solution, and successfully implemented it.
  2. How do you approach solving problems that require creative thinking and innovation?

Collaboration

  1. Give an example of a project where you effectively collaborated with individuals from different departments or teams to achieve a common goal.
  2. How do you foster a collaborative environment within your team, and what strategies do you use to ensure everyone’s input is valued?

Adaptability

  1. Describe a situation where you had to quickly adapt to unexpected changes in a project or work environment.

Strategic Thinking

  1. How do you align your individual goals with the broader strategic objectives of the organization?
  2. Provide an example of a decision you made that had a positive impact on the long-term success of a project.

Time Management

  1. How do you prioritize tasks and manage your time to ensure deadlines are consistently met?
  2. Share an experience where you successfully juggled multiple projects simultaneously.

Initiative

  1. Can you provide an example of a situation where you took the initiative to improve a process or implement a new idea that had a positive impact?
  2. How do you stay proactive in identifying opportunities for professional development and growth?

Results Orientation

  1. Share a specific achievement where you exceeded performance expectations and delivered exceptional results.
  2. How do you set and measure goals to ensure continuous improvement and success in your role?

In A Nutshell

The 9 box talent review, often referred to as the 9 box grid, is one of the useful tools for organizations to assess and manage their talent effectively.

9 box reviews provide a visual representation of employees’ performance and potential, and they create a bird’s-eye view of your team’s talent landscape.

Categorizing employees within the 9 box performance review process can be challenging. Therefore it should involve multiple perspectives to help maintain objectivity.

To improve the effectiveness of 9 box talent reviews, you should use the most comprehensive performance management tool, Teamflect!

Teamflect can gather data on various performance metrics, including task completion rates, employee recognition, goal achievement, and 360-degree feedback, and facilitate a more nuanced talent review.

Teamflect also offers 9 box grid capabilities! With these features, you can objectively measure employee performance and avoid performance review biases.

If your ultimate goal is to create a workplace that promotes productivity and positivity, try Teamflect for free by clicking the button below!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a 9 box talent review?

It is a grid-based method and it’s used to measure different levels of performance and potential. It is convenient because it allows you to compare how your employees stack up on a single visual chart, in other words, you get a bird’s-eye view of your team’s talent landscape.

How to conduct a 9-box assessment?

  1. Prepare for the assessment
  2. Appraise performance
  3. Identify potential for growth
  4. Put employees into categories
  5. Discuss the results with management
  6. Present the assessment results
  7. Make an announcement after a position opens
  8. Use software with built-in 9 box grid capabilities

What are the benefits of using a 9 box talent grid?

  • Get the big picture.
  • Encourages dialogue.
  • Provides new perspective for talent investment.

What are the limitations of using a 9 box grid for performance reviews?

  • It is subjective
  • Lack of objective data can create problems
  • Labeling employees
  • Can be abused as a result of office politics
  • May lead to conflicts

Written by Duygu Soysanli

Duygu is a content writer who enthusiastically writes useful content about the dynamic world of HR.

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