ali khan
Ali Khan
Published On
May 7, 2024
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9 Box Talent Review: How to Train Employees for Better Outcomes

As HR managers, you're well aware of the critical role talent management plays in driving organizational success. However, effectively identifying, developing, and retaining top talent can be a daunting challenge.

That's where the 9-box talent review framework comes in. If you're not familiar with this powerful tool, 

or if you're looking to optimize your existing talent review processes, this blog is for you.

Here's what you can expect:

- We'll start by exploring what the 9-box talent review framework entails and its purpose in modern talent management practices.

- Next, I'll highlight the key advantages of implementing this framework, backed by examples of strategic outcomes it can drive.

- You'll get a step-by-step guide on effectively implementing the 9-box talent review, including best practices for data collection and analysis.

- I'll provide a detailed breakdown of each box within the 9-box grid, what it represents, and how to interpret employee placement.

- We'll cover techniques for gathering relevant data and the importance of objective metrics in making fair placement decisions.

- You'll learn about common pitfalls to avoid during the talent review process and tips for ensuring a fair and effective review.

What Is a 9-Box Talent Review?

A 9-box talent review is a powerful talent management framework. It helps organizations assess and develop their workforce effectively.

The framework consists of a 9-box grid or matrix. Employees are plotted based on two key dimensions: performance and potential.

The purpose is to identify top talent and succession candidates. It also highlights employees who need development or coaching.

The 9-box review enables data-driven talent decisions and planning. It ensures the right people are in the right roles.

For example, high performers with high potential may be groomed. They can be prepared for critical leadership positions. Low performers with low potential may need performance improvement plans.

The 9-box review facilitates open discussions about talent. It aligns leaders on consistent criteria for talent assessment.

Regular reviews keep the talent pipeline strong and sustainable.

The 9-box framework provides a structured approach to talent management. It is a valuable tool for any organization's success.

How Can a 9-Box Talent Review Benefit Your Organization?

Implementing a 9-box talent review framework can bring numerous advantages to your organization. Here are some key benefits:

Comprehensive Workforce Assessment: 

The 9-box review provides a holistic view of your employees' performance and potential across the entire organization. 

It enables data-driven talent decisions by plotting individuals based on consistent, objective criteria, such as their current performance ratings and future potential assessments. 

This comprehensive assessment ensures you have a clear understanding of the strengths and developmental areas of your workforce.

Talent Identification and Development: 

The framework acts as a powerful tool for identifying top performers and high-potential individuals who can be groomed for critical leadership roles or fast-tracked for advancement opportunities. 

By recognizing these exceptional talents early on, you can invest in their development and prepare them for future challenges. 

Conversely, the review also highlights employees who may be underperforming or have lower potential, allowing you to provide targeted coaching, training, or reassignment to more suitable roles.

Strategic Workforce Planning: 

The 9-box review facilitates open and transparent discussions about talent across the organization. 

It aligns leaders on consistent talent assessment criteria, ensuring a shared understanding of performance and potential standards. 

Regular reviews using this framework help maintain a strong and sustainable talent pipeline, ensuring the right people are in the right roles at the right time, supporting long-term organizational success.

Succession Planning and Risk Mitigation: 

By identifying and developing potential successors for key roles, the 9-box talent review framework supports effective succession planning. 

This proactive approach mitigates risks associated with sudden talent attrition or business disruptions, ensuring seamless transitions and minimizing operational disruptions. 

For example, if a company faces high attrition in critical roles, the review can identify and groom potential successors, ensuring business continuity.

Employee Motivation and Retention: 

When employees feel their potential is recognized and development opportunities are provided, they experience a sense of value and motivation. 

The 9-box review facilitates this by creating a transparent and fair system for talent assessment and growth opportunities. 

Employees who see a clear path for advancement within the organization are more likely to remain engaged and committed, enhancing talent retention efforts.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): 

The objective criteria used in the 9-box review enable unbiased talent assessments based on performance and potential, rather than subjective factors. 

