9 Box Talent Review: Guide to Performance Assessment in 3 Steps

12 min read

The 9-Box Talent Review, integrated into the broader business plan and aligned with business goals serves as a performance and potential matrix crucial for talent management and strategic planning. This systematic assessment of employees, considering both current performance and future potential, plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the workforce is strategically positioned to contribute to the achievement of business goals and the realization of the overall business strategy.

Our Talent Management Consulting enhances the impact of the 9-Box Talent Review in our clients’ business plans, aligning it with specific business goals. We provide expert guidance to interpret the review’s insights, translating them into actionable strategies for talent development and succession planning. This service is integral to executing a dynamic business strategy, ensuring effective talent management that contributes directly to achieving organizational goals.

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What is a 9 Box Talent Review?

In the dynamic landscape of talent management, the 9 Box Talent Review stands out as a powerful and strategic tool. This article delves into the intricacies of the 9 Box Talent Review, exploring its concept, implementation framework, and advantages, and providing a step-by-step guide for effective talent reviews.

The 9 Box Talent Review Matrix is a powerful tool that organizations employ to strategically assess and optimize their talent pool. This performance matrix, also known as the 9-Box Grid, serves as a visual representation of employees’ current performance and future potential. Let’s delve into the intricacies of this matrix and understand how it can be a game-changer in talent management.

9 Box Talent Review
9 Box Talent Review Matrix
Designed by: Digital Leadership AG – Originally Created by McKinsey in 1970

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How to Implement the 9-Box Talent Review Framework?

Implementing the 9 Box Talent Review successfully requires a structured approach. Let’s break it down into actionable steps.

Step 1: Assess Employee Performance

The foundation of the 9 Box Talent Review is a thorough assessment of employee performance. By objectively evaluating current achievements, managers gain insights into an individual’s contributions and effectiveness in their role.

Step 2: Assess Employee Potential

Determining an employee’s potential is a forward-looking process. It involves evaluating qualities, skills, and attributes that indicate the capacity for growth, leadership, and increased responsibility within the organization.

Step 3: Merge Performance and Potential into a 3×3 Grid (9 Boxes)

The culmination of the assessment process involves plotting employees on the 9 Box Grid. This performance matrix creates nine distinct boxes, each representing a unique combination of performance and potential. This visual representation facilitates clear categorization and strategic decision-making.

The 9 Boxes or Cells of the Grid: Decoding Talent Potential

Understanding the significance of each box in the 9 Box Grid is instrumental for organizations committed to effective talent management. This section delves into the characteristics of each box, providing insights into the unique talent profiles they represent.

9 Box Talent Review

Stars: High Performance, High Potential (Top Right Box):

  • Exemplary performers with consistent high-level contributions.
  • Demonstrated potential for assuming leadership roles and driving organizational success.
  • Prime candidates for key strategic positions and leadership development programs.

Future Stars: Moderate Performance, High Potential (Top Middle Box)

  • Individuals displaying promising potential despite current moderate performance.
  • Ideal candidates for targeted development programs to enhance current skills.
  • Likely to evolve into high-performing, high-potential leaders with strategic guidance.

Enigma or Potential Gem: Low Performance, High Potential (Top Left Box)

  • Employees exhibiting high potential despite current underperformance.
  • Require tailored development plans to address current shortcomings.
  • Strategic investments can transform them into future high-performing assets.

High-Impact Performers: High Performance, Moderate Potential (Middle Right Box)

  • Consistently deliver exceptional performance in their current roles.
  • Moderate potential for advancement beyond their existing positions.
  • Valuable contributors who may not seek leadership roles but are crucial for team stability.

Key or Core Players: Moderate Performance, Moderate Potential (Middle Middle Box)

  • Steady performers with consistent and satisfactory contributions.
  • Moderate potential for growth within the organization.
  • Essential team members providing stability and reliability.

Inconsistent Performers: Low Performance, Moderate Potential (Middle Left Box)

  • Struggling with current performance but showing potential for improvement.
  • Require targeted support and interventions to enhance performance.
  • Growth opportunities exist with focused development initiatives.

Strong Performers: High Performance, Low Potential (Bottom Right Box)

  • Achieve high levels of performance in their current roles.
  • Limited potential for significant growth or advancement.
  • Valuable contributors in their existing capacities without a strong desire for upward mobility.

Effective Employees: Moderate Performance, Low Potential (Bottom Middle Box)

  • Consistent performers with satisfactory contributions.
  • Limited potential for significant growth or advancement.
  • Valued for maintaining stability and efficiency in current roles.

Underperformers: Low Performance, Low Potential (Bottom Left Box)

  • Struggling with current performance and showing limited potential.
  • May require intensive support or reconsideration of roles.
  • Decisions may include performance improvement plans, reassignment, or other measures.

