Definition

nine-box grid

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: The essential guide to managing HR technology trends
Contributor(s): Dan Ring

The nine-box grid is a human resource management (HRM) tool used by supervisors to rate the performance and potential of employees. The grid is often used to lay the groundwork for a company's succession planning or compensation management.

A nine-box grid has three boxes stacked on top of each other in three rows, much like a tic-tack-toe game. During a meeting of a company's leadership, the names of employees are placed in one of the boxes, depending on each employee's level of potential and performance. There are three ratings of poor, moderate and high, or variations on those terms, for both performance and potential. The ratings for performance, for example, could be vertical along a side of the box, and the ratings for potential could be horizontal or at the bottom or top. If an employee is rated as an average performer with high potential, the employee would go into the middle box on the top row to reflect the middle box for performance and the highest box for potential. 

SAP SuccessFactors nine-box grid
A configurable nine-box grid in SAP SuccessFactors rates the performance and potential of employees.

Executive leadership and employee productivity might be measures of performance. Potential can be gauged by looking at a worker's level of employee engagement, demonstration of leadership skills or leadership traits, or contribution toward an innovation culture.

The nine-box grid is used for human capital management (HCM) and often comes with performance management software and talent management software. Many vendors, including Oracle Corp., SAP SuccessFactors and Workday, provide a configurable nine-box grid as an option in their softwareWhile the nine-box grid is a popular tool among many managers, its future could be uncertain because of a growing emphasis on continuous performance management and the reduction or ending of stacked ranking for evaluting employees in some companies. 

This was last updated in March 2017

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