This framework supports DEI initiatives by identifying underrepresented groups or individuals who may have been overlooked for development opportunities, fostering a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Organizational Performance: 

Ultimately, the 9-box talent review is a strategic investment that optimizes workforce capabilities, drives better talent acquisition and retention, and fosters a high-performing, future-ready workforce aligned with business goals. 

By ensuring the right people are in the right roles, and developing a strong leadership pipeline, organizations can enhance overall productivity, innovation, and competitiveness.

By implementing a 9-box talent review, organizations can proactively manage their talent pipeline, develop a strong leadership bench, and position themselves for long-term success in a competitive business landscape.

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How to Implement a 9-Box Talent Review in Your Organization?

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to implement a 9-box talent review in your organization:

Step 1: Define Performance and Potential Criteria

The first step in implementing a 9-box talent review is to define clear and objective criteria for assessing employee performance and potential. 

Performance criteria should be based on measurable outcomes, such as achieving targets, demonstrating desired behaviors, and delivering results. 

Potential criteria should consider factors like leadership capabilities, adaptability, learning agility, and future growth prospects. 

Involve stakeholders from different departments and levels to ensure the criteria are comprehensive, fair, and aligned with organizational goals and values.

Step 2: Gather and Analyze Employee Data

Collect relevant employee data from various sources, including performance reviews, 360-degree feedback, development plans, and any other available information. 

Ensure that the data is accurate, up-to-date, and free from bias. Analyze the data to identify patterns, strengths, and areas for improvement. 

This analysis will inform the placement of employees on the 9-box grid and help identify potential talent gaps or redundancies within the organization.

Step 3: Conduct Calibration Sessions

Involve managers and leaders from different departments in calibration sessions to ensure consistent evaluation standards. During these sessions, discuss and align on the criteria for assessing performance and potential. 

Review specific employee cases and reach a consensus on their ratings. This process helps mitigate individual biases and ensures fairness in the talent evaluation process.

Step 4: Plot Employees on the 9-Box Grid

Based on the performance and potential ratings, plot employees on the 9-box grid. 

The grid is divided into nine boxes, with high performers and high-potential employees typically occupying the top-right boxes, and low performers with low potential in the bottom-left boxes. 

Step 5: Develop Tailored Talent Strategies

Analyze the distribution of employees across the 9-box grid to identify talent gaps or areas of concern. Develop tailored strategies for each talent segment or box. 

For example, top talent may need accelerated development programs or stretch assignments to retain and leverage their capabilities. 

Low performers with high potential may benefit from coaching or mentoring programs. 

Low performers with low potential might require performance improvement plans or role reassignments.

Step 6: Communicate and Implement Strategies

Communicate the process, outcomes, and development strategies transparently with employees. 

Provide feedback, create individual development plans, and offer growth opportunities aligned with the talent strategies. 

Foster a culture of continuous learning and development by celebrating successes and recognizing high-performing employees. 

Implement corrective actions or support measures for underperformers or low-potential individuals to help them improve or transition to more suitable roles.

Step 7: Monitor and Refine

Regularly monitor the effectiveness of your talent management strategies and the overall 9-box talent review process. 

Gather feedback from employees, managers, and stakeholders to identify areas for improvement. Refine your approach based on data and insights gained from the process. 

This continuous improvement cycle ensures that your talent management efforts remain effective and aligned with the organization's evolving needs and goals.

By following these steps, organizations can implement a comprehensive 9-box talent review process that supports strategic workforce planning, optimizes talent deployment and development, and drives organizational success and business continuity.

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What Are the Categories Within the 9-Box Talent Review Model?

The 9-box talent review model is a powerful framework. It categorizes employees based on their performance and potential.

The model consists of a 3x3 grid or matrix. Each box represents a specific combination of performance and potential.

Let's explore the categories within this model in detail.

Performance \ Potential





Stars: High Performance, High Potential

High-Impact Performers: High Performance, Moderate Potential

Strong Performers: High Performance, Low Potential


Future Stars: Moderate Performance, High Potential

Key or Core Players: Moderate Performance, Moderate Potential

Effective Employees: Moderate Performance, Low Potential


Enigma or Potential Gem: Low Performance, High Potential

Inconsistent Performers: Low Performance, Moderate Potential

Underperformers: Low Performance, Low Potential

  • Performance is represented on the horizontal axis, ranging from High to Low.
  • Potential is represented on the vertical axis, also ranging from High to Low.

