9 Box Grid Succession Planning Guide + FREE Templates For Download!

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9 box grid succession planning is neither new a new concept in performance management nor a perfect one. Yet it has both found widespread practice and acclaim. One of the most important reasons 9 box grid succession planning has gained such popularity is perhaps its incredibly familiar and intuitive layout.

The structure of a 9-box grid is something you will find all across popular culture. Some of our nerdier readers might even recognize the structure from the alignment chart popularized by the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons. To those readers we must simply say…Respect!

The Story of How JRR Tolkien Influenced the Alignment System of D&D
The format is so ingrained in popular culture, you can find 9 box grids based on anything!

As a tool for succession planning, the 9-box grid has significant strengths and weaknesses. Today, we dive deep into this curious 9-box structure and analyze each aspect of 9-box grid succession planning to bring you a simple, digestible, yet comprehensive guide!

👇You will find FREE Downloadable 9-Box Grid Review Templates for Excel below 👇 

Understanding The 9 Box Grid

What is the 9 Box Grid?

“What exactly is the 9 Box Grid?” The 9 Box Grid is a tool used for evaluating an employee’s potential and performance in a given role. It’s like a superhero evaluation machine you would come across in the Invincible comic book universe!

It helps organizations determine which employees have the potential to take on higher roles within the company and which ones might need some extra training and development to reach their full potential.

How does the 9 Box Grid work for Succession Planning? Think of it as a map, a map to the future of your organization. It helps you navigate and plan for the future by identifying key positions and employees who may be ready to step up.

With the way the 9-box grid is set up, it lets organizations clearly visualize where employee performance and employee potential overlap. Let us take a look at the grid itself to get a better understanding of 9-box grid succession planning:

9 box grid

Looking at each component of the 9-box grid, we can see that the x-axis represents an employee’s performance, and the y-axis represents their potential.

The top right square is the “Superstar” square – these are the employees who consistently perform at a high level and have the potential to take on even greater responsibilities. The bottom left square is the “Underperformer” square – these employees may need some extra support to improve their performance.

That’s not it. All the other boxes allow leaders to gain a new perspective on their employees’ performance and potential. A team can’t be made up entirely of superstars. Can you imagine an all Mick Jagger Rolling Stones?

Can you picture five Kylian Mbappes in a single room? No thanks! Unless an employee fits in the bottom left side of the grid, they are all useful assets to the organization. Seeing where an employee fits in the 9-box grid lets leaders map out strategies much easier. That is why 9-box grid succession planning is a very effective method.

Using 9 Box Grid Succession Planning

Use cases for the 9 box talent grid

We’ve established a clear understanding of what the 9-box grid is. Good for us! Now let’s see how 9 box grid succession planning actually works!

It is essential to involve multiple stakeholders in the evaluation process when using the 9 Box Grid for Succession Planning. Taking into account different perspectives and experiences will help ensure that the results are as accurate as possible.

A well-rounded view of an employee’s performance and potential can be provided by managers, HR professionals, and other key decision-makers.

Limitations of 9 Box Grid Succession Planning

Are there any disadvantages to using a nine-box grid for succession planning? Sure. The 9 Box Grid also has some limitations that must be kept in mind. As a subjective evaluation, the 9 Box Grid results can vary depending on what biases and perspectives the evaluator brings to the table.

Even though it’s valuable, it should be used along with other tools and strategies as part of a succession planning process. Who would’ve guessed that a strategy based on literally putting people in boxes would have few hiccups?

What to do with the results?

Once the evaluation process is complete, a business can use the results of the 9 Box Grid to make educated decisions about personnel management and development. They can identify critical roles and workers who are prepared to take the lead, as well as those who need additional support to realize their full potential.

Organizations can then use this data to create a personalized growth plan and pinpoint any possible difficulties with succession planning.

Negating The Limitations Of 9 Box Grid Succession Planning

As is the case with every strategy that includes putting your employees in certain boxes or predetermined categories, 9 box grid succession planning has its limitations and weaknesses. That is why we recommend taking the following steps when implementing 9 box grid succession planning strategies:

Don’t rely solely on 9 Box Grid Succession Planning

The 9 box grid is a handy tool for succession planning. That being said, it is far from being the only tool for succession planning. In fact, the results you get from using 9 box grid succession planning are much more effective when you use them in conjunction with other helpful succession planning tools. Examples? Sure! Let’s do some call and response.