Understanding the nuances of each box empowers organizations to make informed decisions about talent development, succession planning, and resource allocation. By recognizing the unique attributes within each quadrant, organizations can strategically leverage their talent pool for sustained success and growth.

9 Box Talent Review Example

While the specific criteria and definitions for each box in the 9-Box Talent Review may vary based on the organization’s context and goals, here are generalized examples to illustrate how employees might be categorized:

  1. Low Performance/Low Potential (Bottom Left):
    • Example: An employee who consistently fails to meet performance expectations and does not show interest or aptitude for career development.
  2. Moderate Performance/Moderate Potential (Middle Left):
    • Example: A team member who meets job requirements but may need additional skills or experience to progress to higher roles.
  3. High Performance/Low Potential (Top Left):
    • Example: A dedicated employee excelling in their current role but may not be interested in or suitable for leadership positions.
  4. Low Performance/Moderate Potential (Bottom Center):
    • Example: An employee with potential but struggling due to a lack of skills or experience. Targeted training or mentoring may help.
  5. Moderate Performance/High Potential (Middle Center):
    • Example: A solid performer with evident potential for leadership roles. Developing specific skills can prepare them for more significant responsibilities.
  6. High Performance/Moderate Potential (Top Center):
    • Example: An outstanding performer with a proven track record, showing potential for growth into leadership roles.
  7. Low Performance/High Potential (Bottom Right):
    • Example: An underperforming employee who exhibits a high level of potential. With proper support and development, they could become a valuable asset.
  8. Moderate Performance/Low Potential (Middle Right):
    • Example: An employee meeting expectations but not displaying strong potential for career advancement. Career planning discussions may be necessary.
  9. High Performance/High Potential (Top Right):
    • Example: A top-performing employee with a proven ability to take on leadership responsibilities. Considered a key talent for critical roles in the organization’s future.

These examples are meant to illustrate the general principles of the 9-Box Talent Review, and the specific criteria for each organization may vary based on its unique culture, industry, and strategic goals. It’s crucial for organizations to customize the 9-Box matrix based on their specific needs and continuously update it as employees evolve in their roles.

Advantages of 9-Box Talent Review in Performance Reviews

The 9 Box Talent Review offers numerous benefits, making it a valuable asset in performance evaluations.

  • Enhanced Decision-making
    Strategic decisions become more informed as the 9 Box Talent Review highlights individuals with high potential and performance matrix. Identifying key players for leadership positions becomes a streamlined process.
  • Identifying High-Potential Employees
    The performance matrix allows organizations to pinpoint individuals with untapped potential, paving the way for targeted development initiatives that nurture future leaders.
  • Targeted Development Opportunities
    By categorizing employees based on potential and performance matrix, organizations can tailor development plans to address specific needs, ensuring efficient use of resources.

How to Use it for Talent Review: Step-by-step Guide

Practical application is key to reaping the benefits of the 9 Box Talent Review. Follow this step-by-step guide to ensure a seamless talent review process.

1- Define Clear Objectives

Clearly outline the objectives of the talent review, aligning them with organizational goals and strategic priorities.

2- Gather Relevant Data

Collect comprehensive data on employee potential and performance matrix, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative measures.

3- Determine Metrics for Comparison

Establish objective metrics for comparing potential and performance matrix, ensuring a fair and consistent evaluation process.

4- Objectively Place Employees on the Grid

Utilize the gathered data and metrics to objectively position employees within the 9 Box Grid, avoiding bias and subjectivity.

5- Identifying Action Items and Improving Performance

The talent review process extends beyond assessment, requiring ongoing efforts to enhance potential and performance matrix.

6- Continuous Feedback and Evaluations

Regular feedback sessions contribute to continuous improvement, providing employees with insights into their development areas.

7- Monitor Progress and Adjust as Needed

Dynamic organizations require adaptive strategies. Regularly monitor employee progress and adjust development plans as necessary.

8- Create Individualized Development Plans

Tailor development plans based on each employee’s unique positioning in the 9 Box Grid, addressing specific performance and potential areas.

9- Provide Training and Development Opportunities

Offer targeted training initiatives and growth opportunities aligned with identified needs, fostering skill enhancement and career advancement.

10- Foster a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Embed a culture of continuous improvement within the organization, encouraging employees to embrace learning and development as integral parts of their roles.

11- Recognize and Celebrate Achievements

Acknowledge and celebrate employee achievements, reinforcing a positive culture that values and appreciates individual contributions.

Criticisms and Potential Downfalls of the 9 Box Talent Review

While the 9 Box Talent Review is a powerful tool, it is essential to be aware of potential criticisms and challenges associated with its implementation.


In conclusion, the 9 Box Talent Review is a strategic framework that aligns performance assessment with future potential, providing organizations with a roadmap for talent development and succession planning. By following the outlined steps and understanding the nuances of each grid, organizations can harness the full potential of their workforce, fostering a culture of excellence and continuous improvement.