Rubik's cube that simulates the 9 box matrix

February 14, 2021

Loreiny MartínezLoreiny Martínez
Talent Specialist

What is a 9 Box Talent Matrix?

Talent maps are a strategic Human Resources tool that is based on a correlation matrix of two variables that allows to identify the level of development of the organization's employees, mainly in terms of their Performance and Potential. Depending on the box or quadrant in which each employee is located (the conjunction between the X and Y variables), the decision to be made will be different.

Origin of Talent Matrixes

Before delving into explaining what a Human Resources Matrix is, let's see how this technique arose in the business world and what its historical evolution has been, since the coordinate planes perfected by René Descartes were devised hundreds of years ago, until nowadays they became the new must of talent management:

  • The first matrix known and used as a business strategy is the BCG Matrix , a 2 for 2 created in 1968 by Bruce Henderson, founder of Boston Consulting Group, having as axes the Relative Market Share and Growth, with the purpose of classifying their businesses in four categories and being able to decide where to concentrate their resources to generate the greatest value, as well as where to cut your losses.
  • Following in the footsteps of BCG, in the early 1970s, the McKinsey Consulting firm prepared for General Electric an evolved nine-quadrant matrix, known as GE-McKinsey, giving you an analytical map to manage 150 business units based on the axes of Market Share and Growth Potential.
  • Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric from 1981 to 2001 , who spent more than half of his time getting the right people to the right places and then helping them prosper, developed a 2x2 Matrix correlating Behavior and Results, originally for evaluating managers and later also used to evaluate managers. employees throughout the organization. Welch not only focused on Performance, but also created another 2x2 matrix to correlate it with organizational Values.
  • George Odiorne, in his book Human Resources Strategy: A Portfolio Approach (1984), described employees as assets that can be valued and managed much like a stock portfolio is managed, noting that their value can increase. He categorized managers through a two-dimensional matrix, with Performance on one axis and Potential on the other.
  • Douglas Stewart, in his book The Power of People Skills (1986), uses a similar matrix, but using Ability and Motivation as the two axes.

Today, the most widely used in Human Resources strategy is the Nine-Boxes Talent Matrix, a 3x3 matrix that correlates Potential and Performance.

What is the Talent Matrix for?

A talent map allows us to have information at a glance, just as a map would. It allows us to situate each of the people in the organization and know where each one is. This information is invaluable in order to make decisions that are fairer, more transparent and more agile.

This is some of the information that we can obtain from a Human Resources Matrix:

  • General situation of talent in the organization.
  • Visually identify the performance level of each person.
  • Identify people who can be promoted to positions of greater responsibility in the company.
  • Distinguish the ideal people to fill a position that requires a high development of two specific skills.
  • Find out who is the most appropriate collaborator to lead a project x.
  • Provides information to develop succession plans.
  • Analyze if people are where they should be according to position and seniority.
  • Identify people with potential to occupy leadership positions in the future.
  • Quick comparison of the collaborators with the average results of the group.
  • Measure the quality of selection processes.
  • Find out if specific training is necessary for a considerable group of people.
  • Identify if there are people who are not aligned with the corporate strategy.

As a logical consequence of the above, the Benefits provided by the Talent Maps are more than evident:

  • It is ideal to reflect a complex situation using a simple graphic.
  • It allows you to make the right decisions with the right people.
  • It helps to objectively focus the future of employees.
  • Prevents people from occupying the wrong positions or roles.
  • In addition to correlating potential and performance, it can be done with two competencies, two values, values with performance, behavior with results...
  • It makes it possible to agree on specific development actions.
  • Provides coherence to the creation of training plans.
  • Allows planning remuneration policies and defining compensation and benefit plans.
  • It is a great tool to give strategic value to the Human Resources function, as it helps to display information visually in presentations and share talent management decisions in Management Committees.

What decisions should be made according to the place that the employee occupies in the Nine-Box of Performance and Potential?

Group I: Retain and motivate

High Potential- High Performance:

This is a future leader who has the skills to play a larger role in the organization. Have no doubt that you can count on this employee:

- Delegate significant responsibility to him/her.

-Allow them to work on high-profile projects that take them out of their comfort zone.

- Give them new products to promote, new levels of dialog, new areas to cover, new processes to design, etc.

-Coaching and/or mentoring support.

High Potential – Medium Performance:

They are an emerging leader who shows they have the qualities to be one, but need to develop more professionally to be able to lead by example.

- Retention and analysis of motivational factors.

- Coaching and/or mentoring from a technical-functional perspective,

- Training in the field or in the professional tools needed on a daily basis.

- New challenges.

Medium Potential – High Performance:

They are excellent in their professional area, but they need to develop leadership skills.

- Motivate them to assume a more responsible role within their department.

-Retention and analysis of the motivating factors of their professional ambitions.

- Coaching and/or mentoring assistance.

- Training in the field or in the professional tools needed on a daily basis.

- New challenges.

Medium Potential – High Performance:

They are excellent in their professional area, but they need to develop leadership skills.

- Motivate them to take on more responsible role within their department.

- Retention and analysis of their motivational factors Professional ambitions.

- Coaching and/or mentoring assistance.

