Performance Reviews & 9-Box

The “9-Box Matrix” (or Grid) is an HR management tool used to analyze employees across two dimensions simultaneously. Most commonly, the two dimensions used are Performance and Potential, and the factors contributing to those dimensions come from performance reviews. (Performance relates to how well people are doing their current jobs and Potential relates to how well they might grow in managerial, professional, or executive capacities.)

Vista has all of the tools available for you to generate and use 9-Box Grids, and in fact, has a number of features that allow you to go beyond typical capabilities.

Before exploring the 9-Box features of Vista, let’s review the matrix itself. As you can see from the below, by ranking people by current performance vs. future potential, you can get an idea of how to differentiate management and HR programs for different groups of individuals to maximize your current and future employee effectiveness. You can research further descriptions and suggestions for people falling into all nine boxes, but the below highlights just the three along the central axis. For example, the low performer/low potential people are your problems. They don’t quite fit within their current roles or in any progressive future roles, so you might need to make decisions about reassignment or even employment itself. At the other extreme, the top right box is your top performers whom you probably want to groom for future leadership opportunities.


So what does Vista offer you with Nine Box Appraisals? As with most areas of functionality, Vista takes an approach of maximum flexibility. Hence, you are not limited in what you want to measure nor in how you want to see it.

The beginning of 9-Box analyses is typically performance reviews. The salient Vista features in this area are:

  • Creation of any type or frequency of reviews (e.g., annual, promotion, etc.).
  • Reviews by any individual (e.g., manager reviews, self-reviews, peer reviews, etc. – i.e., anything from single reviews to full 360-degree reviews).
  • The inclusion of any one or more appraisal categories to be part of specific reviews.
  • Assignment of which appraisal categories contribute to which matrix analysis dimension (or dimensions).

Let’s consider the last bullet above in a little more detail. When reviewing an individual, you might have a handful of questions (appraisal categories) to answer. Sticking with the Performance vs. Potential analysis, some of these questions might apply to current performance, some to future potential, and some maybe to both. For example, a programmer’s coding skill might apply to current performance, his leadership rating to future potential, and his initiative category might apply to both.

So, Vista lets you create any appraisal categories and then gives you complete flexibility in determining which appraisals contribute to which 9-Box dimension(s). In fact, you’re also not limited to the traditional two dimensions of performance vs. potential. You can define any number of dimensions and assign appraisal categories to none, one, or more, in any combination. So once set up, you can analyze any matrix of any pair of dimensions that make sense to your organization.

Then, you have a number of options when defining your matrices themselves. For example, if you prefer to flip your axes (potential vs. performance instead of performance vs. potential), you can do that. Or, if it makes more sense for you to create a 5×5 grid (or any other number) instead of a 3×3 grid, you can do that. (E.g., a 5×5 grid gives you groupings of very low, low, average, high, and very high instead of just low, medium, and high.)

Finally, when you’re ready to actually create and analyze your matrices, you have even more options. For example, if you use Vista for 360-degree Performance Reviews, you might want to generate matrices solely based on manager reviews. Or you might want to separately look at manager vs. peer matrices vs. self-matrices to look for patterns of perception. (Or maybe you just want a matrix that averages all of them.) Vista gives you all of these options.

Finally, if you are using Vista Analytics, you can incorporate Performance Matrices into your Analytics Dashboards so that you can drill down into the people within different matrix boxes.

If you have not started using Vista Reviews Matrices, talk to your PDS Professional Services representative to help you get started.

Marco Padovani
Senior Development Manager