9 Reasons You Should Be Using the Nine-Box: Download Your eBook

Is your company on the lookout for better ways to analyze performance and potential talent data?

Download Your Free eBook: 9 Reasons You Should Be Using the Nine-Box

Effective talent identification, succession planning, and development planning are challenging for many organizations. It involves analyzing a lot of data to make critical decisions that affect many individuals and the company’s future.

In this eBook, we explore the top nine reasons why your company and HR team can start using the nine-box as a powerful tool in effective talent identification, employee development planning and so much more.

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Scoutiung Leaders - Ships

Ensuring a company’s long-term survival and prosperity is the underlying driver of any business; however, identifying and developing effective future leaders remains one of the most pressing issues facing companies today. Even when companies claim to have a well-armed lineup of groomed candidates available to step-up when called, the reality is that many new leaders fail spectacularly, being either ill-equipped or ill-prepared to handle the role. Although there has yet to be one perfect proven model for identifying and developing leaders, there are some assumptions and approaches that will surely fail a company. There are also ways to look at leadership potential from multiple angles in order to better the odds of identifying the right talent to lead your company well into the future.


Dangerous Assumptions to Make When Identifying Future Leaders

When it comes to identifying top talent, leadership potential, or planning for succession in an organization, it is often assumed that high performers and leadership candidates will simply make themselves known. After all, this is what we are used to. From piano recitals to city marathons, the exceptional few tend to stand out on their own so why wouldn’t this be the case in a company?

This laissez-fair assumption reminds me of a term I heard years ago: the Brazil Nut Effect. This phenomenon was noticed by distributors who transported cans of mixed nuts. They noticed that when the cans were opened after shipping, the Brazil nuts would somehow always be on the very top. Although the vessel contained 4-6 varieties of nuts, the larger Brazil nuts would always make their way up, ready to be chosen first. This had nothing to do with the order of packing, but from a proven scientific process called granular convection, where smaller particles shift under larger ones when shaken, forcing the larger particles (in this case nuts) to the top. I have always loved this analogy as it implies that time and motion will just make things happen. Sadly, when it comes to choosing future leaders in an organization, companies would find themselves failing if they simply relied on the Brazil Nut Effect.

Unfortunately, high performance doesn’t always correlate with leadership potential. A CEB report noted that less than one in six high performing employees also possess potential. If a company used performance alone as an indicator of potential, they would be left with a future leadership team that might be coming up short 83% of the time.

So why not let employees navigate their own ships and claim their career paths? After all, if employees have the desire and ambition to lead others, they will surely make it known right? This would also be a faulty and dangerous assumption for a company to make. Your future leaders might not be shouting it from the rooftops. If your managers are waiting for employees to declare their own succession plans in a meeting or comment on their development objectives in a performance review, you could be waiting forever. In fact, a Forbes article noted that less than 5% of employees know what they want to do and where they want to be in 5 years! The reality is that employees might not be aware of the career paths available to them or their intrinsic set of skills and characteristics that would make them great leaders.

This all means that companies need to be proactive and tactical when evaluating their bench strength and identifying future leaders within the organization. Not only do they need to actively seek out individuals with the potential to grow, but they also need to scout from multiple angles to ensure all of the pieces will add up to successful leadership.

Scouting Your Future Leaders from All Angles

Gone are the days of relying on annual performance reviews scores, single leadership aptitude tests, or manager intuitions for honing in on your company’s potential leaders. These methods simply do not account for enough of the factors needed for an employee to become a good leader. If you were to search for ‘identifying leaders’ or ‘leadership qualities’, you would be bombarded by thousands of lists and articles that claim to have found the right mix of characteristics and skills that make up a great leader. I have personally read hundreds of these articles and although they differ in their approach and prioritization, they have some underlying similarities.

When looking for potential leaders who are more likely to succeed, companies should seek out employees who demonstrate these five traits:

  1. Are competent in their abilities
  2. Care about the company
  3. Have the desire to lead
  4. Have the ability to execute
  5. Are willing to keep learning

But how do you scan your workforce for these leadership beacons? It will take a bit of time and effort but it is possible if you approach things from multiple angles.

