HRSINGAPORE Community Discussions

Bell curve grading


Dear HR Community Subscribers,

We are looking into improving our performance appraisal grading system by introducing forced ranking or a bell curve grading system.

Please advise:

1. Are you using the bell curve to rank performance?

2. What are some of the challenges that you face in doing so.

3. How do you group employees in each percentile.

We are in the shipping industry.

Appreciate your replies.

Thank you.



HR Poll: Are you using the bell curve to rank performance?

Yes: 60.00%

No: 26.67%

Not sure: 13.33%





What are some of the challenges of using the bell curve to rank performance?

Equitable appraisal - Collin

Acceptable by the team. Not able to fall everyone in - Ashley

Sometimes managers need to put employees in specific gradients just for the sake of bell curve requirements. This happens more often when the teams are small. Also, it creates anxiety in the mind of employees who may worry about the possibility of an exit, especially during current tough job market conditions. This may lead to further deterioration of job performance - Jessica

Most managers tend to exceed the allocated percentile - Jolene


How do you group employees in each percentile?

I will normalize first before grading - Collin

Depends on the size of the team - Ashley

The top 20% of the workforce is the most productive, and the core 70% work adequately. The bottom 10% are poor performers, who are to be put on the performance improvement plan, and if no improvement, let them go - Jessica

Depends on the size of the team and allocate a % to each performance grade. Average performers is the biggest tier with the highest allocated percentile - Jolene

Some things to consider when thinking of going for bell-curve grading (or other forms of grading) are:
1) Does the company leadership and culture support it?
2) What is the purpose?  Is it for merit increase, promotion, or investment in employee development?
3) What negative effect will it have on managers and employees?  A good way to test this is to pilot it with the MD/GM doing the bell curve on his direct reports and hearing his feedback.  A commonly heard pushback from managers is the grading system makes employees compete against each other and discourages collaboration.
Approach it with caution especially if your employees and managers are already under more stress than they can handle - CS Yue



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