Using the Nine-Box Methodology to Manage Talent

by Peter Buscemi January 10, 2016
January 10, 2016

Using the Nine-Box methodology to manage talent is a must for organizations that want to effectively manage their most precious asset-people.  Specifically, a nine box is a 3×3 matrix used to assess individuals along two dimensions: past performance and potential.


Nine-Box Methodology

Most organizations utilize antiquated processes to focus on historical employee performance. These evaluation approaches vary widely in terms of the specific vehicle used, the frequency, how the results are interpreted and the actions taken. However, most organizations fail to focus on any quantitative assessment of potential — and that is where the Nine-Box provides value.


As with any quantitative analysis, it is important to have a well-defined process with clear terms and definitions and this is true with the Nine-Box approach. Both the administration of the methodology and the interpretation must be consistent in order to provide a meaningful, relative ranking.


As mentioned, the assessment requires that employees performance and potential be measured.   Measuring performance means documenting an employees’ performance by categorizing the person in a high, medium or low bucket along the horizontal axis. On the vertical axis, potential is summarized within the same three high, medium and low segments.


At the extremes, employees may be high performers with high potential or low performers with low potential.


Below is a Sample of Descriptors for the Nine-Box Methodology:


  • Misplaced employee
  • Unmotivated employee
  • Improve or remove
  • Potential blocker
  • Solid performer
  • Growth employee
  • Trusted professional
  • High impact performer
  • Future leader

The Outputs of a Nine-Box Analysis Include:


  • Identify leadership candidates
  • Determine talent in the organization that should be preserved
  • Pinpoint potential turnover risks
  • Single out employees with the potential to receive development assignments
  • Identify employees that need to improve or be removed

The Nine-Box methodology also helps managers identify the diamonds in the rough – those employees that are low performers with high potential. From there, the key is to understand why performance is low. For example, it could be the right individual but in the wrong role or the right individual but works for the wrong manager. Or, performance may be suffering due to personal or professional issues — or a combination of both. In addition, the factors impacting performance could be short or long-term. Remember, not all low performing employees with high potential should be saved, but the methodology does shine light on this segment.


The most effective organizations use the Nine-Box methodology as a starting point. Then the organization places employees in one of the nine boxes and builds an action plan for each employee. Organizations that do not embrace the Nine-Box methodology are those that run the risk of losing their only core asset–people.


 

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