Group II: Training and keeping motivated

High Potential – Low Performance:

They are an unformed diamond because they have leadership skills, but for some reason their performance is low. It is likely that this person is demotivated because they do not identify with the company, or because they are in the wrong position and need to be in a position that matches their skills.

- Verify that they have received adequate training.

- Make sure they have the tools they need to do their jobs well.

- Pay close attention to the way they do their work.

- Consider being coached by a high-performing colleague.

- Incentivize with rewards for meeting goals.

- Analyze if there is a position that is more in line with their skills.

Medium Potential – Medium Performance:

They are a key contributor with a promising future. They have average levels and if developed, he can achieve a high potential and/or high performance.

- Train and stay motivated.

- Consider being coached by a high-performing colleague.

- Propose new challenges.

Low Potential – High Performance:

They are an experienced professional in their field, but show no leadership skills or inclinations. If this person is doing very well in their current role, it is best to train them in their area of technical or functional expertise, keep them motivated, and leave them where they are, otherwise the typical case of an employee who was great in one role may occur when we move them to another position with more responsibility, they are not up to the task, or we simply do not make them feel motivated.

- They can mentor new talent and colleagues who need support, helping you develop new skills.

- Keep up to date with specific training in their technical field.

- Keep them engaged and motivated.

Group III: Training and Feedback

Low Potential – Medium Performance:

You are a professional with adequate performance in that you meet the expectations of the position without exceeding them, but you do not show the qualities to develop to occupy a position of greater responsibility. You don't see potential for future positions.

- Know your vision or expectations for improvement.

- Consider being coached by a high-performing colleague.

- Reinforce with training.

- Provide information about the organization's strategic goals.

Medium Potential – Low Performance:

You are an individual who shows potential for growth, but is not meeting performance expectations for your current position.

- Analyze the causes of poor performance.

- Suggest challenges where their skills will shine, or suggest other positions that will motivate better performance.

- Consider being coached by a high-performing colleague.

Group IV: Feedback and if applicable, consider position

Low Potential – Low Performance:

They are a person who shows very little potential and performs below expectations. Typically, they do not identify with the organization and are not committed to its mission.

- Provide feedback.

- Know their vision for their current situation and urgently develop a joint action plan.

- If you do not make an effort to improve, or if you have made it clear that you do not want to continue, prepare for your offboarding.


So are there people who have no potential? The question is: low potential in what direction or compared to what? Perhaps this person's potential is directed at something very different from what he/she is currently doing, and although it sounds bad, the way to help him/her may be to consider a future for him/her outside the organization. After exhausting the above process, of course.

For this reason, it is wise to review the quality of the recruitment process to ensure that the people who join the organization are aligned with the values, culture and challenges of the company, in addition to the competencies of the position, and that you don't waste your investment of time and energy on someone who will end up leaving in the short term.

It is important to emphasize that you have to know how the person feels where they are, find out what they need, if they are motivated or not, if they intend to do something about it, ask them how the company could support them in their development, so that by giving them this participation, building action plans together with the employee will always have better results.

Continuous feedback makes it clear to the employee that the company is interested in their growth. It is about guiding the employee to look further ahead, making them aware that they can be much better than they are now, and that they have the support to get there.

No one is better or worse than another. Each employee plays a role and is at a different stage of development; what matters is what the company does with the information available. It is logical to understand that we do not need the entire organization to be in the first three quadrants mentioned, not everyone can hold positions of high responsibility at the same time, and all positions are important for the common mission, but it would be good to avoid having employees in the last quadrant.

The matrix is not static, but tends to move people over time, taking into account the life cycle of an employee in the organization: recruitment, selection, training, development, retention and dismissal. It is necessary to ensure that the movements tend to move forward in development and not backward, i.e. that an employee's performance drops can be an alarm signal that something has happened and needs to be found out.

Overall, since we've invested time and effort in recruiting talent, we want to make the right moves with them so we don't lose them. Talent maps help us prepare succession plans or plan internal promotions.

We are all valuable, we all have potential, but sometimes we are not in the right place. The job of Human Resources and the leaders of an organization is to guide people to that magical place where each person finds their Flow status.

At Hrider we teach you how to create a talent matrix

We can learn several important things from the evolution of matrixes over time and one of them is that they were created to facilitate decision making when investing in an organization's resources. It is interesting to see how in each case the precursors had the initiative to make adaptations of the matrixes to obtain data in a simple way, and if they did, then so did we!

You can design your own talent management strategy using dimensions of 4-Boxes, 9-Boxes, 16-Boxes and 25-Boxes, with the freedom to give each box the best name or label, numbers, colors, etc. the name of each axis to be correlated (based on two evaluations or competencies already evaluated), and if you prefer it vertically or horizontally.

How about a Digital Leadership Roadmap? To do this, we would correlate the level of leadership skills in relation to the level of digital skills. We will be able to find out which leaders need training to manage a remote team, or which people are the most suitable to promote Digital Transformation in our organization.

Or a Map of Alignment with corporate Values? If your organization is in the process of cultural change, you need to know which employees are most aligned with this new corporate identity.

With Hrider's talent matrix functionality the applications are endless. This is the good thing about having N-Box, the functionality to create more versatile maps for your HR management.

Unlock your full potential and join us as we continue to evolve the talent matrices!


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