What is 9 Box Talent Review

What is 9 Box Talent Review and Steps to Effectively Implement It

Imagine a hidden reservoir of untapped potential within your organization, ready to be unleashed. These individuals possess the skills, drive, and innovation that can elevate your company to new heights. 

The key to tapping this talent pool lies in the 9 Box Talent Review framework—a strategic roadmap to identify, develop, and retain your most valuable assets: your people.

The 9 Box Talent Review is a powerful tool that combines performance evaluations and potential assessments to provide valuable insights for strategic decision-making. By effectively implementing this framework, organizations can unlock a multitude of benefits. 

It aligns talent management strategies with business objectives, resulting in enhanced performance, improved succession planning, and increased employee engagement. In this blog, we will explore the intricacies of the 9 Box Talent Review and guide you through the steps to unleash the full potential of your talent pool.

In this blog, we will dive into the intricacies of the 9 Box Talent Review and explore the steps to effectively implement this powerful framework that enables organizations to unleash the full potential of their talent pool.

What is a 9 Box Talent Review?

9 Box Talent Review

The 9 Box Talent Review is a performance assessment tool that enables organizations to evaluate and categorize employees based on their performance and potential. It involves plotting employees on a 9 Box grid, forming a matrix-like framework. 

The horizontal axis of the grid represents performance, indicating an employee’s current level of effectiveness in their role. The vertical axis represents potential, reflecting their ability to grow, take on higher responsibilities, and assume leadership positions in the future.

The 9 box talent review matrix aids in identifying high-potential individuals, determining development needs, and making strategic talent management decisions.

Concept of the 9 Box Talent Review

At its core, the 9 Box Talent Review or we can say 9 box talent assessment focuses on two key dimensions: performance and potential.

Performance represents an employee’s current level of contribution and effectiveness in their role, while potential assesses their ability to grow, take on additional responsibilities, and assume leadership positions in the future. 

By combining these assessments, organizations gain a comprehensive understanding of their talent pool. It serves as a strategic tool for making informed decisions on employee development, succession planning, and overall workforce strategy. 

Origins and Evolution in Talent Management

The origins and evolution of the 9 Box Talent Review can be traced back to its creation by McKinsey in 1970. 

Initially used by General Electric (GE) to identify key investments and compare different business units, the 9 Box talent assessment process later evolved into a widely adopted HR tool. 

Over time it evolved to accommodate the changing dynamics of the workforce and business environment. While the basic premise remains the same, organizations have adapted the framework to suit their specific needs and align with their unique talent management strategies. 

The emphasis has shifted from solely focusing on performance ratings to a more holistic assessment that considers potential, skills, competencies, and future organizational needs.

Key Components of 9 Box Review

The 9 Box grid consists of two axes that play a crucial role in evaluating employees: performance and potential.

Performance: This axis focuses on evaluating an individual’s current and past performance levels. It involves assessing how effectively the employee is fulfilling their responsibilities, achieving goals, and contributing to the organization’s success. Performance evaluations may consider factors such as quality of work, productivity, teamwork, problem-solving skills, and adherence to company values and standards.

Potential: The potential axis assesses an individual’s potential for growth and advancement within the organization. It looks beyond their current performance and evaluates their ability to take on additional responsibilities, develop new skills, assume leadership roles, and make significant contributions in the future. Potential assessments consider factors such as learning agility, adaptability, leadership potential, critical thinking abilities, and willingness to embrace new challenges.

How to use the 9 Box Review framework?

Step 1: Assess Employee Performance

Evaluate Employee Performance

Begin by evaluating and assessing each employee’s performance. Consider their achievements, contributions, and overall effectiveness in their current role. This evaluation should be based on objective criteria, such as key performance indicators, targets met, feedback from managers and peers, and performance appraisal data. Here are types of performance appraisals you can collect in your organization. 

Performance management platforms like Peoplebox make evaluating your employees’ performance a breeze. From 360-degree reviews to 9-box grids, it has everything you will need for an effective performance management process. Try it yourself!

Step 2: Assess Employee Potential

Next, assess each employee’s potential for growth and advancement within the organization. Look at their ability to take on additional responsibilities, acquire new skills, and assume leadership roles. Consider factors such as their willingness to learn, abilities, aspirations, adaptability, problem-solving capabilities, behavior, and leadership qualities. This assessment should focus on their future growth and potential for career development.