Box 1: High Potential & High Performance - Top Talent

These employees consistently exceed expectations and demonstrate high potential. They are valuable assets and future leaders within the organization. 

Actions to be taken: Leaders should invest in their development through challenging assignments, mentorship, and leadership training programs to nurture their growth trajectory.

Box 2 & 5: Moderate Potential & High/Moderate Performance

These employees are steady performers who meet expectations but may not stand out as high-potential candidates. 

Actions to be taken: Leaders should provide targeted development opportunities aligned with their career aspirations to help them continue to grow and contribute to the organization.

Box 3: Low Potential & High Performance

While high-performing, these employees have limited potential or aspirations for advancement.

Actions to be taken: They could be leveraged in their current roles or mentoring roles or Leaders should acknowledge their contributions and provide opportunities for lateral growth or specialized training to retain their valuable expertise.

Box 4 & 8: Moderate/Low Potential & Moderate Performance

These employees meet basic performance standards but lack significant potential.

Actions to be taken: These employees benefit from ongoing feedback and support to maintain their performance levels and job satisfaction. Coaching, reassignment, or performance improvement plans may be necessary.

Box 6: High Potential & Low Performance

Despite their current performance struggles, these employees possess hidden talents and capabilities that make them valuable assets to the organization. 

Actions to be taken: Leaders should invest in intensive training, performance improvement plans, and mentorship to help them overcome their challenges and realize their potential. 

Box 7: Low Potential & Low Performance

These employees underperform and lack potential for improvement or advancement. These employees require immediate attention to address their performance deficiencies and support their professional growth.

Actions to be taken: Difficult decisions, like reassignment or separation, may be required.

Box 9: High Potential & Moderate Performance

These employees meet performance standards and show high potential. They are strong candidates for development and succession planning. 

While they may not be top performers yet, they exhibit qualities that suggest they could excel with the right support and guidance. 

Actions to be taken: Leaders should provide constructive feedback, coaching, and targeted development opportunities to help them reach their full potential.

The actions taken for each box vary based on performance-potential combination. High performers with high potential should be retained and developed.

Low performers with low potential may require tough decisions.

Regularly reviewing and updating the 9-box grid is crucial. It ensures talent strategies align with evolving organizational needs.

The 9-box model provides a structured talent management approach. It optimizes workforce capabilities and drives organizational success.

How to Use Data Effectively in a 9-Box Talent Review?

Data is the backbone of any successful 9-box talent review. Here's how to harness it effectively:

Data Gathering Techniques:

1. Performance Metrics: 

Start by collecting objective performance metrics for each employee. This could include sales figures, project completion rates, or customer satisfaction scores.

2. Feedback Tools: 

Utilize tools like Wrenly or Polly to gather comprehensive insights. 

Welcome to Wrenly!

Wrenly simplifies feedback, surveys, and recognitions straight in your communication channel in Slack & MS Teams.

It helps collect valuable feedback from your team. Then, it uses AI to build easy-to-digest insights. It enables you to take action by sharing helpful recommendations.

Here’s how you can create a simple feedback survey in 1 minute

How to use Wrenly to create and send surveys

Importance of Objective Metrics:

1. Fairness and Accuracy: 

Objective data ensures fairness and accuracy in placement decisions. It removes subjective biases that can skew assessments and ensures that all employees are evaluated based on measurable criteria.

2. Clear Insight: 

Objective metrics provide a clear picture of each employee's strengths and areas for improvement. This clarity enables HR professionals to make informed decisions about talent placement and development opportunities.

But why does this matter?

1. Avoiding Bias: 

In talent evaluation, objectivity is crucial. Objective metrics help avoid bias based on personal preferences or relationships, ensuring that each employee receives a fair and unbiased assessment.

2. Driving Organizational Success: 

By basing talent decisions on objective data, organizations can maximize the potential of their workforce. Placing employees in roles where they can excel not only benefits the individual but also contributes to the overall success of the organization.