Performance Appraisals: Although flawed appraisal processes have left many companies with little faith in the idea, when done correctly and often, performance appraisals can act as a great gauge of job aptitude and competence. If employees are given job-specific goals to achieve and are evaluated on position-centric skills, companies can use the results of these appraisals to gauge competence and the ability to execute and multi-task – factors that make for great a leader. Many companies are also using appraisals as a way for managers and employees to discuss career planning and paths, giving both parties the opportunity to identify and express interest.

Self-Assessments:  Just like appraisals, when approached correctly and frequently, self-assessments give employees the chance to take an active role in their job development, goals, and career planning. Employees might add achievements or objectives not considered by managers, giving companies a way to identify employees who are interested and capable of going beyond their role. Self-assessments also offer the opportunity to gauge an employee’s accountability and willingness to learn. No employee is ever perfect. Strong leadership candidates own their shortcomings and are willing to learn and adjust in order to improve. When employees are given the green light to show their vulnerability, a company can quickly identify potential leaders with the flexibility for continual learning.

360° Reviews & Peer Input: A big part of successful leadership that is almost always overlooked is the ability to execute from a people-perspective. You could have position superstars move into a leadership role and fail if they don’t possess the skills needed to engage, motivate, and communicate properly with others at all levels in the company. In a 2017 post, Leigh Branham came to the conclusion that ‘loss of trust and confidence in senior leadership’ was the number one reason why employees quit. The old adage is in fact true – people leave people not companies. Companies need leaders who are able to form relationships, care about their team, can communicate extremely well, and are respected by those around them. One of the best ways to identify these is to ask others. 360° reviews allow companies to go beyond a single manager’s opinion, by gathering input from clients, peers, and even other managers. The result is being able to peel back the onion on an employee’s interpersonal skills and communication abilities in order to hone in on those rare individuals with technical and people skills.

Engagement Surveys: Companies want leaders who can see beyond their own role, are committed to the success of the organization, and offer practical solutions, instead of taking a back seat. Overall, future leaders need to care about the company – a lot. Engagement surveys are a great way to ask the questions that help determine if an employee truly cares. Employees who are confident enough to go against the grain, ask questions, propose solutions, and express knowledge and interest outside of their core position have the potential to become great leaders. Not only will their passion be infectious to their teams, it also indicates they will fight for the longevity of the organization.

Combining the results of appraisals, self-assessments, 360° input, and surveys in reports or a dynamics nine-box talent matrix, allows companies to identify outliers from multiple angles – increasing the odds that employees who stand out, are better candidates for leadership positions.

Fighting to build a strong leadership team will remain a top priority and challenge for companies. Being able to identify employees within the company who have the potential to grow and lead is step #1. While there are no sure-fire methods for identifying future leaders, it is possible to implement measures that will look beyond traditional assumptions, in order to help organizations find the rare and valuable employees who can succeed in a leadership position.



Build Your Own Nine-Box Talent Matrix – Get Your Free Step-By-Step Guide

A nine-box is a simple and powerful tool that can be used to support your organization’s talent management and succession efforts.

  •  Compare the performance and potential of individual employees and departments
  • Identify employees with the potential to move into new roles
  • Quickly isolate employees who are in need of development
  • Find performance trends that might be hidden
  • Calibrate ratings & ensure consistent scoring across teams

Learn how to build your own by downloading the following guide: Building Your Own Nine-Box Talent Matrix

If you would like to learn more about emPerform’s interactive nine-box talent matrix, included with our award-winning performance management software, please contact us 1.877.711.0367 email us


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Easily identify key talent and make succession decisions using emPerform’s Nine-Box talent matrix



successionSuccession planning is one of the most important elements of an effective staffing strategy, especially for managers and employers in the driver’s seat of smaller companies and start-ups. With a clear workforce deployment plan in place, employers and managers always know exactly how to proceed when a position becomes vacant. Employees who are ready to advance have already been distinguished from those who haven’t yet attained the necessary skills, and as soon as a position opens up, the right in-house candidate is ready to step in. If no in-house candidates are ready then the external hiring process can begin, but with strong succession planning in place, no qualified internal candidates go overlooked or unrecognized. Read More

By: Natalie Trudel

In a study conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council, it was found that 72% of companies predicted they would have an increasing number of leadership vacancies and 76% were “less than confident” in their abilities to adequately staff these positions. Sound familiar?