What is the largest problem with 9 box grid succession planning? Performance review biases! What is the best tool for eliminating performance review biases? 360-degree feedback!

Using the data and insight you gain through 360-feedback to make educated decisions in filling the 9 box grid can take out most of the biases from your succession planning process.

Use a comprehensive performance review tool

Another method you can use to accompany your 9-box grid succession planning is to have access to a comprehensive performance appraisal software that has access to data from various different aspects of an employee performance.

Keep in mind that performance as a whole is far too complicated to be simplified into a simple row in the 9-box grid. There are many employee performance metrics to keep in mind when measuring performance. That is why you need something comprehensive. Don’t worry, we have you covered.

Teamflect performance reviews example with questions in microsoft teams

Teamflect is an all-in-one performance management software that has some of the best performance review capabilities in the Microsoft Teams ecosystem.

When you use Teamflect to conduct your performance reviews, the reviewers gain access to key information and insight into all the unique aspects that go into employee performance such as:

Task completion rates, employee recognition, 360 feedback, and goal completion rates. Teamflect also has built-in 9-box grid succession planning capabilities so you can use all of these features in unison!

Use the best performance review software for Microsoft Teams.
No sign-up required.
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What Are The Benefits Of Using The Nine Box Grid?

While we covered how an organization can use the nine box grid for succession planning and some of the limitations that come with this method, we should also discuss some of the benefits and potential use cases of the 9 box grid talent review method.

Can nine simple boxes be an effective talent assessment method? The answer is a resounding yes. 9-box grid talent assessment has plenty of benefits. Here are some of the most common applications of the 9-box grid talent review template:

Performance Differentiation

Building cross-functional teams isn’t the easiest of tasks, especially in a large organization. If you are dealing with a large talent pool, then you might need to evaluate their performance on multiple scales to achieve a certain level of clarity.

The 9-box grid provides that much-needed clarity, allowing you to discern the high flyers, the average achievers, and the ones in need of a gentle nudge. With this distinct classification, organizations can allocate resources wisely, directing their attention precisely where it is most needed.

Succession Planning

We can’t stress how effective the nine-box grid is when it comes to succession planning. The battle for the corner office is a perpetual struggle, where organizations seek the chosen few who possess the spark of leadership. Enter the 9-box grid, a crystal ball that reveals the rising stars destined for greatness.

Well, not necessarily a crystal ball, but still a helpful method to analyze which members of your team are best fit for leadership roles. By assessing employees’ performance and potential, organizations can unearth those rare talents and craft tailored development plans, ensuring the leadership baton is passed with finesse.

Talent Development

In the realm of talent management, the power lies in nurturing potential. The 9-box grid acts as the potter’s wheel, helping shape raw talent into formidable forces of the future.

Armed with this visual representation of which employee stands where, organizations can pinpoint individuals bursting with potential, bestowing them with targeted training and coaching. It’s all about creating the perfect recipe for growth and development.

Identifying Flight Risks

Picture a radar that detects the blips of employees ready to spread their wings and soar elsewhere. The 9-box grid acts as that very radar, identifying flight risks within the organization.

By evaluating performance and potential, organizations can proactively engage with these individuals, addressing their concerns and deploying retention strategies. It’s about ensuring the brightest stars remain within the constellation.

What Does Each Box On The 9 Box Talent Grid Stand For?

The 9-box talent grid is an incredible tool for effective performance management and succession planning. The results from the 9 box talent grid can help organizations map out their talent effectively. 

In order  to use the 9 box talent grid effectively, leaders need to understand what each slot on the 9-box talent matrix stands for.  So now, we will explore what an employee’s position on the 9-box employee assessment needs and what a leader can do to improve that employee’s standing.

1. Low Potential, Low Performance: Bad Hires(Bottom Left)

  • Characteristics: These employees typically struggle with their job duties and show little potential or motivation to improve. They are also often referred to as bad hires.
  • Action: Consider development plans, role changes, or performance improvement plans. This may also simply be a case of being a bad match for the company.

2. Low Potential, Moderate Performance: Backups

  • Characteristics: Employees here do their job adequately but show limited potential for growth beyond their current roles.
  • Action: Focus on skill enhancement and finding roles that align with their capabilities.

3. Low Potential, High Performance: Workhorses

  • Characteristics: These individuals excel in their current roles but may not demonstrate the potential to take on significantly larger responsibilities.
  • Action: Recognize their contributions and explore ways to increase job satisfaction.

