performance curve

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Definition - What does performance curve mean?

A performance curve, also known as a bell curve, is a systematic measure for assessing employees’ performance via a graphic diagram. The diagram features a bell-shaped template representing a distribution scale for the average performance of a workforce, with low/non-performers and top performers falling outside the normative range. From the outset, employers utilized performance curves as a criterion for highlighting job expectations, operating as a sum of the total output and quality of work allotted collectively to employees presenting a disparity of legitimate credentials between personnel.

SureHire explains performance curve

Although bell curves are a conventional model for gauging employees’ performance, polarizing opinions exist surrounding the validity of the measurement tool. Many have a particular issue with using a forced ranking system of appraisal that quantitatively classifies employees by gradable tiers of top performers, average performers, and non-performers. The controversy underlying this performance curve format implicates a level of credit, merit, or proficiency assigned to employees who do not otherwise demonstrate the same caliber of job performance skills as their colleagues. However, many human resource (HR) managers treat performance curves as a valid avenue for all employees to meet company standards, providing an incentive to attain career goals within the purview of performance appraisals.

While some HR executives believe that performance curves serve as a vehicle for leveraging employment status, they can also prove a catalyst in decreasing workplace morale, especially when a uniform designation for job performance applies to a single bracket of workers. Consequently, this can lead to inadvertent fallout where employers can incur high turnover rates and curb employee productivity, given the bell curve’s exclusionary manipulation of data in targeting individual performance within a group. Performance curve analysis produces tangential results that are incompatible with the advancing corporate landscape where collaborative teams are gaining momentum for facilitating business in a growing market of competitors.

Although performance curve graphs set a precedent for the median range of job performance, many employees are erroneously consigned to a placement value that misrepresents the integrity of the results, giving way to a low estimation of otherwise creditworthy and eligible employees. For this reason, many corporations discount the original bell curve method, since it provides a limited review from a single appraiser, whereas an alternative metric such as the 360 feedback appraisal functions on the collective input from different parties including colleagues, managers/supervisors, and the customer base.

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