9-Box Grid: Benefits, Examples & the Ultimate Action Plan

Anjan Sarkar
October 28, 2022
min read
September 19, 2023
Photo credit
A strong understanding of each employee's values is crucial to plan your organization's long-term goals. Here's how a 9-box grid will help you with it.
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Imagine your business is running smoothly and suddenly... one of your key employees resigns.

Enough to give your organization an unwanted shock! Isn't it?

Even if you make every effort to maintain high engagement and low turnover levels, people will inevitably go.

So what can be done to prepare for the future and guarantee a smooth transition when a key member of the leadership team leaves? The solution is to leverage succession planning using the "9-box grid".

In this article, we'll share everything you need to know about the 9-box grid — from its definition to how you can leverage this for your organization.

Read on. 

What is the 9-box grid?

The 9-box grid, also referred to as the 9-box model, is a tool for evaluating, comparing and displaying employee work performance. It's an easy-to-use talent management tool that assists HR and managers in strategically training employees for future roles and efficiently identifying leaders.

For instance, both who perform well and have high potential and  who perform well in their roles but have limited room for improvement are excellent to have on your team. However, low-potential employees who always underperform will need a lot of management attention and are unlikely to get better. 

A 9-box grid will help you identify which employee is going to become a leader in your organization and which one you need to remove from your team.

What are the benefits of the 9-box grid?

Here's why creating a 9-box grid is worth your time and effort.

1. It simplifies hiring & recruitment

The expense of hiring and training new team members is huge, particularly for more senior positions that are more expensive to fill. According to Glassdoor, in the US, the average expenditure to hire a new employee is $4000, with a minimum time period of 24 days to fill the position.

That's why it's crucial for businesses to understand their current talent pool and develop leaders from within because it's more affordable to fill a vacancy with internal hiring. The 9-box grid can be helpful in the process of selecting qualified candidates for internal promotion; in fact, businesses that make use of the grid are likely to have previously identified a group of employees who are deemed to be "high potential."

2. It provides easy-to-understand & visual data

CEOs, HR and other senior leaders may have specific preferences for how they want to be provided with people's data. Since CEOs frequently like to view data visually, as it is easier to understand, a lot of HR professionals rely on the 9-box grid to quickly and effectively illustrate an employee's performance and potential.

3. It creates a level of consistency in the performance process

The 9-box grid is a popular tool used by many organizations to align senior leadership and mid-level managers during the performance review process. The technique calls for agreement between the leadership and management teams on performance expectations, such as defining high, medium and low performance. 

In this approach, the grid aids in outlining the expectations and objectives of leaders for the company.

A sample of a 9-box grid & what do its corners mean?

Based on the x-axis, which reflects an employee's current performance and the y-axis, which represents their future potential, HR and managers collaborate to place each employee in the appropriate boxes on the 9-box grid.

The 9-box grid consists of the following boxes:
Box 1: Low Performer, High Potential
Box 2: Low Performer, Moderate Potential
Box 3: Low Performer, Low Potential
Box 4: Moderate Performer, High Potential
Box 5: Moderate Performer, Moderate Potential
Box 6: Moderate Performer, Low Potential
Box 7: High Performer, High Potential
Box 8: High Performer, Moderate Potential
Box 9: High Performer, Low Potential

Employees in the grid's upper right quadrant (Box 1) are identified as potential candidates for succession after the performance and potential is evaluated and plotted.

In contrast, it might be necessary to reassign or terminate personnel in the lower left quadrant (Box 9). The grid's boxes assist HR teams in deciding what investments are best made in the proper talent to produce future leaders.

While employees in boxes 2 and 3 have a longer timeline but can be prepared for a future shift to box 1, employees in box 1 should be prepared for top leadership within six months to a year.

Here is a sample of a 9-box grid:

9 box grid

How to support an employee at all levels of growth 

Managers can develop unique development plans for each employee depending on their assigned category once they have placed people in the proper boxes of the 9-box grid.

Scribe top tip: Devote the most of your time and energy to high performers with high potential and the least amount of time and energy to low performers with low potential. The investing efforts should be increased as you move uphill and to the right and should be decreased as you move lower and to the left.

Here's the action plan for each performer of your organization:

1. Low Performer, Low Potential

Action plan:

  • Determine the internal obstacles preventing high performance.
  • Find a better fit by choosing a more suitable employment role.
  • Make an exit strategy for the person if there isn't a good explanation for their poor performance or another position that would be a better fit.

2. Moderate Performer, Low Potential & Low Performer, Moderate Potential

Action plan:

  • Analyze skill gaps before developing employee development programs.
  • Encourage them to be more creative.
  • Set quantifiable goals and make it very clear to the leadership what excellent performance requires.
  • Review the plan's development once every month.
  • Find a better fit by choosing a more suitable employment role.
  • Make an exit strategy in case there is no progress by the set timeline.

3. High Performer, Low Potential

Action plan:

  • Examine their potential in light of how their employment will change in the future and assist in planning properly.
  • Can be taken into account for an increase in pay and mid-level management.

4. Low Performer, High Potential

Action plan:

  • Clarify your expectations with them so they can raise their existing performance.
  • Give them time to grow and keep an eye on how they're doing. High-potential individuals should start performing in six to twelve months.
  • Consider investing more in these employees' training.

To help employees develop and solve typical problems, businesses must provide training guides. However, that goes without saying that it's a time-consuming process because effective training manuals require more than just a bunch of data; therefore, you need the appropriate tools to complete the job.

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5. Moderate Performer, Moderate Potential

Action plan:

  • Share your goals and role expectations.
  • Allow development time and keep an eye on performance.
  • Take them into account for employment expansion at the same level.
  • Praise successes and excellent work to inspire others.
  • Give them challenging projects to work on.
  • To get beyond performance obstacles, offer peer counseling from a high-performing employee. Or help them fill in any skill gaps holding them back by offering classroom instruction and opportunities for on-the-job training.

6. High Performer, Moderate Potential & Moderate Performer, High Potential

Action plan:

  • Make sure to check in frequently and acknowledge their efforts.
  • Give challenging tasks so that the employee can advance in the position.
  • Give difficult tasks to help you get ready for leadership positions.

7. High Performer, High Potential

Action plan:

  • Give difficult assignments.
  • Regularly check in to see whether they are content in their position or if there are any indications that they might not be.
  • Make sure they know their contributions are valued.
  • Offer opportunities for networking with more experienced organization members.
  • Reward them and make sure they are paid competitively.

9-box grid: maximize your ROI!

The 9-box grid approach aids in managing people in your company that has varying degrees of performance and potential.

Remember that assigning specific labels to employees is not the 9-box grid's ultimate worth. Instead, it is used to assess a worker's performance and make sure that the company funds the appropriate employee development initiatives.

Choosing Scribe will give your organization a competitive edge by providing the easiest solution to create and share training guides for every process your employees need — resulting in more ROI, which means your organization's constant and rapid growth. Start leveraging Scribe for free today!

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