Performance Matrix and Potential – Evaluating Talent

Posted by Gabriela Hipólito
at Wednesday June 21st, 2017.

The performance matrix and potential (9 grid with squares) is one of the most used in succession planning and development tools. Can be a valuable tool for anyone working in talent management, or for any leader.

For some reason, however, seems to be covered by a veil of secrecy, leaving those who want to learn how to use it with little guidance.

The performance matrix and potential is a simple but effective tool used to evaluate the talent in organizations. Evaluates individuals in two dimensions – its past performance and future potential.

The X axis (horizontal line) 3 Box evaluates the performance of leadership and Y axis 3 Box (vertical line) evaluates the potential for leadership. A combination of the X-axis and Y comprises a box within the grid which is the position of the leader.

See the example:

performance matrix x potential


What are the benefits? Why is it so popular?

1. It is simple and works (97% of the time)

The beauty of the tool is in its simplicity and ease of use. With a little explanation and initial facilitation, managers can usually pick up the technique very quickly.

It helps to overcome many of the common pitfalls when it comes to talent evaluation, including:

Excessive emphasis on current performance;
Overconfidence in a single view;
The lack of evaluation criteria, or inconsistent criteria.
There are people (usually engineers) attempting to complicate it by adding more boxes with settings for each box, and many others pendants. It almost never improves the process and often diverts the general purpose.

2. A catalyst for robust dialogue.
It’s not about filling the grid – is about the discussion. It is critical to keep this in front of you. Managers generally are not very skilled when it comes to evaluating talent and are very hesitant to discuss with other managers, or listen to feedback about yourself. This tool helps you to provide a structured way to have these conversations in a professional and productive manner.

3. Help to calibrate the criteria and expectations.

Even if you do not have clear and consistent performance settings and potential as a review of talent, using this tool, will greatly facilitate the process. If it is a fact, for many of the managers in the room, which is the first time they hear the expectations of their own bosses, then you will see them discreetly take notes and reviews of themselves.

4. This is more accurate than the opinion of a person.

The accuracy of assessing the performance and potential improvement with various points of views. Managers often have blind spots of their own employees, and are not aware of how they are perceived by others. These discussions can help by light on superstars and poor performances.

How to use it:

1. Do not do it alone for the first time.

The tool is best used by a team and facilitated by someone who has experience with the process. This could be an HR person, organizational development consultant or someone responsible for leadership development or succession planning.

Once the team has used this a few times, usually managers can do it themselves, but also helps to have someone facilitating dialogue, taking notes, etc … If you are a practitioner of talent management, has the shadow of someone with experience, hire someone to guide you in the first time, or at least work with someone to prepare it.

2. Have a pre-meeting.

You must present the tool and the process for the team to make sure that everyone understands and buy the idea and the process. Do not underestimate the anxiety, if a team has never done anything like this before. It is best to decide in advance how performance will be evaluated and the potential will be evaluated. This is the time to establish ground rules, especially on behavior and confidentiality.

3. Preparation

Ask each manager fill a grid for their own employees, then the facilitator collects them and consolidates them. You can also ask any other relevant information such as years in current position, among others.

You can start with a meeting of 2-4 hours, but usually take 1-2 follow-up meetings to finish.

4. Beginning

It is easier to get someone in 1A box (highest performance and potential) where you think there might be little disagreement. Ask the sponsor manager to explain the reasons for the evaluation. Ask many whys, then invite everyone else to comment. Do not rush, the benefit of this process is in the discussion.

5. Establish your “benchmarks”.

After everything has been heard, if there is agreement, then you have a 1A reference for comparison (benchmark), with others. If there is a discrepancy in perception, ask the sponsor manager if he want? Change your thinking based on feedback – usually they do – but if not, leave it. Choose another name until you establish a person to benchmark.

6. Discuss many names as time permits.

You can then discuss the rest of the names on 1A box, then move on to the boundary boxes (1B and 2A). Then move to the 3C box, and again, facilitate a dialogue to establish another benchmark. Continuing the discussion for each person, or as many as time permits.

7. Move development.

If you have time, or more likely in a follow-up meeting, the team can then discuss development plans for each leader. For succession planning, the focus should be on the boxes from the top right (1A, 1B, 2A) – this is your high potential area.

8. Follow-up (monitoring) on a quarterly basis to monitor the development plans.

Repeat the process of overall assessment at least once a year.



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