Ask yourself this – when a position becomes vacant do you find yourself scrambling to quickly and half-hazardly evaluate and dismiss potential internal talent or do you immediately look outside the organization to fill the gap? What if the perfect candidate was sitting right under your nose and would come fully equipped with a keen sense of organizational culture and a familiarity with the role? Wouldn’t it be ideal that when a position becomes vacant you have a talented roster of potential leaders ready to step in at a moment’s notice? This is where succession planning comes into play.

Succession Planning is the practice of monitoring and developing employee performance and potential with the ultimate goal of anticipating and effectively filling current and future leadership gaps. In essence, it is an active approach to talent management that ensures that the right talent will be available at the right time as the organization shifts and expands.

In his article, Building Your “Bench Strength”, Guido M.J. de Koning noted that there are three fundamental elements that make up the architecture of effective succession management:

First, make sure the organization understands and nurtures each employee’s unique talents and potential through individual career planning and development activities. Best-practice organizations don’t leave leadership development to chance; they actively drive a potential leader’s growth and development.

Second, aggregate and evaluate the organization’s talent pool to identify potential leadership gaps and suitable candidates.

Third, ensure that executives make the necessary succession and development decisions through group discussion and review sessions so that the talent requirements of the business are met.

The underlying theme of all these elements is successfully collecting, analyzing, and presenting employee performance data. This may seem simple enough but you likely know or would be surprised to learn that it requires a significant amount of time and effort to even attempt to successfully execute this process using traditional performance processes. Typical appraisal systems simply do not allow for the relevant and live data that is needed to maintain an accurate and updated pool of confirmed potential information.

It is a good thing that times are changing and that there are software suites now available help to automate this vital process. For instance, incorporated directly in CRG emPerform™ is the Succession Manager and the CRG Talent Matrix which allow HR and managers to draw from the performance history of employees through past performance reviews, 360 multi-rater reviews and surveys to readily identify the individuals that have the performance and potential to meet new challenges.

So the next time your organization inevitably shifts, will you be running to find ANY leader or will you be able to relax knowing that you already have the right leader ready to be fished right out of your well-stocked talent pool?

Business working together

In a world where global competition is fierce and high-quality employees are hard to come by, the idea of grooming and retaining talent should always be kept top of mind.

As we’ve all seen firsthand with the recent economic recession, the environment we live in is volatile. And unless you have a crystal ball or psychic powers, you can never really predict what’s going to happen when it comes to your business or your employees. Like the environment we live in, people are also unpredictable. They can get scooped up by the competition, fall ill or jump ship at any time.


So ask yourself this: What would you do if a key employee resigned tomorrow? Are you prepared?

Several recent studies show that the aftershock of the recession has left employees feeling uneasy about their jobs and futures with current employers. To counter this, organizations should be doing everything they can to retain and develop their existing talent. After all, having to re-hire, train and develop a new employee is easier said than done. It requires time, money and energy, making good talent something you just can’t afford to lose.

There are succession planning tools that you can integrate into your performance management process to help keep you on your toes when it comes to any unexpected, internal turbulence, as well as prepare you for the long-haul.


When implementing a succession planning tool, consider the following:

Performance Reviews. You should be able to easily tie-in your annual appraisals to your succession plan so that HR and managers can draw from performance history of employees through past reviews.

Best practices. Consider a tool that incorporates the Nine-Box Talent Matrix. This is an industry best practice that will give you visibility into your internal talent and allow you to identify top individuals in your organization that have the potential to meet new challenges.

Development Plans. According to Linkage, one of the most common mistakes when it comes to succession planning is that companies fail or neglect to execute individual development plans for their employees. Make sure you are using a tool that allows you to link in development and training so you can cultivate your talent.

Gen X and Y. In a recent article, author Cheryl Cran of “101 Ways to Make Generations X, Y & Zoomers Happy at Work” discusses the idea of “generational succession planning.” When thinking about succession planning it’s important to take into account the wants and needs of the ‘up-and-comers’, also known as the future of today’s organizations. As Cran puts it, “To foster effective transitions, companies need to create an environment attractive to Gen X, Y and Zoomer generations.”


In short, companies need to “get smart” about retaining and developing their talent. In today’s day and age, you can’t afford to not incorporate some sort of succession planning tool into your business plan.

Warning: Failing to do so can be harmful to both the short and long-term health of your organization!