The Nine-Box Grid for Talent Management
Discover how to to best support your teams's member career.
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When you're in charge of a team, sooner or later, you'll find yourself in the position of evaluating your team members, discussing promotions, and creating development plans. This typically happens every 6 to 12 months, and depending on your organization, you can choose from a variety of tools for these evaluations, including leader reviews, self-reflection, and peer reviews.
Let's break down the differences between these methods:
Leader Review: Your team leader or supervisor checks your work and provides feedback.
Self-Assessment (Self-Reflection): You take a moment to reflect on your own work, your strengths, and areas where you could improve.
Peer Review: Your colleagues share their thoughts on how you work with them – it's like getting feedback from your work buddies.
In this article, I'd like to shift our focus to leader reviews and introduce you to the Performance and Potential Matrix: the Nine-Box Grid. It's a great tool for evaluating and categorizing team members based on their job performance and potential for growth within your company.
What I love about this framework is its simplicity and ease of use. After a quick initial introduction, leaders can catch on easily. Filling in the grid also adds structure to discussions about promotions and salary increases.
When I first used it, I wished for a simple "how to use" guide or some tips. So, I decided to jot down my recommendations here and provide a user-friendly Miro board with a customizable template. Here's what you'll find:
Facilitate The First Round
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Just like any framework, it's crucial to clarify how to apply it in your organization. You need to explain how to assess both potential and performance. Evaluating someone's potential can be a bit of a puzzle.
To help you out, consider these guiding questions:
Can they handle a more challenging role if promoted right now?
Do you think they can learn new skills for a higher role?
Have you seen them demonstrate leadership qualities?
Are they flexible when working on new projects?
Do they actively seek opportunities to learn new things?
For performance evaluation, you could use your role expectation matrix. You can find a helpful open-source example from CircleCI.
Afterward, write a description for each of the boxes, you can use the one below as inspiration:
High Potential/High Performance (STAR)
These team members excel in a variety of tasks, demonstrating a strategic mindset, effective problem-solving skills, and high self-motivation, leading to positive outcomes.
Recommended Action: GROWTH Assign them new projects and responsibilities that challenge their strengths, and consider promoting them.
High Potential/Moderate Performance (RISING STAR)
These team members not only excel in their current roles but also consistently drive positive outcomes. Their motivation and dedication are key drivers for achieving even greater results, making them integral to our team's success.
Recommended Action: GROWTH Think about assigning more challenging projects, similar to STAR, to help them develop their strengths further. Also, consider a role that can help them grow. Provide regular feedback to enhance their performance.
High Potential/Low Performance (POTENTIAL STAR)
These team members have the capability to take on new responsibilities but may face some challenges. They show a strong willingness to adapt and have key strengths.
Recommended Action: DEVELOPMENT Invest in coaching and training. Evaluate the potential for a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)
Moderate Potential/High Performance (KEY CONTRIBUTORS)
These team members are valuable assets to the team, but there might be more potential to explore.
Recommended Action: DEVELOPMENT Consider implementing a long-term growth plan.
Moderate Potential/Moderate Performance (CORE MEMBER)
These team members are doing well in their current role and have the potential for improvement over time.
Recommended Action: SUPPORT Think about giving them more responsibilities without making it stressful (no pressure). Use a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) and offer coaching and guidance
Moderate Potential/Low Performance (UNDERPERFORMER)
These team members have the strengths to help improve their performance in their current roles.
Recommended Action: SUPPORT Invest in coaching and training. Focus on Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).
Low Potential/High Performance (TRUSTED MEMBER)
These team members are great role models as top performers who have used their strengths to the maximum.
Recommended Action: SUPPORT MOTIVATION Motivate them to stay engaged. Enhance communication with them and make sure they get fairly rewarded for their good work.
Low Potential/Moderate Performance (AVERAGE PERFORMER)
These team members perform well and make contributions. They also appear happy with their current roles and what they do.
Recommended Action: ASSESS AND SUPPORT Consider a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). Provide regular coaching and feedback.
Low Potential/Low Performance (RISKY MEMBER)
These team members lack crucial skills and may be unresponsive to coaching.
Recommended Action: FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE Consider implementing a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), with a focus on addressing low performance while ensuring it doesn't impact team morale
Facilitate The First Round
Before diving into the grid, it's important to have your leaders prepare to assess their team members. You might want to collect additional information, such as their time in their current role or when they last received a salary increase. I usually have each leader assess their immediate subordinates one by one, ensuring fair comparisons. Then, I compile all the names, organized by level, on a chart.
Start with someone positioned at the top right corner, where they excel in performance and show high potential. Ask the team leader to explain their choice. Keep digging with "why" questions and encourage others to share their thoughts. This initial evaluation can serve as a benchmark for the subsequent assessments.
After those discussions, let's now jump into the development strategies for each category within the matrix:
“A” Category (High Potential):
Strategies focus on further development and advancement.
Emphasis on challenging assignments, mentorship, and leadership exposure.
Encouragement for high potentials to take on new roles and responsibilities.
Efforts to retain and foster their potential for future leadership positions.
“B” Category (Good/Moderate Performance):
Strategies cater to individuals with good or average performance.
Efforts directed toward development but may not necessarily involve immediate advancement.
Focus on assessing readiness for advancement, providing stretch opportunities, and acknowledging value.
Goal is to enhance performance from good to great or move from average to high potential.
“C” Category (Low Performance):
Strategies are primarily centered on addressing performance issues.
Focus on diagnosing and improving performance problems.
May involve role transitions, support, and additional resources.
Potential for reassignment or dismissal if performance issues persist after reasonable attempts at improvement.
Category A strategies aim to support high-potential individuals in their pursuit of leadership roles. Category B strategies focus on enhancing the performance of good to moderate performers. Category C strategies are designed to address and improve low performance.1
In conclusion, leveraging the Nine-Box Grid and these development strategies can empower organizations to fine-tune leadership development and adopt a more organized approach to evaluating and supporting team members' growth.
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See you next week! Best, Alex Di Mango
The strategies mentioned above draw inspiration from concepts by Daniel McCarthy, Dan is the owner of Great Leadership, specializing in leadership coaching, succession planning, and development consulting. He's a former leader at Paychex, Inc., and Eastman Kodak Company, known for his award-winning blog "Great Leadership."