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9 Box grid for talent mapping – HR for Excel – Template & Explanation



I learned about a new HR technique for talent mapping during a recent consulting project . It is called 9 box grid. In this page, let me explain what it is and how you can create 9 box grid using Excel.

What is 9 Box Grid?

9 Box grid is a talent mapping tool for Human Resources. This is used to map your staff on two scales – performance and potential. All staff are plotted on 3×3 grid with one side showing performance (from low to high) and another side with potential (low to high). 

Here is a sample 9 Box Grid.

9 box grid explained

How to create 9 box grid in Excel?

If you have just a handful of staff then it is easier to create 9 box grid by typing the data in 3×3 range in Excel. But if you have a lot of people, then creating a dynamic 9 box grid is helpful. Something like below:

Interactive 9 Box Grid in Excel - Demo

9 box grid - interactive demo

Step by step instructions - Making 9 Box Grid template in Excel

I made a short video explaining the process for creating 9 box grid for talent mapping in excel. Watch it below (or on my YouTube channel) or read on for text instructions.

Step 1: Gather data about performance and potential of your staff

In a blank spreadsheet, gather the data about your staff. At the very least, you want staff name, performance and potential. Feel free to add things like department or team names.

This is how I structured my data:

It is all in a table named talent. 

data for 9 box grid - staff performance & potential

Step 2: Create the talent map 9 box grid visual

You can do it in two ways. If you have Excel 365 and access to dynamic array functions like FILTER(), you can use formulas to generate the 3×3 talent map grid.

Else, you can use Pivot Tables to generate the talent map grid.

Formula approach for Talent Map

Note: this method requires Excel 365 with dynamic array functions.

Set up a 3×3 grid in a blank sheet. 

In the top left cell, use the below formula.

=IFERROR(TEXTJOIN(“,”&CHAR(10),TRUE, SORT(FILTER(talent[Candidate],(talent[Performance]=E$8)*(talent[Potential]=$D5)))),””)

The above formula assumes E$8 has the performance rating value and $D5 has potential.

How does this formula work?

We are using FILTER() function to filter down the talent table to all candidates who have given performance (E8) and potential (D5) values

SORT() function sorts these names in alphabetical order.

Finally TEXTJOIN() is used to combine all names to one big text with comma & new line character between names. 

Pivot Table approach for Talent Map

Note: this method requires Excel 2013 or above versions

Here is a quick demo of the Pivot Table based 9 box talent map grid.

9 box grid - pivot table demo

To create this,

  • Insert a pivot table from your talent data. During the insert pivot step, enable “add this to data model” option, as depicted below.

data model option in pivot tables

Read more about data model based pivot tables.

  • Now add “performance” to column labels and “potential” to row labels area of the pivot.
  • We need to show the names of people instead of count in the values area. This can be done by using measures. 
  • Right click on the table in fields list area and select “Add measure” option.
    • Name of the measure: List of names
    • Definition: =CONCATENATEX(‘talent mapping’, [Candidate],”, “,[Candidate],asc)

Add this measure to values area of the pivot and your 9 box talent map will be ready.

What is this measure doing?

This measure is concatenating all the staff names that have given performance and potential levels. It is also sorting such names in ascending order. 

9 box grid for talent mapping - FREE Excel Template

Click here to download my free 9 box grid talent mapping template.  It has sample data of 100 employees and two different talent maps (one with formulas and another with pivot tables). Experiment with it to understand the process or use it for your work.

Work in HR and use Excel? More resources for you...


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27 Responses to “9 Box grid for talent mapping – HR for Excel – Template & Explanation”

  1. Robert Clark says:

    Great stuff! I can understand how to add a slicer to the pivot table, but how do you implement the departmental selector on the 'Filter' formula scheme?

  2. Claus Andersen says:

    Just saw this on your Youtube channel, and it’s areat idea...!

    An easy way to overcome the "ugliness" of pivot tables and get it to look nice (in the format of the Output sheet), would be to simply build a sheet with the nice map at the top, a pivot underneath it and a slicer next to formatted map and then reference each of the 9 cells in the formatted map to the “related” cell in the Pivot.

    Keep up the good work!


  3. Madison Fry says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    This is great! Curious how to make additional columns operate the same as the Department column (ex. have a "manager column") that would allow you to sort a 9 box by manager, area, or team in addition to department?

