The 9-box grid is one of the most used talent review frameworks that considers an employee's past performance and future potential to the company or an organization.  It is very popular due to its simplicity and effectiveness. If used correctly, it ensures a transparent and fair method of talent evaluation.

The objective of such a talent management tool is to

  1. Recognize high performance & high potential employees and reward them
  2. Identify under-performing employees and take actions to correct course
  3. Have visibility to overall team strength and plan employee development and succession.


There are two axes of measurement. Typically, on the X-axis is Past Performance, on the Y-axis is Future Potential.

Performance: Employee is classified into one of the three categories based on performance review. Some example categories would be

  1. ‘Low’, ‘Moderate’, and ‘High’.
  2. Not meeting job expectations’, ‘Meeting Job expectations’, and ‘Exceeding job expectations’
  3. ‘Under Performing’, ‘Performing’, and ‘Outstanding’.

The categories and their criteria may vary by organization, but there would be 3 categories typically.

Potential: Similarly, the Manager along with leadership and HR can classify an employee into one of three categories based on his/her future potential contribution. It can be ‘Low’, ‘Moderate’ and ‘High’.

With 3 categories each in two dimensions (performance and potential), an employee will be placed into one of the 9 boxes in the grid.

Descriptions taken from SHRM: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-qa/pages/whatsa9boxgridandhowcananhrdepartmentuseit.aspx

The intent of employee growth and development is to move towards the top right corner of the grid.

Employees in top right box (High Performance, High Potential) are identified as candidates for promotion, while those in the bottom left box may need to be reassigned to a different role or different organization.

If you have employees in the top right box, it indicates you have good bench strength. A 9-box grid is useful for succession planning as it identifies future potential leaders.


The 9-box grid can be and has been customized in many companies according to their own needs.