3 Ways to Harmonize Performance Appraisal Across Organization Using Bell Curves

The bell curve system. It is being scrapped by many organizations, but you may not be able to afford the transformation, or you may still need the bell curve system for your business needs. In that case, you can tweak the bell curve system to accommodate the modern needs of the organization and harmonize the performance appraisal process across the organization. You may wonder how to do it. It is all about approach. In this article, the ways to modify the system are listed to lead you to the destination.  

What is a Bell Curve?   

First, let us understand what is a bell curve? Bell curve distribution is a pictorial depiction of employee performance with a large number of employees in the average level and few members in the high and bottom performers’ levels. It is an appraisal method adopted by companies in the late 90s.  

Subjective Review is Accountable for the Myth around Bell curve  

People do not have a problem with the bell curve, but rather, with the lack of transparency or understanding of the process. The bell curve is a well-accepted form of performance appraisal.”   

Sanstrup Misra, Director, Global HR and CEO, Carbon black business at Adithya Birla Group  

Companies assign a weight to goals and competencies for the annual appraisal process. During the process, the goals are data-backed and so there is no question of bias and transparency. But when it comes to competencies, the scoring depends upon the manager or the supervisor.  

If you see this number from the left side, it is 9; whereas, from the right side, it is 6. Similarly, the manager’s opinion may differ from yours. For example, you would have dealt with a client in a specific way. Your manager may not have liked the approach. So, he may rate you as incompetent when a relevant competency is considered. In your opinion, you have done it right, but he thinks you were missing something. He may not have understood your reason for doing it.     

Therefore, objective mathematical scoring should be given more weightage than subjective review, or effective communication and feedback mechanism should be practiced by organizations. The bell curve is not the problem, but the methods of inputs are.  

The Way of Handling the Bell Curve Outputs May Change Your View  

A report in 2015 reveals that around 6% of Fortune 500 companies have moved away from the bell curve system. Other companies still use the bell curve system.  

The data of the bell curve should be handled differently to create a positive work culture. The improving performers should be given real-time coaching and learning opportunities to move to the next level. The top performers should be rewarded with incentives and bonuses to appreciate their outstanding performance. Cherish the employees of your company. Engage your employees by recognizing their efforts.  

Multiple bell curves help harmonize performance appraisals across the organization  

I know what the third argument would be. Force fit. I would suggest you use multiple bell curves. Your organization must use software that supports multiple bell curves. So, you can set an ideal bell curve for each business unit and for each department. For instance, if you are reviewing the performance of the marketing team wherein all the performers are good and best, you cannot use the standard bell curve. You must customize the ideal bell curve to suit the needs of the marketing team. Look at the curve below. 

Now, the managers will not have the burden of force-fitting any employee. In fact, there will be no bias as the manager can never underrate an employee who performs well. It is time to adjust the bell curve system to increase employee retention and create a positive workspace culture.  

If you have a different opinion, comment below. Let us have a healthy discussion. 

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