    Feel free to email me if needed! mfry01@minnetronixmedical.com

    Happy New Year

    Madison Fry

    • Ed says:

      I am curious about the smae thing. I would like to populate the 9 box with other views as well by adding additional columns. IE., I would like to add location, region, etc. Thank you.

  4. Matt says:

    This is great, thank you!

  5. Al says:

    How can i see the whole data set of all the teams in the output table. Need a formula that will pick up all the employees

  6. Heather says:

    Love the template. Thank you. Question - the drop down to pick a department on the Output tab does not seem to work on the downloadable template. Am I doing something incorrectly?
    Thank you!

    • Chandoo says:

      Hi Heather... Thank you. I am using Excel 365 to make the calculations. If you are using an older version of Excel, then the drop-down filter won't work.

  7. Rose says:

    I was able to follow your 9 box grid and modified based my needs. However, you tutorial did not show how to you create the filter for the "Pick a department. Can you kindly share how to create that filter that updated the grid. Thank you.

  8. Rose says:

    I am working on this project but I am struggling with the data validation for the department. I copy the worksheets data entry and output as the managers want to see different tabs for each managers.
    I updated the source reference for each tab but It does not update the grid based on the new source. The list was updated but it does not populate the grid based on the performance and potential listed.
    In addition the hyperlink Update Data and View Talent Map no longer works. Can you please help me.

  9. Emmanuel Jose Vasquez says:

    I keep getting this error message in the pivot table:

    This formula is invalid or incomplete: 'The expression is not valid or appears to be incomplete. Please review and correct the expression.
    The following syntax error occurred during parsing: Invalid token, Line 1, Offset 14, ‘.

  10. Hi, I used your 9-box excel template with excel 365. First off, thank you so very much. It is incredibly helpful!! My only question is that the boxes aren't big enough for all of the employees (specifically the middle which we call 'Core Employee'). Is there a way to make the boxes larger? Even though it is in excel, I am not able to increase row height (like I normally do in a speadsheet). Any ideas? Thanks again, Jody

  11. Prish says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    Thanks for the great content. Re. 9 box grid, pls advise how do I increase the size of the box to accommodate more names?

  12. Nabil says:

    Merci Chandoo pour le modèle proposé,
    j'ai une question et un souhait est il possible de développer davantage ce modèle en insérant la photo de chaque employé.

  13. Leah says:

    Hi Chandoo!

    Great tutorial and tool, thank you! Your tutorial didn't include how to create additional filters on the "Output" tab. Could you please share how you did it?

  14. Geno says:

    Can this be done exactly in google sheets?

  15. Joanne says:

    Hi Chandoo,
    Thanks for the video it was really helpful. Is there any way to multi select the dropdown to display multiple or all departments rather than just one at once?

  16. Dana says:

    Hello Prish

    I have Microsoft 365 and I am struggling to make the boxes larger/unable to increase row height; any idea how you made this work? Specifically in the Output tab where the map is?

    Many thanks

  17. Dana says:

    Hello Jody, I have Microsoft 365 and I am struggling to make the boxes larger/unable to increase row height; any idea how you made this work? Specifically in the Output tab where the map is? Many thanks

  18. Connie Richards says:

    Is there a way to change the 9 box wording descriptions, i.e. Work Horses, to our own internal langauge?

  19. Zee says:

    Hi Chandoo, this is awesome and has worked perfectly. Due to a big organisation the 9 box grid on the output file is too small. I tried adjusting using the row/width ribbon under the format ribbon however it doesn't seem to work. Is there an easier way to adjust this?


  20. Huy Nghi?a says:

    When I drag the formula, it doesn't work, and the order I use with the data changes. In the beginning, the order is it is " candidates," " potential," and " performance," but when it goes to another column, it is " Potential," Performance," and "Candidates."Can you help me? Thank you very much, sending love from vietnam

  21. Lucia says:

    Hi- I am working on the 9 grid project and I am trying to expand the box since I have over 100 names on a few of the columns. How do I do that?

  22. Zara says:

    Hi, Thank you this is great stuff and really useful.

    As well as department as demonstrated on your clip, how can I display all candidates on the grid at once?

    Many thanks in advance

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