Updating the 9-Box Grid for Ongoing Performance Management

by Sharlyn Lauby | Posted | Performance Management

Updating the 9-Box Grid for Ongoing Performance Management

Everyone in HR today seems to be talking about performance reviews – specifically, how organizations are eliminating, changing or adjusting the performance review process. Updating performance management to suit the needs of the business is great, but it’s important to remember that the performance review isn’t a stand-alone document or process. It works in concert with other talent and performance management efforts. A perfect example of this is the 9-box grid.

So what happens to the 9-box grid if the performance review process changes? Well, let’s start with a brief refresher: What’s a 9-box grid?

Defining the 9-box succession planning grid

The 9-box grid is commonly used as a tool in employee development and modern succession planning. The bottom axis reflects employee performance and the vertical axis reflects employee potential. Each box represents an individual’s progress in those areas. For example, an employee with low performance and high potential would be in the “develop” box.

Organizations use the 9-box grid to:

  • Guide talent reviews. It helps them understand where employees are in their development. The 9-box grid can also help organizations identify areas where making an investment in development could be beneficial. For example, if a talent review shows that current employees are performing well but not open to taking on new assignments, then the organization might need to evaluate their promotion and transfer guidelines, processes, etc.
  • Track the progress and development of future leaders. It takes a snapshot in time and the organization can examine if their efforts to develop talent are progressing at the rate they expected.
  • Create a shared sense of ownership in developing talent. Using the 9-box system is an organizational activity that involves the entire management team – from the talent review to employee development plans.

Now let’s go back to the original question: what happens to the 9-box grid if the review process changes? The 9-box grid is still valuable for all the reasons above, but when the box is used might change, especially after companies have switched to ongoing performance management.

Using the 9-box grid with ongoing performance management

When performance reviews consist of shorter/more frequent conversations, the discussions about the 9-box grid might be shorter and more frequent as well. There’s no rule that says a 9-box grid conversation needs to be long. Instead of holding a talent review of the entire organization, try doing a review by department or division.

Another option is to discuss alternating conversations about performance and potential. Managers and employees will meet to discuss current performance, and their next meeting will include a conversation about potential. This could be very productive when it comes to long-term development plans. If changes are not taking place quickly, a bi-annual or annual talent review might make sense. If changes are being made, then stakeholders can agree to amend the schedule.

If an organization is talking about abandoning the annual performance review, there’s no reason they have to stop discussing potential and development. While talent reviews and performance reviews are often linked – like compensation and performance – they don’t have to be. In fact, organizations might find separating the processes to be beneficial.

Great talent management tools are adaptable

Regardless of your performance review process, employees still want feedback and organizations need to have a leadership development plan. The 9-box grid is a flexible tool that can provide valuable information and easily adapts to how your organization manages performance.

The State of Succession Planning

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The State of Succession Planning

Are you doing enough to identify and develop talent to build bench strength?


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