Let's break it down with an example:

Imagine you have two employees with similar roles but different performance metrics:

- Employee A consistently meets or exceeds sales targets and receives positive feedback from clients.

- Employee B struggles to meet targets and has received feedback about areas needing improvement.

Without objective data, it's easy to rely on personal biases or anecdotal evidence when evaluating these employees. 

However, by examining their performance metrics objectively, you can make more informed decisions about their placement within the 9-box grid.

By leveraging data effectively and prioritizing objectivity, you can conduct more accurate and fair 9-box talent reviews, ultimately driving organizational success and maximizing the potential of your workforce.

What Common Mistakes Should Be Avoided in the 9-Box Talent Review Process?

While the 9-box talent review is a powerful tool, certain mistakes can undermine its effectiveness. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:

Common Mistake 1- Lack of Clear Criteria: 

Failing to define clear and objective criteria for assessing performance and potential can lead to inconsistent and biased evaluations. Ensure the criteria are well-defined, measurable, and aligned with organizational goals.

Common Mistake 2- Reliance on Subjective Judgments:

Basing evaluations solely on subjective opinions or personal biases can compromise the fairness of the process. Rely on factual data, documented evidence, and input from multiple stakeholders to mitigate biases.

Common Mistake 3- Insufficient Data Collection:

Incomplete or outdated data can result in inaccurate talent assessments. Gather comprehensive data from various sources, including performance reviews, 360-degree feedback, and development plans, to ensure a holistic view of each employee.

Common Mistake 4- Lack of Calibration:

Failing to calibrate evaluations among managers and leaders can lead to inconsistent ratings across departments or teams. Conduct thorough calibration sessions to ensure alignment on evaluation standards and avoid rating biases.

Common Mistake 5- Overlooking Potential:

Focusing solely on current performance can cause organizations to overlook high-potential individuals who may be underperforming due to temporary factors or lack of development opportunities. Assess both performance and potential to identify hidden talent.

Common Mistake 6- Lack of Transparency:

Failing to communicate the process, criteria, and outcomes transparently can undermine trust and buy-in from employees. Ensure open communication, provide feedback, and offer opportunities for employees to discuss their assessments and development plans.

Common Mistake 7- Static Approach:

Treating the 9-box review as a one-time event, rather than an ongoing process, can lead to stagnation and missed opportunities for talent development. Regularly review and update the grid to reflect changes in employee performance and potential.

By avoiding these common mistakes, organizations can ensure a fair, consistent, and effective 9-box talent review process. 

This, in turn, will support strategic workforce planning, talent development, and overall organizational success.


Are you struggling to effectively implement the 9-box talent review in your organization? 

With Wrenly, you can seamlessly integrate the 9-box talent review into your HR practices, ensuring a smooth and efficient evaluation process. Here's how Wrenly can help:

  1. Suggestion Boxes: Empower your team to share bottom-up, top-of-mind feedback directly within the platform. This fosters a culture of open communication and encourages employee participation in the talent review process.
  2. Surveys: Measure how your team feels about their performance and potential within the organization. Wrenly's survey feature allows you to gather valuable insights and take targeted action to address any concerns or areas for improvement.

  1. Recognition & Rewards: Build stronger and happier teams by implementing a culture of appreciation. With Wrenly, you can easily recognize and reward employees who demonstrate high performance and potential, motivating them to continue excelling in their roles.

  1. AI Insights & Culture Score: Gain deeper insights into your organization's culture and employee engagement levels with Wrenly's AI-powered analytics. Understand how your personal HR AI assistant supports you in making informed decisions about talent management strategies.

By leveraging Wrenly's comprehensive features, you can overcome the challenges associated with the 9-box talent review and optimize your talent management processes for greater success. 

But why take my word for it?

Try for yourself and see the difference it can make in boosting employee morale and driving company success. 

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More Articles From Ali Khan

Ali is a co-founder of Wrenly known for his innovative thinking and exceptional drive to create value for every Wrenly customer. His dedication, mentorship, and leadership skills have not only shaped various careers but have also made him an invaluable asset to the Wrenly team.

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