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FREE online courses on Performance and Potential Appraisal - Multiple person Evaluation Techniques


The above-discussed methods are used to evaluate employees one at a time. In this section let us discuss some techniques of evaluating one employee in comparison to another. Three such frequently used methods in organization are – ranking, paired comparison and forced distribution.


Ranking method


This is a relatively easy method of performance evaluation. Under this method, the ranking of an employee in a work group is done against that of another employee. The relative position of each employee is tested in terms of his numerical rank. It may also be done by ranking a person on his job performance against another member of the competitive group. The quintessence of this method is that employees are ranked according to their levels of performance. While using this method, the evaluator is asked to rate employees from highest to lowest on some overall criterion. Though it is relatively easier to rank the best and the worst employees, it is very difficult to rank the average employees. Generally, evaluators pick the top and bottom employees first and then select the next highest and next lowest and move towards the average (middle) employees. The longstanding limitations of this method are:


  • The ‘whole man' is compared with another ‘whole man' in this method. In practice, it is very difficult to compare individuals possessing varied behavioral traits.
  • This method speaks only of the position where an employee stands in his group. It does not tell anything about how much better or how much worse an employee is when compared to another employee.
  • When a large number of employees are working, ranking of individuals becomes a tosticating issue.
  • There is no systematic procedure for ranking individuals in the organization. The ranking system does not eliminate the possibility of snap judgments.


In order to overcome the above limitations a paired comparison technique has been advanced by organizational scholars.


Paired comparison method


Ranking becomes more reliable and easier under the paired comparison method. Each worker is compared with all other employees in the group; for every trait the worker is compared with all other employees. For instance, when there are five employees to be compared, then A's performance is compared with that of B's and decision is arrived at as to whose is the better or worse. Next, B is also compared with all others. Since A is already compared with B, this time B is to be compared with only C, D and E. By this method when there are five employees, fifteen decisions are made (comparisons). The number of decisions to be made can be determined with the help of the formulae n (n-2). Ranking the employees by the paired comparison method may be illustrated as shown in the Table 10.7.


For several individual traits, paired comparisons are made, tabulated and then rank is assigned to each worker. Though this method seems to be logical, it is not applicable when a group is large. When the group becomes too large, the number of comparisons to be made may become frighteningly excessive. For instance, when n=100, comparisons to be made are 100 (100-2) = 100 (98) = 9800.


Trait: ‘Quantity of work'

Table: Employee Rated

          As compared to        A        B        C        D        E

                   A                           +                +       

                   B                                    +                +

                   C                 +                          +       

                   D                         +                         

                   E                  +                +        +


Forced distribution method


Under this system, the rater is asked to appraise the employee according to a predetermined distribution scale. The rater's bias is sought to be eliminated here because workers are not placed at a higher or lower end of the scale. Normally, the two criteria used here for rating are the job performance and promotability. Further, a five point performance scale is used without any mention of descriptive statements. Workers are placed between the two extremes of ‘good' and ‘bad' performances. For instance, the workers of outstanding merit may be placed at the top 10% of the scale. The rest may be placed as – 20% -good, 40% -outstanding, 20% -fair and 10% -fair. To be specific, the forced distribution method assumes that all top grade workers should go to the highest 10% grade; 20% employees should go to the next highest grade and so on.


Job performance as the criterion apart, another equally important factor in this method is promotability. Employees may be classified according to their promotional merits. The scale for this purpose may consist of three points – namely, quite likely promotional material, may/may not be promotional material and quite unlikely promotional material.


One strong positive point in favor of the forced distribution method is that by forcing the distribution according to predetermined percentages, the problem of making use of different raters with different scales is avoided. Further, this method is appreciated on the ground that it tends to eliminate rater bias. The limitation of using this method in salary administration however, is that it may result in low morale, low productivity and high absenteeism. Employees who feel that they are productive, but find themselves placed in a lower grade (than expected) feel frustrated and exhibit, over a period of time, reluctance to work.


