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Should We Use Different Rating Scales For Assessing Different Areas Within The Form?

Yes. No matter how many levels there may be in the final overall rating, it’s a good idea to vary the number of levels and the labels or descriptors used for the assessments of different elements within the body of the form. For example, the section of the form that assesses the individual’s performance against competencies might have a four-level, behavioral frequency scale (always/regularly/sometimes/infrequently). Likewise, the part of the form that assesses performance against key job responsibilities might have a five-level, verbal-descriptor scale (distinguished/superior/fully successful/fair/unsatisfactory). And there’s no reason in the same form that the assessment of the individual’s performance in achieving the goals that were set shouldn’t be a three level scale: exceeded expectations/fully met expectations/failed to meet expectations.

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Constructing the form so that the number of rating levels and the type of scale change as the areas being assessed change forces raters to think specifically about the exact quality of the individual’s performance. It also precludes raters from adding up individual ratings from different places on the form and using those interim ratings to calculate an average score as a final rating.

If you do vary the number of levels used in the form, weak managers will complain that using different scales within the same form makes it more difficult for them to average out the ratings on various parts of the form in order to generate a final rating. That’s okay. They will just have to work a little harder. Determining a subordinate’s final performance appraisal rating is one area where it’s important for managers to work hard.

Hot Tip

Albert Einstein once said, ‘‘The solution to any problem should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.’’ There is a risk in making it too easy for raters to come up with a final appraisal rating by just treating the process as a math problem where they calculate the average score of all the ratings in various parts of the form and accept that as the final rating.