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Performance and Potential Matrix (9 Box Model)

What is Performance and Potential Matrix (9 Box Model)

The Performance and Potential Matrix, also known as the 9-Box Model, is a tool used to evaluate the potential and performance of employees within an organization.

It helps managers to identify high-potential employees who may be good candidates for promotion or leadership development programs, and to identify low-performing employees who may be candidates for coaching or other forms of intervention.

The matrix consists of a grid with three columns and three rows.

The columns represent different levels of performance, typically labeled as low, medium, and high. 

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The rows represent different levels of potential, typically labeled as low, medium, and high.

Each of the nine boxes in the grid represents a combination of performance and potential, and employees can be plotted on the matrix based on their current performance and potential for advancement.

The 9-box model is flexible and can be adapted to the context of the company. It is not only limited to a promotion, but also for identifying high potentials, to optimize the future leadership pipeline, and in some cases, to make hard decisions about downsizing, restructuring or other workforce optimization measures.

Origin of Performance and Potential Matrix

The origins of the 9-box grid, also known as the Performance and Potential Matrix, are somewhat unclear, but it has been widely used in the field of human resources and talent management for several decades.

Many experts in the field have contributed in the development of the model, and it has been adapted and modified by different organizations to suit their specific needs.

It’s a common method used by many HR and Talent Management experts worldwide, therefore it does not have a single inventor.

It’s a composite method developed by multiple experts in the field over time and it is considered as a best practice for evaluating and managing employees potential and performance.

Performance and Potential Matrix

the Performance and Potential Matrix can be divided into three categories: high-performing and high-potential employees, high-performing but low-potential employees, and low-performing and low-potential employees.

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  1. High-performing and high-potential employees: These are employees who are currently performing well and have the potential to take on more responsibility and advance in the organization. These employees should be considered for leadership development programs and fast-track promotions.

  2. High-performing but low-potential employees: These are employees who are currently performing well but do not have the potential to advance in the organization. These employees should be considered for roles that align with their current skills and experience, and may be candidates for retention efforts.

  3. Low-performing and low-potential employees: These are employees who are currently underperforming and do not have the potential to advance in the organization. These employees may be candidates for coaching or other forms of intervention, or may be at risk of being let go from the company.

  4. High-performing and Low-potential employees: These employees have high performance but have limited potential for future growth. They should be considered for key positions that requires their specific skills, but do not expect them to be in leadership positions soon.

  5. High-performing and Medium-potential employees: These employees have high performance and have moderate potential for growth. They can be considered for key positions and development program but with a slightly lower priority than the high-potential employees.

  6. Medium-performing and High-potential employees: These employees have moderate performance but high potential for growth. They are in the stage of development and should be considered for development program and given additional resources to improve their performance

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  7. Medium-performing and Medium-potential employees: These employees have moderate performance and moderate potential for growth. They should be given development opportunities to improve their performance and reach their full potential.

  8. Low-performing and High-potential employees: These employees have low performance but high potential for growth. They are in the stage of development, they should be given additional resources to improve their performance and reach their full potential

  9. Low-performing and Low-potential employees: These employees have low performance and low potential for growth. These employees may be candidates for coaching or other forms of intervention, or may be at risk of being let go from the company.

  High Potential Medium Potential Low Potential
High Performance High-Performing and High-Potential Employees High-Performing and Medium-Potential Employees High-Performing but Low-Potential Employees
Medium Performance Medium-Performing and High-Potential Employees Medium-Performing and Medium-Potential Employees Medium-Performing and Low-Potential Employees
Low Performance Low-Performing and Low-Potential Employees Low-Performing and Medium-Potential Employees Low-Performing and Low-Potential Employees

Advantages of Performance and Potential Matrix

the Performance and Potential Matrix, has several advantages as a tool for evaluating and managing employees:

  1. It helps managers to identify high-potential employees: By plotting employees on the matrix based on their performance and potential, managers can quickly identify those who have the most potential for advancement within the organization.

  2. It allows for better workforce planning: By understanding the performance and potential of employees across the organization, managers can make more informed decisions about where to allocate resources and plan for the future.

  3. It facilitates honest and constructive conversations: The 9-box grid can be a useful tool for starting conversations about performance and potential, which can lead to more honest, constructive, and actionable feedback.

