Scaling Up Talent Assessment Chart / 9-Box Grid. Locating the A-Players and Terrorists. 

Receive infrequent tools, workshops and articles related to growing your business!
Quick Points
  • Both the 9-Box Grid and the Scaling Up Talent Assessment Chart help position a teammate on the contribution they bring to the organization. 
  • It creates a visual for where people stand in an organization.
  • Regularly implementing this tool ensures targeted management strategies and coaching opportunities for your team. 

Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to tap into the unique capabilities each member of your team brings to the table? I certainly have. That's why at Scaling Up, we've been championing an approach that simplifies and streamlines talent management. Enter the Talent Assessment Chart, our iteration of the tried-and-true 9-Box Grid.

Think of this tool as a sort of X-ray for your team's dynamics. It cuts to the chase, illuminating strengths, weaknesses, and the untapped potential that's waiting just below the surface. In my own experience, the impact is akin to flipping a switch: productivity skyrockets and company culture strengthens as this newfound clarity comes into play.

Now, you may be thinking, "I've seen the 9-Box Grid - how different can this be?" Well, here's the rub: the Talent Assessment Chart goes deeper. It's not just about recognizing your high-flyers or future leaders - it's about zeroing in on your team's unique constellation of talent and teasing out where support and growth opportunities lie. In fact, I've hybrid both the 9-box and the Talent Assessment chart together into what I believe is a useful composite.

The Importance of 'A Players'

Central to understanding the impact of this tool is recognizing the critical role that 'A Players' – those high-performing, culture-fitting individuals – play in your organization. The unique strength of the 'A Players' lies not only in their personal productivity but also in their ability to enhance the performance of those around them.

Just as a sports team is galvanized by its star players (aka Tom Brady), so too is a business energized by its 'A Players'. Their commitment, drive, and embodiment of company values set the bar high, inspiring others to raise their game. They shine brightly like a beacon of excellence, guiding and motivating their peers.

Two critical research studies support the significance of these high performers. One, by McKinsey, revealed that 'A Players' can be up to 400% more productive than others. In addition to discovering that companies with more 'A Players' significantly outperform their competitors. Thus, understanding, attracting, nurturing, and retaining your 'A Players' is paramount.

Understanding the Talent Assessment Chart

The Talent Assessment Chart offers a straightforward way to assess your team. With two simple metrics - productivity (talent/skill/performance) and core values (cultural fit) - it provides an insightful and holistic view of your team. Here's how you can implement this tool in your business.

Step 1: Evaluate Everyone

Start by rating each employee's skills, talent or productivity and plot it on the X-axis. Consider their outputs, their efficiency, their contributions to the business's bottom line. In this case we give Jessica a 7. 

Core values fit might feel a bit more subjective, but it's equally important. How well does the individual embody your company's values? How strong are their relationships within the team. Consider their core values fit on a scale of 0 to 10, and plot that number on the Y-axis. For example, for Jessica we give her a 8. 

Result - Jessica is plotted on a 7,8... or "A-Potential"

Step 2: Add Coaching Pointers

Next, based on the initial assessment, come up with several coaching pointers for how that person can move to the next quadrant, ideally we want to move everyone to the A-Player box, so give feedback and critiques that help them move closer to that corner of the 9-box. 

Step 3: Plot Your Team

The final step involves plotting each team member on the Talent Assessment Chart. This visual representation provides a snapshot of your team's current state and serves as a starting point for your talent management strategy.

I've hybridized both the 9-Box Grid with the Talent Assessment Chart and added two smaller categories, "Mavericks" and "Terrorists." To paraphrase Scaling Up President John Ratliff, "Due to their high-skills and talents, these people command influence but they aren't aligned with the culture. They make it impossible to build a healthy team since they will sabotage the effort and mock the culture."

Mavericks, despite the cool name, require supervision. Due to their high-skill and mediocre adoption of core values, and organization might be willing to "give them a chance to change." Seldom though, have I ever seen that work out for the better. Mavericks, inevitably, need to be shown the door unless they step up in a significant way. 

Breaking Down the Hybrid Talent Chart

After plotting your team, you'll notice 11 types of team members which I would organize into 5 major categories. 

  1. Get Out! This category includes the Bad Hires, Terrorists, and sadly, the Jim Halperts, named after the lovable character in the Office. The Jims are core value fits but need more skill. They can be coached up with the right intention and investment in time and resources. 
  2. Step Up! Included here are the Over or Out Dilemmas, Up or Out Grinders. My suggestion here is to get these people on a 3 to 6-month PDP (professional development plan). If they don't step up, it's time to show them the door. 
  3. Core. These are the members of the team that are an acceptable balance of skill and value fit. They also can be coached up into a higher level of skill or value fit. 
  4. High-Flyers. These represent both the High Potential from the core values and the High Performers from the skills. They have one axis in spades, and the other is in need of development. They are coachable and can reach the A-Potential level. Keep these people and invest in them. With the right coaching and development, they're likely to rise in your ranks. You should keep a keen eye on their progress and adjust your coaching strategies accordingly.
  5. A-Team. To quote fellow Scaling Up coach Chris Young, "Wolves want to eat with wolves." That's the spirit of the A-Team of A-Players and A-Potential. They have the right mix of skills and values fit. Getting more of these players will drastically accelerate your organization. 

When you think of the Talent Assessment Chart, don't think of it as a one-time exercise. It's a tool you should use regularly - quarterly, perhaps - to keep a pulse on your team's dynamics and evolution. It's a way to ensure that everyone, regardless of their category, is seen, recognized, coached, and developed according to their unique potential.

The Hybrid Talent Assessment Chart provides a more nuanced, in-depth alternative to the traditional 9-Box Grid. It allows for a greater understanding of each team member and more targeted management strategies, ultimately driving higher productivity, more substantial team alignment, and more positive company culture.

To wrap it up, consider this: organizations that stand out are the ones that understand and appreciate their most vital resource – their people. By implementing the Hybrid Talent Assessment Chart in your business, you can ensure that you're not just staying on par with your competitors but surpassing them. Now, isn't that a tool worth investing in?