Other methods of appraising performance include: Group Appraisal, Human Resource Accounting, Assessment Centre, Field Review, etc. These are discussed in the following sections:


Group appraisal


In this method, an employee is appraised by a group of appraisers. This group consists of the immediate supervisor of the employee, other supervisors who have close contact with the employee's work, manager or head of the department and consultants. The head of the department or manager may be the Chairman of the group and the immediate supervisor may act as the Coordinator for the group activities. This group uses any one of multiple techniques discussed earlier. The immediate supervisor enlightens other members about the job characteristics, demands, standards or performance, etc. Then the group appraises the performance of the employee, compares the actual performance with standards, finds out the deviations, discusses the reasons therefor, suggests ways for improvement of performance, prepares an action plan, studies the need for change in the job analysis and standards and recommends changes, if necessary.


This method eliminates ‘personal bias' to a large extent, as performance is evaluated by multiple rates. But it is a very time consuming process.


Human resource accounting


HRA is a sophisticated way to measure (in financial terms) the effectiveness of personnel management activities and the use of people in an organization. It is the process of accounting for people as an organizational resource. It tries to place a value on organizational human resources as assets and not as expenses. The HRA process shows the investment the organization makes in its people and how the value of these people changes over time. The acquisition cost of employees is compared to the replacement cost from time to time. The value of employees is increased by investments made by the company to improve the quality of its human resources such as training, development skills acquired by employees over a period of time through experience, etc. When qualified, competent people leave an organization; the value of human assets goes down. In this method, employee performance is evaluated in terms of costs and contributions of employees. Human resource costs include expenditure incurred by the company in hiring, training, compensating and developing people. The contributions of human resources is the money value of labour productivity. The cost of human resources may be taken as the standard. Employee performance can be measured in terms of employee contribution to the organization. Employee performance can be taken as positive when contribution is more than the cost and performance can be viewed as negative if cost is more than contribution. Positive performance can be measured in terms of percentage of excess of employee contribution over the cost of employee. Similarly negative performance can be calculated in terms of percentage of deficit in employee contribution compared to the cost of employee. These percentages can be ranked to ‘Zero Level' as shown in the Table below.




Percentage of surplus/Deficit of contribution to cost of employee


Extremely good performance

Over 200


Good performance

150 – 200


Slightly good performance

100 – 150


Neither poor nor good

0 – 100


Slightly poor performance



Poor performance

0 to (-  50)


Extremely poor performance

(-50) to (-100)


This technique has not developed fully and is still in the transitionary stage.


Assessment centre


This method of appraising was first applied in German Army in 1930. Later business and industrial houses started using this method. This is not a technique of performance appraisal by itself. In fact it is a system or organization, where assessment of several individuals is done by various experts using various techniques. These techniques include the methods discussed before in addition to in-basket, role playing, case studies, simulation exercises, structured in sight, transactional analysis, etc.


In this approach individuals from various departments are brought together to spend two or three days working on an individual or group assignment similar to the ones they would be handling when promoted. Observers rank the performance of each and every participant in order of merit. Since assessment centres are basically meant for evaluating the potential of candidates to be considered for promotion, training or development, they offer an excellent means for conducting evaluation processes in an objective way. All assessees get an equal opportunity to show their talents and capabilities and secure promotion based on merit. Since evaluators know the position requirements intimately and are trained to perform the evaluation process in an objective manner, the performance ratings may find favor with majority of the employees. A considerable amount of research evidence is available to support the contention that people chosen by this method prove better than those chosen by other methods. The centre enables individuals working in low status departments to compete with people from well-known departments and enlarge their promotion chances. Such opportunities, when created on a regular basis, will go a long way in improving the morale of promising candidates working in less important positions.


Field Review Method


Where subjective performance measures are used, there is scope for rater's biases influencing the evaluation process. To avoid this, some employees use the field review method. In this method a trained, skilled representative of the HR department goes into the ‘field' and assists line supervisors with their ratings of their respective subordinates. The HR specialist requests from the immediate supervisor specific information about the employees performance. Based on this information, the expert prepares a report which is sent to the supervisor for review, changes, approval and discussion with the employee who is being rated. The ratings are done on standardized forms.


Since an expert is handling the appraisal process, in consultation with the supervisor, the ratings are more reliable. However, the use of HR experts makes this approach costly and impractical for many organizations.



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