Excerpts from an interview with Makarand Khatavkar @ HRKatha on “Doing away with the bell curve”

Many large companies in India are doing away with the bell curve. Do you think Indian private banks can also do away with a performance assessment system, when everything is so target oriented?

First of all, I would like to suggest that the bell curve is an outcome of a robust performance process. A target-oriented assessment system will continue to exist with or without the bell curve.

In any organization, whether large or small, weightage given to qualitative measures usually increases as one moves up the hierarchy. But, when 70 percent of an organization is made up of front line teams, it is critical to maintain a target-oriented and largely quantitative assessment framework for that work-force in order to meet the business targets.

At the same time, managers and supervisors of the front line teams, need to be equipped with the right set of competencies to manage and maximize the potential of their respective teams.

The bell-curve exercise typically helps in moderating the skew of ratings in organisations with large employee bases, in taking compensation and bonus- related decisions. The bell curve is one of the many tools that we employ in taking people decisions and should not be confused with the bank’s performance management philosophy.

A good performance management framework will be aligned to the organization’s values and integrated with the organization’s talent philosophy to assess future potential and not just current performance levels. The focus will be on the quality and periodicity of the performance assessment or dialogue, irrespective of the bell curve. At Kotak too, we have adopted a granular performance management framework ,where, depending on the function or role of the employee, the performance assessment could be as frequent as daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly, over and above the annual performance appraisal cycle.

Our assessment framework has several ‘gate’ KRAs, which link the input quality to the output parameters, making sure the ‘how’ is as critical as the ‘what’.

Adherence to the organization’s core values is also a part of the measurement and so are the cluster-linked competencies depending on whether the employee is an individual contributor or manager.

You can find the complete interview here:


We at Synergita believe that goals management, continuous feedback, periodic reviews culminating at annual performance reviews would bring more effectiveness on the performance management and also increase the business excellence. Please take a look at our observations at


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