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

Once you have evaluated both performance and potential, merge the two assessments into a 3×3 grid, also known as the 9 Box grid. This grid consists of three columns representing low, medium, and high-performance levels, and three rows representing low, medium, and high potential levels. Plot each employee’s performance and potential scores in the appropriate box that corresponds to their evaluation.

The resulting 9 Box grid categorizes employees into different segments, such as high potentials, high performers, individuals needing development, and those requiring immediate attention. This visual representation helps identify the talent distribution within the organization and supports decision-making regarding employee development, succession planning, and targeted interventions.

The 9 boxes or cells of the grid

The 9 boxes or cells of the 9 Box grid of the 9 box performance review represent different combinations of potential and performance levels. Let’s learn what they represent:

1. High Potential, High Performance: Employees with exceptional performance and demonstrated potential for growth and advancement within the organization.

2. High Potential, Moderate Performance: Employees who show promise and potential but may need further development or support to reach higher performance levels.

3. High Performance, Moderate Potential: Employees who consistently perform well in their current role but may have limited potential for growth beyond their current position.

4. Low Potential, High Performance: Employees who excel in their current role but may have limited potential for growth or advancement within the organization.

5. Moderate Potential, Moderate Performance: Employees with average performance and potential, who may benefit from targeted development initiatives to enhance their skills and contributions.

6. High Potential, Low Performance: Employees with significant potential but whose current performance does not meet expectations. They may require focused development plans to bridge the performance gap.

7. Moderate Performance, Low Potential: Employees who demonstrate average performance but have limited potential for growth or advancement within the organization.

8. Low Potential, Moderate Performance: Employees with moderate performance levels but limited potential for significant growth or advancement.

9. Low Potential, Low Performance: Employees with below-average performance and limited potential for growth within the organization, require careful evaluation and support to improve their contributions.

The 9 boxes represent various combinations of an employee’s performance and potential levels. They serve as a framework to assess talent and make informed decisions about development, succession planning, and promotions within an organization.

The Advantages of 9 Box Talent Review in Performance Reviews

The 9 Box Talent Review offers several advantages by providing organizations with valuable insights to make informed decisions about talent management. Let’s explore the advantages of the 9 Box Talent Review and how it facilitates enhanced decision-making in performance reviews.

1. Enhanced Decision-making

Visual Representation of Talent Distribution: The 9 Box grid provides a visual representation of talent distribution within an organization. By categorizing employees based on their performance and potential, it offers a clear snapshot of the talent landscape. This visual representation helps decision-makers easily identify high-potential individuals, steady performers, and those needing further development. It allows for a comprehensive view of the talent pool, enabling informed decision-making in talent management strategies.

Informed Decisions on Promotions, Succession Planning, and Talent Development: The 9 Box Talent Review facilitates informed decision-making regarding promotions, succession planning, and talent development. It aids in identifying high-potential employees who can be groomed for future roles. Additionally, the 9 Box grid guides the creation of targeted development plans by highlighting employees with high potential but lower performance, allowing organizations to invest in their growth and bridge any skill gaps. This results in effective talent development initiatives that align with the organization’s strategic goals.

2. Identifying High Potential Employees

Identify High Potential Employees

Identification of High-Potential for Leadership Roles: By assessing both performance and potential, this review process allows for the identification of individuals who exhibit not only exceptional performance but also the capability to take on greater responsibilities and contribute to the organization’s future growth. These high-potential employees possess the qualities and skills necessary for leadership roles, such as strategic thinking, adaptability, and the ability to inspire and motivate others.

Significance of Nurturing and Retaining High-Potential Individuals: These employees represent the future leaders and key contributors who can drive innovation, inspire teams, and steer the organization towards its goals. By recognizing and investing in their development, organizations can ensure a robust pipeline of talented leaders, and reduce the risk of talent gaps. It also demonstrates the organization’s commitment to its professional growth. This fosters a sense of loyalty and engagement, contributing to higher employee satisfaction and long-term organizational stability.

3. Targeted Development Opportunities

Focusing on Employees Requiring Development: By categorizing the employees within the appropriate boxes, organizations can identify individuals who would benefit from specific development initiatives. These employees are provided with targeted resources, training, mentorship, and coaching to enhance their skills, address performance gaps, and accelerate their professional growth. It allows organizations to focus their efforts on those who have the potential to make significant progress with the right support and guidance.

