BARS: Behaviorally anchored rating scales: Don't just crunch the numbers for your next review

Tuesday, February 16
BARS: Behaviorally anchored rating scales

When it comes time for employee performance reviews, we all have different criteria by which we determine how an employee is performing in their position. Sometimes those criteria focus on the employee’s specific goals and whether or not they are meeting them. For example, a sales professional may have goals to increase their revenue by 5% quarter over quarter or to make 100 contacts every month. These goals are quantifiable and can easily be determined by pulling reports through the system your company uses.

Goals like these are used for each position at almost every level of an organization and it’s very easy to determine whether an employee is providing satisfactory results. This may be acceptable for positions where the individual is doing the majority of their work independently and with little to no supervision, but what about positions that are performed directly with customers or can be observed by managers and supervisors in person - positions where the raw numbers aren’t the only aspects of great importance.

Behaviorally anchored rating scales offer the opportunity to give feedback and measure performance results in both a quantifiable manner and also a qualitative basis. Behaviorally anchored scales include specific behavior statements to measure an employee’s success. While quantitative rating scales may use ratings on a number scale such as this:

Phone Greetings (Answers phone calls at or before third ring):

1 - Never

2 - Seldom

3 - Usually

4 - Often

5 - Always

A behaviorally anchored rating scale may measure an employee’s success with statements or examples of this behavior on a number scale to combine the quantitative results with a qualitative result. For example:

Phone Greetings:

1 - Never answers calls at or before the third ring OR does not use the standard company greeting OR use a polite, friendly tone.

2 - Seldom answers calls at or before the third ring OR sometimes does not use the standard company greeting AND/OR use a polite, friendly tone.

3 - Generally answers calls before the third ring AND/OR generally uses the standard company greeting AND/OR uses a polite, friendly tone.

4 - Always answers calls before the third ring AND uses the standard company greeting AND/OR uses a polite, friendly tone.

5 - Always answers calls before the third ring AND uses the standard company greeting AND uses a polite, friendly tone.

This form of performance reviews heavily emphasizes the behaviors associated with quality performance in the workplace. One very important benefit of utilizing this approach is that you can create and implement a behaviorally anchored rating scale or BARS at your workplace all on your own! It might actually be best for you to do it this way.

When it comes time to develop your BARS, you can actually start by watching your employees do their day-to-day tasks through shadowing. As you go, take note of the common functions that exist in each position and through shadowing, identify behaviors that are commonly used and how they match up to official company policy. Then, those behaviors should be attached to quantitative measures and put into action in your next wave of performance reviews.

You will want to build a fairly large pool of incidents or situations to draw from when finalizing your scale. For example, if you are develop a behaviorally anchored rating scale for a call center environment, you will want to observe employees at varying intervals and times of day. Morning, afternoon, evening, and at night should all have representation in your findings to account for the different times of day and how that affects performance. High volume periods and low volume periods should also be represented to determine how often the appropriate measures are followed as work flow increases or decreases. Even examples of populations that included veteran employees and entry-level employees should be showcased to see how experience affects the final numbers as well.

There are many different forms of BARS, behaviorally anchored rating scales, but the best part is you can adjust or customize for your organization. Make sure to customize your BARS for each individual position and to not over generalize them to fit varying positions or the same position at different levels of the organization.

What scale or standard do you use at your organization?