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Talent management & succession planning

Talent management and succession planning create performance benefits that outweigh the investment of time and effort.  However, many leadership teams don’t know how simple and beneficial it can be.  The Performance and Potential Matrix can be a good a foundation point.

Performance and Potential Matrix

The Performance and Potential Matrix (a.k.a. the nine box grid), is a commonly used HR or managerial concept for assessing team members in a team, a department or an organisation.  In a large processing centre or contact centre, it is particularly useful for multiple reasons:

  • Identifies potential leaders for training and supporting the management team.
  • Identifies your core performers who drive customer experience outcomes.
  • Identifies your ‘subject matter expert’.
  • Increases fairness across the group.
  • Identifies low performers for managing performance gaps.

Plot each of your team members on the above matrix. If there are multiple teams with similar roles in your department, meet with your team manager peers to plot all the teams together.  Use a format suitable for your leadership team such as Excel, Word table, PowerPoint table or any other shareable format and then load it in a location that is only visible for your management team.  It is critical that the document remains confidential, therefore never print it.  Only work from the live digital version. 

Typically, your leader or a HR partner will organise and facilitate this meeting, but if they haven’t done so, then meet with them and suggest you can facilitate it on behalf of the team. 

It is a relatively simple process to facilitate:

  • Each leader brings their team member’s performance data into the meeting.
  • Share the Matrix on screen and plot the team members in their relevant box. Rotate clockwise from leader to leader, plotting a team member each round until all team members are plotted.  The first session will take longer than subsequent sessions.  Allow 1.5 hours.
  • Use quantitative data to plot (or move) each team member on the bottom axis (left to right).
  • Each leader makes a subjective assessment on the team member’s ability to learn new skills and handle complex tasks (top to bottom).
  • Once all team members are plotted (or updated), assess the spread of staff.  Do any staff members need moving relative to others now that everyone is on the board?  Have you been too generous or harsh in your assessments, or is it an accurate reflection of the current state?  Make adjustments accordingly.

Potential Leaders for Succession

Potential leaders for Succession

For optimal performance over time, there should be at least two potential leaders identified.  You acknowledge explicitly to them they are on a potential leadership pathway and train them in some components of the role.  This is valuable in multiple ways:

  • Free up the current managerial group at times to do peak loads such as recruitment, project implementation support and improvement design and implementation.
  • Reduce the impact of larger blocks of Manager annual leave and sick leave.
  • Gain larger leadership coverage at times when the managers are in group meetings or aren’t present physically.
  • Usually receive greater commitment and performance from the selected team members.
  • Reduce the impact of the turnover that will eventually occur.

Note, you don’t need a potential leader from every team.  They could potentially all come from one team if that is where the talent is.  Some managers are particularly good at spotting and developing managerial talent. 

We suggest the leader adds one extra potential leader every two to three teams.  For example, six teams would have two or three potential leaders, and ten teams would have three to five potential leaders.  If you have a potential leader from every team, it will become costly in training and giving them opportunities to develop those skills.  It also sets up some team members for disappointment and disengagement if they are constantly overlooked when managerial turnover occurs.

Consult with your leader and your HR business partner about business rules and legislative requirements in regards any ‘higher duties’ payments that might be required.

Passing leadership activities to the potential leader:

As in all cross skilling or upskilling activities, it is important to do it ahead of the need.  When the capacity shortage occurs, if we aren’t ready, then we tend to rush training and set everyone up to fail.  Identify your potential leaders and start training them up over time.  Generally, as with most training, start with the activity with the best mix of low complexity and most time saving for you.  Refer to your operating rhythm for the list of tasks to upskill them in, from the ‘Manage yourself first’ section.

Below are some examples:

  • Call monitoring / assessment
  • Call coaching (on above)
  • Run team meetings plus preparation time
  • Hiring and induction
  • Escalations / questions
  • Staff member 1:1
  • Continuous improvement
  • Forecasting and rostering
  • Various Management meetings & actions

Note, training up the potential leader will take an investment of time, but should be factored into normal training shrinkage and pay itself off quickly if you pass some of the work to them regularly.  Also, you may be able to share the training with some of your peers.  Prepping and running your team meetings might be a good first activity.

Between you and your peer Managers, you will need to train up the potential leader in all aspects of the role.  This will allow them to fill in for you completely when you each take your 2 week or more break each year or when you have an extended peak load due to circumstances (e.g., secondment for several weeks to a project team).  Additionally, when your leader has leave, one of the Management team should step up leaving another opportunity for the potential leader to fill in.

Also, with your leader’s approval, you can temporarily pass over some duties – you keep overall responsibility, but they are assisting in parts, when:

  • You have a short period of leave and would like some actions to continue.
  • You have a short-term peak load due to circumstances (e.g., recruitment cycle).
  • You are trouble-shooting an issue that requires a short burst of focussed time and skill.

Core performers driving customer experience outcomes

Core performers

Core performers are the engine room of your customer experience outcomes.  They need your respect and attention to acknowledge the great work they are doing.  It is easy to forget or overlook the team members who contributes each day without any issues, but it’s important you don’t take them for granted or you risk losing them.  Poor performers can take up so much headspace if you let them.  Maintaining your core activities such as one-on-ones, reward & recognition and team meetings are critical to maintaining the engagement with these team members.

In particular, the ‘committed contributor’ and ‘solid performer’ categories can be overlooked as they have less ability.  However, these are the team members who are likely to stay in your team for multiple years.  Without your attention, vision and energy, you risk their performance sliding.

Subject matter expert (SME) – from the potential leaders or core groups

Generally, every team or group of workflows needs a person with higher technical skills.  Often these are people who sit in the ‘potential leaders’ group or core performers group but are not interested in leadership.  They often get excited about the more complex aspects of the role and are the person others in the team naturally turn to for information when they are uncertain.

This SME can be helpful in multiple ways:

  • Technical documentation for knowledge management – policy, process, procedure, information.
  • Being an escalation point on technical questions.
  • Make technical decisions when you’re not available.
  • Assist assessing quality of other team member’s work.
  • Reworking errors.
  • Assist in or leading training.


It is fairer to compare the performance across all team members that are doing similar roles, as sometimes individual teams can be performing significantly better or worse than group average.  For example, if someone’s performance is relatively low in your team, but average or above compared to the rest of the group, if would be unfair to consider them a low performer.

Low performers – the ‘managing performance gaps’ group

‘Managing performance gaps’ group

The left-hand side of the matrix identifies the team members your team management group need to be actively having performance gaps meetings with.  Below is a summary of the performance gaps process – reach out to a Bee Squared team member if you need any assistance with ensuring low performance is handled well.