  4. It is a clear and easy-to-understand visual representation: The 9-box grid is simple and easy to understand, which makes it accessible to managers, employees, and other stakeholders.

  5. It allows to identify potential risks and opportunities in the workforce: By understanding the distribution of employees across the matrix, managers can identify areas where there may be a lack of high-potential talent, which can inform decisions about recruiting and development. On the other hand, by identifying employees that don’t have the potential to grow in their role, managers can re-assign them to other positions, preventing future turnover and therefore reducing costs.

  6. It can be used to help managers make difficult decisions about downsizing or restructuring: By understanding the distribution of employees across the matrix, managers can make more informed decisions about who to keep, and who to let go when downsizing or restructuring the workforce.

Steps of Creating a Performance and Potential Matrix

Creating a 9-box grid, also known as the Performance and Potential Matrix, involves several steps:

  1. Define the criteria for performance and potential: The first step in creating a 9-box grid is to define the criteria for performance and potential. This can include things like job performance, results, skills, experience, and potential for growth. These criteria should be specific to the organization and the roles being evaluated.

  2. Assess the performance and potential of employees: Once the criteria have been defined, the next step is to assess the performance and potential of each employee. This can be done using a variety of methods, such as performance evaluations, interviews, and employee feedback. It’s important to involve multiple stakeholders in the assessment process to get a more complete picture of an employee’s potential and performance.

  3. Plot employees on the matrix: Once the performance and potential of each employee has been assessed, the next step is to plot each employee on the matrix. Typically, the x-axis represents performance and the y-axis represents potential. There are different ways to plot employees on the matrix but one common way is to use a rating scale (e.g. 1-5) for both performance and potential.

  4. Review and analyze the results: Once all employees have been plotted on the matrix, the final step is to review and analyze the results. This can help managers identify patterns and trends in the workforce, such as a lack of high-potential talent, and can inform decisions about recruiting, development, and retention.

  5. Communicate with employees: It is essential that you share the results with the employees, and explain the reasons behind the results, and how it will affect the company’s future. Also, its important to be open to feedback from employees and to make adjustments to the process as needed based on the feedback.

It’s important to keep in mind that creating a 9-box grid is not a one-time process, but rather an ongoing process. It should be reviewed and updated regularly, at least annually, to ensure that it reflects the current state of the workforce. The 9-box grid is just one tool among many that managers can use to evaluate and manage employees, and it should be used in conjunction with other information, such as employee feedback, past performance reviews, and interviews to get a more complete picture of an employee’s potential and performance.

Steps of Creating a Performance and Potential Matrix

the Performance and Potential Matrix, can be used as a tool for talent management in several ways:

  1. Identifying high-potential employees: By plotting employees on the matrix based on their performance and potential, managers can quickly identify those who have the most potential for advancement within the organization. These high-potential employees can then be considered for leadership development programs and fast-track promotions.

  2. Focusing development efforts: By understanding the performance and potential of employees across the organization, managers can identify where development efforts should be focused. For example, employees who are high-performing but low-potential may need to be developed to align their skills and experience with their current role, while those who are low-performing and high-potential may need more development to reach their full potential.

  3. Workforce planning: The 9-box grid can also be used for workforce planning by understanding the distribution of employees across the matrix, managers can identify areas where there may be a lack of high-potential talent and to make decisions about recruiting and development.

  4. Making hard decisions: The 9-box grid can also be used to make difficult decisions about downsizing or restructuring the workforce by understanding the distribution of employees across the matrix, managers can make more informed decisions about who to keep and who to let go.

  5. Succession planning: By identifying the high-potential employees, managers can plan for the succession of key roles, ensuring that the organization has a pipeline of talented individuals ready to take on leadership positions when they become available.

  6. Retention: The 9-box grid can be used to identify the key employees to retain by identifying the high-potential employees, managers can plan for the succession of key roles, ensuring that the organization has a pipeline of talented individuals ready to take on leadership positions when they become available, which can help with the retention of top talent.

It’s important to remember that the 9-box grid is just one tool among many that managers can use for talent management, and it should be used in conjunction with other information, such as employee feedback, past performance reviews, and interviews to get a more complete picture of an employee’s potential and performance.

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Marty Hoffman

Marty Hoffman, MBA, PhD Management Consultant for Fortune 500 and Corporate Strategist 📍 San Francisco, CA More »

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