Succession Planning Solutions


The 9-box grid is an individual assessment tool that evaluates an employee's current and potential level of contribution to the organization. The vertical columns of the grid indicate growth potential, and the horizontal rows identify whether the employee is currently below, meeting or exceeding performance expectations. The intersection of the two determines the 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 organization's current talent and identifying potential leaders. When leadership performance and potential are assessed and plotted on the graph, individuals in the upper right quadrant (Box 1) are identified as high-potential candidates for succession, while those in the lower left quadrant (Box 9) may need to be reassigned or removed from the organization. 

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

4 Steps to Success Using 9-Box Succession Planning
1. Preparation is Key 

As always, make sure you’ve completely prepared your leadership team for the 9-box planning session. It’s the best way of ensuring it’s not going to be a waste of everyone’s time.

Make sure the management team understands the process, and give them time to compile their thoughts before the session takes place. It might help if you engage a facilitator to help establish the program and ensure team members are prepared.

2. Ask Questions & Set the Criteria Standards 

While it might be easy to pick the best and worst performances, the leadership team may struggle to place employees in the other categories. That’s why it’s so important to first figure out the criteria for each box and what standards the employees should meet.

‘Potential’ is particularly tough to grade, since it’s predicting future performance. It’s best to provide a definition so everyone is on the same page about what ‘potential’ means: in essence, the ‘promotability’ of an employee to a larger leadership role.

It’s also good to have some concrete criteria upon which you can grade your employees – this could be rating your employees against a series of attributes or assessments, for example. 

Likewise, it’s important to make the potential ratings are as objective as possible. To ensure this is the case, HR teams often have sets of questions or guidelines for each rating level so that managers are measuring apples with apples.

3. Facilitate Discussion 

Once you have prepared and set the criteria for each section, it’s time to place the employees in their respective boxes. Soon, you’ll discover how well the grid helps facilitate discussion among those in the leadership team.

For these sessions, it’s important to have employee profiles on hand, which include experiences, training, feedback, projects, and more.

It’s important to hear all opinions and have an open dialogue. Many organisations actually choose to get their HR business partners to do localised sessions – that is, business unit-based sessions – before the executive team calibrates employee results.

This will help ensure your organisation gets the most out of the 9-box grid. It’s also bound to give you a much more accurate representation of your workforce.

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