Improved Performance and Growth Opportunities: The targeted development opportunities facilitated by the 9 Box grid result in improved performance for individuals and the organization as a whole. By addressing specific skill gaps and providing tailored development plans, employees can enhance their capabilities and contribute more effectively to their roles. This, in turn, leads to increased job satisfaction, higher engagement, and improved productivity.

How to Use it for talent review: Step-by-step guide

1. Define Clear Objectives

Before implementing the 9 Box Talent Review, it is essential to establish clear objectives. Determine what specific outcomes or goals you aim to achieve through the talent review process. This could include identifying high-potential individuals, assessing performance and potential alignment, or guiding talent development and succession planning initiatives.

2. Gather Relevant Data

To conduct an accurate talent review, gather relevant data that provides a comprehensive view of the employee’s performance and potential. This may involve collecting performance reviews, competency evaluations, and potential assessments. It is crucial to rely on reliable and objective data sources to ensure the integrity and validity of the assessment process.

3. Determine Metrics for Comparison

Define the metrics that differentiate low performers from high performers and those with low versus high potential. Establish clear criteria for assessing performance and potential, such as key performance indicators, behavioral competencies, career aspirations, and growth capabilities. This ensures consistency and fairness in evaluating employees across teams and departments.

4. Objectively Place Employees on the Grid

The process of placing employees on the 9 Box grid should be objective and calibrated across different teams and departments. Reviewers should compare and align their assessments to minimize biases and discrepancies. Obtaining consensus among reviewers through discussion and collaboration helps ensure fairness and accuracy in the placement of employees on the grid.

How to Identify Action Items and Improve Performance

The 9 Box Talent Review plays a vital role in identifying specific action items to improve employee performance. Here are key steps to accomplish this:

1. Continuous Feedback and Evaluations

Regularly provide employees with constructive feedback and evaluations based on their performance and potential assessments. This ongoing feedback helps individuals understand their strengths, areas for improvement and aligns expectations for development.

2. Monitor Progress and Adjust as Needed

Continuously monitor employee progress and performance to ensure they are on track. Regular check-ins and performance reviews allow for course correction and adjustments as necessary. This helps keep individuals accountable and ensures they are working towards achieving their goals.

3. Create Individualized Development Plans

Based on the 9 Box Talent Review outcomes, create individualized development plans for each employee. These plans should address specific areas of improvement and focus on enhancing skills, knowledge, and capabilities required for growth and advancement. Tailor development activities to meet the unique needs of each individual.

4. Provide Training and Development Opportunities

Train Your Employees

Offer relevant training programs, workshops, mentoring, and coaching opportunities to support employees’ development plans. This helps them acquire new skills, improve performance, and prepare for future roles and responsibilities.

5. Foster a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Cultivate a culture of continuous improvement by encouraging employees to seek out opportunities for growth and learning. Promote a mindset of self-reflection, innovation, and professional development throughout the organization.

6. Recognize and Celebrate Achievements

Acknowledge and celebrate the achievements and milestones of employees who show improvement and perform exceptionally. Recognition boosts morale, motivates individuals to excel, and fosters a positive work environment.


The implementation of a 9 Box Talent Review brings numerous benefits to organizations in terms of talent management and performance improvement. 

By implementing the 9 Box Talent Review effectively, organizations can align their talent management strategies with business objectives. This leads to enhanced performance, improved succession planning, and increased employee engagement. The visual representation of the 9 Box grid offers a clear view of talent distribution, enabling organizations to focus on employees requiring development interventions and make data-driven decisions.

To help in the process of effective performance review, Peoplebox serves as a valuable tool. 

It provides a comprehensive platform that simplifies and streamlines the entire review process for you. It offers features such as performance evaluations, potential assessments, continuous feedback, real-time tracking of the review process, and gathers reliable data, and drives targeted development initiatives.

Peoplebox supports the 9 Box Talent Review, and empowers you to optimize your talent management practices and unlock the full potential of their workforce. 

It facilitates leveraging this powerful framework, organizations can make informed decisions, foster employee growth, and drive sustainable success in an ever-evolving business landscape. If that intrigues you, do give the free demo a try.

Here is a brief video of how 9-box works within Peoplebox.

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What is 9 Box Talent Review and Steps to Effectively Implement It