4. Moderate Potential, Low Performance: Inconsistent Performers

  • Characteristics: These employees have potential but are currently underperforming, possibly due to a lack of alignment, motivation, or fit.
  • Action: Identify barriers to performance and provide targeted development opportunities.

5. Moderate Potential, Moderate Performance: Core Players

  • Characteristics: These individuals are solid performers with the potential for further growth, possibly into leadership roles at the next level.
  • Action: Develop their skills and prepare them for more significant responsibilities.

6. Moderate Potential, High Performance: High Performers

  • Characteristics: High achievers who may rise to leadership roles within their current function or department.
  • Action: Challenge and empower them with new opportunities for growth and learning.

7. High Potential, Low Performance: Dysfunctional Geniuses

  • Characteristics: These employees show signs of significant future contributions but are currently not performing well, which may be due to newness in the role or misalignment.
  • Action: Provide coaching, support, and possibly realignment to leverage their potential.

8. High Potential, Moderate Performance: High Potentials

  • Characteristics: Individuals in this box are performing well and have the potential to move into higher leadership roles or take on significantly more complex challenges.
  • Action: Accelerate their development with targeted training and stretch assignments.

9. High Potential, High Performance: Stars (Top Right)

  • Characteristics: These are your star performers with the ability to significantly impact the organization’s future, often viewed as future leaders.
  • Action: Provide strategic development opportunities, mentorship, and succession planning to retain and nurture these talents.

Free Downloadable 9 Box Grid Templates

You didn’t think that we would go on and on about the benefits of using 9-box grid templates without providing you with some, did you?

We scoured the endless reaches of the internet to find you some of the best free Excel 9 box grid templates available! Here are some of free 9 box grid templates for you to enjoy!

Teamflect’s 9 Box Grid

9 box grid succession planning
Teamflect’s 9 Box Grid Succession Planning Function

Unlike the rest of the templates on this list, this is not just an Excel document. Teamflect’s 9-box grid is an interactive template that you can add automatically to the end of any performance review you conduct within Microsoft Teams!

The other 9-box grid templates on this list all require a large amount of data entry from reviewers. This is where Teamflect’s 9-box grid truly shines. Since this particular grid is a part of Teamflect’s customizable performance review templates, all the employee data already comes loaded in. All that is left for you to do is to analyze the results and map out a development plan for said employee!

9 Box Grid Template 2:

Excel 9 box grid

This free interactive Excel 9 box grid template by Leaveboard may not look pretty but trust us when we say that it will get the job done! Not only does this 9 box grid talent review template come with all the Excel formulas ready to go, but it also comes with instructions on just how you should be using it!

If you are looking for a nine box grid that you are willing to spend some time working on and you don’t really care if the template is all colorful and pretty or not, you can download this template right away!

Download Here

9 Box Grid Template 3:

9 box grid template

If you do care about your 9 box review templates looking pretty and colorful, then fear not! We have the Excel template for you! Wondershare’s template community does not disappoint! This template designed by the exceptionally named and mysterious “Blackwood”, is designed to assess and visualize your team’s performance and potential using a dual-scale framework.

Blackwood even gives some pointers on just how this template should be used. For smaller teams, manually inputting the data within the 3×3 range in Excel is simpler. However, for larger groups, a dynamic nine-box grid can be advantageous in effectively analyzing and managing talent.

Download Here

9 Box Grid Template 4:

excel nine box grid is an incredible online hub of knowledge for anyone who would like to give their skillsets a boost. Whether it is tutorials on Power BI or Excel, Chandoo has incredibly helpful tips that will stay with you for a long time!

Not only can you find this beautiful interactive 9-box grid talent review Excel template on their website, but you can also access their comprehensive tutorial on how you can design your very own 9-box grid Excel template as well!

Download Here

9 Box Grid Template 5:

9 box grid template

Excel might be the go-to platform for most people when they think of 9-box grid talent assessment templates. If, however, Powerpoint is more to your speed, then you might want to give this Powerpoint 9-box grid template by HiSlide a try! If you want to evaluate your employees based on their performance and potential while using Powerpoint or Google Slides, then you will probably enjoy this free 9 box grid template over the others!

Download Here

Written by Emre Ok

Emre is a content writer at Teamflect who aims to share fun and unique insight into the world of performance management.

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