In business, organizations rely on performance assessments to try and determine worker’s future performance. But for most of the business world, the definition of performance comprises conceptual notions such as “employee engagement” or “initiative”. The measurement of abstract factors like the aforementioned is challenging enough to start with. When every individual is subject to interpreting concepts such as engagement and enthusiasm differently, it becomes close to impossible to understand how a company could hope to accurately assess performance from one review cycle to the next. 

The 9-block model was initially created to aid decision-makers to make more accurate, unbiased, and objective performance assessments. Like every model that ever existed, the 9-block grid has its advantages and inconveniences, which we will explore in this blog post. Furthermore, we will give you tips on how to build more comprehensive performance assessment methods using the managerial tools available at JungoHR. 

What is the 9-block model? 

The  9-block model or 9-box grid is a performance assessment tool designed to simplify managerial decision-making by placing employees within a model which is supposed to help determine their future within a company. It encourages decision-makers and to take into account and evaluate two main variables of employees performance:

  1. The employee’s past performance
  2. An estimation of the employee’s potential future performance

Performance reviewers rate each of these two factors as low, medium, or high and indicate the result on the 9-block grid, which typically looks something like the following:

9-block model

After plotting an employee’s position on the 9-block grid, managers usually have a better idea regarding whom, how and where to invest resources or efforts, which includes:

  1. Acknowledging high-performing employees for their stellar results.
  2. Offering support to workers with improving performance or increasing potential in order to help them move towards a better placement on the grid.
  3. Identifying workers who seem to consistently underperform and to lack interest in bettering their position on the grid, in order to offer them a better-suited position in the organization or to decide to replace them. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the 9-Block model? 

If an organization’s goal is to train and shape high-performing workers, they may need a wider range of performance assessment tools than just the 9-block model to standardize and coordinate their performance evaluations. The 9-block model helps measure employee performance according to their potential and performance, which is an improvement from just classifying workers as “good” or “bad”. However, many other variables may come into play when it comes to an individual’s performance. Taking such variables into account is not only important but helps decision-makers provide more appropriate support or more relevant recognition to their employees, which often leads the latter to do a better job overall. 

While the 9-block model is a good tool for getting a general idea of an employee’s performance and potential, it doesn’t provide details on the criteria that go into reviewers’ assessments. One reviewer’s Star may be another reviewer’s High Potential, which could affect an employee’s final evaluation. Without other performance assessment tools, workers risk having their entire reputation based on these labels, whether they’ve made progress or experienced burnout from trying to meet the reviewer’s standards. 

Advantages of the 9-block model

  1. Speed: The 9-block model is a simple evaluation system to teach, implement, and read. 
  2. Forward-focusing: The 9-block model helps reviewers focus on the employee’s current performance just as much as on their future potential performance.
  3. Broad application: The 9-block model can be used by reviewers from different areas within an organization. This helps provide decision-makers with a better understanding of general employee performance. 
  4. Straightforwardness: Provided decision-makers trust reviewers, the 9-block model saves time and effort for the former, which they could be spending investigating each individual in order to make managerial decisions. 

Disadvantages of the 9-block model

  1. Impreciseness: The 9-block model is as straightforward as it is imprecise, for the exact same reasons. 
  2. Vulnerability to bias: as aforementioned, one reviewer’s Star may be another reviewer’s High Potential, which could affect an employee’s final evaluation. Employees risk having their entire reputation based on these labels. 
  3. Over-Simplicity: Plotting employees in The 9-block grid is only a minuscule part of an effective performance management process. It gives decision-makers an idea of where to begin, but it cannot and should not replace in-depth employee evaluations.

Supporting the 9-Block Model with Additional Performance Methods 

In conclusion, The 9-block model is only as efficient as the shared understanding which supports it. Assessing any individual’s performance and potential cannot be limited to plotting them into a 9-box grid; performance management should be as multifaceted as the individuals it is aiming to assess. Thus, while the 9-block model has its advantages, we believe it cannot, by any means, replace even a simple performance and potential management program.

JungoHR offers comprehensive solutions to Performance Management. When executed properly, the results of performance management shouldn’t surprise either employees or their managers and it should provide quality performance data to be used by decision-makers. The 9-block model is a useful first step when it comes to quickly assessing performance, and when supported with a comprehensive Performance Management Program, it can be beneficial in aligning employee performance with companies’ business goals.

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