Use of Bell Curve for
Performance Appraisal –
Good or Bad ?
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The use of bell curve or forced ranking has always been
a topic of debate among HR professionals.
A Bell Curve Controversy
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A bell curve
model is a
the middle and
tapered off at the
It assumes that
all the employees
in a company
can be divided
into groups such
Top 20% – High
Middle 70% -
Last 10%- non
What is Bell Curve ?
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Because a bell curve forces employees of a
company to be divided into groups, it is
called the forced ranking system of
Some HR professionals believe that a bell
curve is the best way to identify the top
performers and under performers whereas
others believe that it compels the rater to a
forced ratings instead of a fair one.
However, the truth lies somewhere in
between. Let us explore some advantages
and disadvantages of using a bell curve for
performance appraisal from the perspective
of an organization.
The Overview of Bell Curve
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Identify top performers: It is very importantfor an organization to
identify its high performers and reward them accordingly.The forced
ranking compels managersto take decisionsand differentiate
between the performance of differentkinds ofemployees.
Manage lenientand strict ratings of managers:Bellcurve is
perhaps the only method thatcan be used by the organizationsto
manage leniencyand strictness ofratings by the managers.
Identify suitability of employeesin a job position:
Often an employee may be more suited in anotherposition in the
company.The forced rankingwith adequate analysiscan identify
other positions foremployees in the company.
Manage trainingneeds: The bell curve can help identify the most
suitable trainings applicableto differentcategoryof employees.
The Advantages of Bell Curve
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Too Rigid: Using bell curve model for performance
appraisal may be considered a rigid approach for rating
Loss of morale: The appraisals based on the forced
ratings create doubts in the mind of employees and
managers about the possibility of an exit during tough job
Not suitable for small companies: The bell curve is not
suitable to be used in small companies where the number
of employees are less than 300. It may give erroneous
The Disadvantages of Bell Curve
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While there is an ongoing debate on the bell-curve based
normalization methodology, a 360 feedback additionally may
help put some of these doubts at rest.
EmpXtrack Appraisal dashboards allow you to view the
desired as well as the actual performance of employees
through a bell curve. You can normalize the bell curve for
performance appraisals, if required or simply use it to view
the performance gaps of employees.