Talent Modeling and Employee Performance
Does the 9 box grid matrix really work in assessing talent and performance management?
Where and why do organizations fail in assessing employee performance?
And how can they harness the true potential and worth of employees?
Since the McKinsey 9 box matrix was developed in the late 1960s, most of the world’s leading companies have utilized it as a strategic tool to evaluate employee performance.
Besides, the model has been heavily applied for the purpose of succession planning in companies such as General Electric, General Motors and McDonalds. Most importantly, the McKinsey model has been singled out for its simplicity because employees are ranged to fit into one of the nine matrix boxes; three denoting performance ratings, and three reflecting the levels of potential.
However, research on potential and employee performance has indicated that, most of the employees that rank highly on potential tend to be poor performers.
This begs the question; is the 9 box matrix a true indicator of employee performance? Or where do organizations go wrong?
Most of the employees that rank highly on potential tend to be poor performers
In 2012, a study conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council in London among 5000 managers and employees, revealed that about 95% of high performers were also high potentials.
However, only about 35% of the high performers had the potential for promotion to hold a high office.
So, once again one is left to ask; why the difference? What comes out of the matrix is that, most organizations find it easier to assess employee performance, but fails when it comes to assessing and quantifying actual potential.
In the words of Steve Jobs “most companies tend to assume that the employee with a strong performance records have high potential for the future needs of the organization”.
Only about 35% of the high performers had the potential for promotion
The 9 box matrix talent model indicates that there are four key features associated with High Potential Talents (HPT).
These include mobility, intellect, ambition and commitment. This means that high performing employees are fast learners with the capacity to easily adapt to new situations and take up new responsibilities.
Besides, high performing employees are highly flexible, loyal and dedicated towards their company, thus they can be trusted to live up to the changing demands of the organization.
“Most companies tend to assume that the employee with a strong performance records have high potential for the future needs of the organization”, Steve Jobs
Therefore, as outlined by the McKinsey model, most of these features depict employees with an array of leadership qualities.
However, it is vital to point out that when it comes to employee performance, there is no “one-size-fit” description, but it all depends on organizational strategy.
As defined by the matrix, high potential talent would mean different things to different organizations as defined in their structure, culture and objectives.
For example, the programs designed to evaluate HPT at General Electric provide all the opportunities need to demonstrate capabilities beyond an an employee’s current role.
Furthermore, GE recognizes the fact that not all employees can be natural leaders, but they have the potential to add a technical value to the organization.
Consequently, as defined in the model, such employees’ posses the “core talent” because they have the potential to develop greater responsibility over a long period of time and become an asset.
High potential talent would mean different things to different organizations
One of the major problems that have been linked to the McKinsey matrix is the fact that it focuses more on observation as a measure of employee performance.
For this reason, most researchers have alluded to the fact that, observing people in their current roles is not an effective way of measuring employee performance.
In this regard, research has shown that the use of psychometric assessment within the organization, and provides the best indicator for future performance as compared to performance evaluation and interviews.
Observing people in their current roles is not an effective way of measuring employee performance
My concluding remarks
In terms of coaching and talent management, the McKinsey 9 box matrix provides a wonderful tool for the evaluation of employee performance.
For example, when used correctly, the tool is highly versatile and valuable to the HR professionals in terms of identifying individuals with lower potential but effective performance.
However, the tool can also produce damaging results if it is incorrectly applied. Most importantly, it is essential for organizations to develop employee performance programs that are tailored to ensure individuals are managed to give their very best.