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Understanding the 9-box grid assessment at work

It is an individual assessment tool that evaluates an employee's current and potential level of contribution to an organisation.

The vertical columns indicate growth potential, while the horizontal rows identify whether the employee is currently below, meeting or exceeding performance expectations. The intersection of the two determines an employee's current standing and where development may be needed.

The 9-box grid is most commonly used in succession planning as a method of evaluating an organisation's current talent and identifying potential leaders.

The boxes on the grid indicate where investment needs to be made to develop future leaders. The people in box 1 should be ready for top leadership within 6 months to a year, while those in boxes 2, 3, or 6 have a longer timeline, but can be groomed for eventual movement to box 1.

A 9-box grid might look something like this. [Standard]

The remaining boxes can be used to identify when coaching or a change in job or responsibilities is needed. It may not be valuable to the organisation to spend time and effort attempting to salvage an individual with low potential and poor performance. An individual with low potential but effective performance, however, may need to be engaged or motivated in his or her current job.

When used correctly, the 9-box grid can be both a versatile and a valuable tool for an organisation, but HR professionals are advised to become thoroughly familiar with it before attempting to use it. Like any tool, it can be damaging to the organisation if used incorrectly.