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Move Beyond the 9 Box Grid for Performance Evaluation

Assessing employee performance has always been a challenge for industry leaders. Because different team leaders have different ideas about what makes an employee loyal, reliable, productive (sometimes even different definitions for such terms), it’s hard to standardize a performance evaluation with accuracy. 

Traditional assessment processes can be long, tedious, and subject to interpretation. With a visual aid/model, like the 9-box grid, you have a simplified process that helps team leaders make unified decisions on their assessments of employees. 

As long as you establish a mutual understanding of the terms that make the boxes on the grid, you have a simple and seamless way to accurately assess employee performance and make informed hiring decisions.

What is the 9 Box Grid of Performance

When evaluating performance, you can use a 9-box grid, which is a model or framework that can help determine the potential and performance-related value of employees in the short and long term. By looking at an employee's current and previous performance, you can identify what their potential might look like going forward. 

A simple 9-box grid performance model will look something like this:









Potential Gem

High Potential



Inconsistent Player

Core Player

High Performer



Average performer

Solid performer


Employees who show low potential and low performance simultaneously fall into the “risk” category, which essentially means that these individuals are currently a liability for your team. “Star” employees exhibit high current and past performance and show qualities for future growth. 

These assessments aren’t necessarily used to weed out low-performing employees, but they can give you a good idea on how to strategize surrounding your training efforts, promotions vs demotion, and re-evaluation of specific roles and titles.

Why is the 9 box grid of performance/potential useful

There are a ton of benefits to the 9-box grid that can help you strategize and make smart hiring and inter-organizational decisions regarding your employees. 

Some of these benefits include:

  • The model is simple and easy to use
  • As long as the terms are understood unilaterally, you 9-box grids help standardized the assessment process
  • They allow you to differentiate between high and low-performance employees
  • They give you an idea of the efficacy of your training and onboarding processes
  • Allow you to make the difficult decisions of promoting, demoting, or, when necessary, terminating employees if you don’t see significant improvement over time 

What are the issues with using a 9 box grid?

Some of the 9-box model’s greatest benefits are also some of its greatest limitations. The point is not to assess whether the pros outweigh the cons, but to take into account the limitations and maximize your insights without inflating them by what can be, at times, a very simplified assessment format. 

Some of the 9-box grid cons include:

  • Limited detail
    • Because 9 box grids only give you a few ways to define employees into their assessment boxes, you lose insight on precision and specificity. If an employee isn’t performing at a high level, you won’t be able to take into account the ways in which they are performing through the grid alone. Are they missing deadlines? Is the quality of their work underwhelming? While the 9-box grid can be a good general assessment measure, you need other tools in place to help you specify what isn’t working in order to make the appropriate training changes or adjustments. 
  • Human bias still plays a role
    • This is where managerial training and standardizing your assessment terms is really important. If your managers are on the same page about what performance means and have a value system to evaluate their employees, the 9-grid box will be effective. But if subjectivity and human bias isn’t taken into account, then the margin for error will be greater than it needs to be. You can’t 100% eliminate bias, but standardization and competent training can limit its effects. 
  • The 9-box grid will never tell you the whole story
    • The 9-box grid is a great tool to use for gaining general insights into employees and placing them on an easy-to-read schaling system. But it can’t tell the whole story, and knowing that will allow you to make effective use of the model by including additional performance measures.

The 9-box grid is a great first step in employee assessment and it can help give you an idea of how healthy your teams are overall, but you still need to implement other tools to achieve comprehensive assessment methods. 

Additional performance measures to implement

So what are some additional performance measures that you can implement alongside your 9-box grid model? 

Here are some of the most common and effective performance assessment measures you can employ today.

  • Management by Objectives (MBO) - MBO is an appraisal method that enables managers and employees to work together to plan and set objectives during a specific appraisal period. At the end of the period–month, quarter, semester, or annual appraisal period–employees are assessed on their performance. The 9-box grid can give you an idea of where these employees are before the MBO method and inform the kind of objectives you set and the time period in which you set those objectives.
  • Assessment Center Method - This method was developed in the early 20th century, but it’s recently been vamped up to meet present-day industry needs. The method works by asking employees to take part in simulated exercises like partaking in indusussions, searching for facts of key information, and solving business-related problems. This is a win-win approach because employees get valuable practice and training in practical business situations, and employers can evaluate their performance to inform their training and objectives-development methods. 
  • Comprehensive feedback - Comprehensive feedback methods rely on a number of different feedback tools to help you understand the efficacy of an employee in a particular role. You can look at managerial feedback, customers feedback, online reviews, employee self-assessments, and peer reviews to get an idea of what others think of your employees’ performance. 
  • Psychological Assessments - Psychological assessments are great indicators of leadership potential and future performance. Assessments analyze various aspects of employee performance, such as cognitive capabilities, emotional intelligence, leadership skills, personality traits, and more.

With a more thorough and multi-pronged approach to employee assessment, you can get the best of both worlds–a simplified and standardized assessment method with the 9-box grid, as well as the more specific, comprehensive aspects of assessments that we outlined above. 

CrossChq Can help

Crosschq can help get more employees in the “Star” section of your 9-box grid by offering top talent, diverse hires, and the #1 digital reference checking software on the market.

Crosschq will allow you to compete with data-driven reference checking and analytics powered by our proprietary Talent Intelligence Cloud™. 

Make smart hires with Crosschq, and try the demo today.

Noelle Davis

by Noelle Davis

Staff Writer

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