During the course of your studies, you may have experienced a class where your grades were bell-curved or ranked in comparison with everyone else in the class. The rationale for imposing this kind of grade rating system usually comes with an explanation related to institutional policy or some complicated methodology based on academic requirements. As a result, bell curving or forced ranking systems are not used as a common approach for evaluating student performance. Nevertheless, they do exist and continue to be used with varying degrees of success.
Does this type of forced ranking system translate into effective performance management for employees from a training and development perspective? Based on a recent article from The Globe & Mail’s Leadership Lab series, the answer would seem to be a resounding “No.”
As noted in this article, forced employee ranking ensures that someone must be left standing on the bottom rung of the performance ladder in comparison to everyone else. This happens even though the individual employee’s performance may be the same as his or her colleagues’. How can this possibly act as a positive motivator for performance improvement and increased employee engagement?
One of the common remarks about forced ranking systems is that they provide an un-naturally skewed picture of the data or the group that is being evaluated. If the data is skewed, then it would seem that a response to that data would also be skewed.
Again, from an employee learning perspective, it is imperative that any training and development programs are built from a basis of actual employee needs, and not from a system that forces individual performance evaluation into a larger group ranking.
- As a Human Resources professional, identify three benefits of forced employee ranking systems. When would this type of system be useful?
- How would you respond to your performance being managed by a bell-curve/forced employee ranking approach in your current (or previous) workplace?
- Do you believe that a forced employee ranking approach improves employee performance and provides positive motivation? Why or why not?