Approaches for measuring performance of employees

Measuring performance of employees is the backbone of any organization’s management. Business owners usually measure employee performance by assessing how much contribution the employee is making to the firm’s growth. This is conveyed to the employee at the time of their performance appraisal. Performance appraisal refers to the evaluation of employees, providing them with valuable feedback and creating a positive effect on future performance. Employee performance depends upon a number of factors such as;

  • conducive work environment
  • work profile
  • compensation
  • bonus system
  • job satisfaction
  • company policies
  • technology

These factors play an important role in determining the employee productivity and hence the overall organizational development.

Organisation can use one or mixed approaches for measuring performance of employees

Different approaches of measuring performance

Organisations can use different strategies and approaches for the purpose of measuring performance of their employees. The five major approaches are:

  1. Comparative approach,
  2. Attribute approach,
  3. Behavioral approach,
  4. Result Approach and
  5. Quality approach.

Each of these approaches differ in characteristics and suitability. A firm can select any one or a combination of these approaches on the basis of their business goals and management type.

Comparative approach of measuring performance

Comparative approach involves ranking an employee’s performance with respect to that of others’ in the group. Individuals are ranked on the basis of highest to the lowest performer. There are several techniques for comparative approach such as forced distribution technique, paired comparison and graphic rating scale (Noe 2008). Forced Distribution technique involves ranking employees in groups.

For example a group of top performers constituting 10%, a group of average performers constituting 40%, another group of good performers constituting 40%. Finally, a group of low performers constituting the remaining 10%.

This ensures reward for the top performers. Given proper training and guidance these top performers can be promoted to higher managerial positions. While the poor performers are given chance for further improvisation or dismissed, if their performance does not meet the standard requirements. This will in turn causes new talent hire (Martocchio 2011).

The system ranks the employees on the basis of categorisation rules rather than on their performance. In such cases employees with higher rankings would get better pay than those with lower rankings though they may not deserve it.

In Paired Comparison Technique the organization compares one performer with the other and assigns a score of 1 for the higher performer. The final performance score is the summation of all the winning points.

Comparative approach is undertaken in case of firms with a small group of employees with similar job profiles. Therefore, the disadvantage is that it is unsuitable in case of firms with a large number of employees or a firm with different job profiles. Also, since the scale is based on subjective judgment, there is a high chance of bias (Taylor et al. 2007).

Attribute approach of measuring performance

In this system, the employees are rated on the basis of a specific set of parameters such as:

  • problem solving skills,
  • teamwork, communication,
  • judgment, creativity and
  • innovation.

Graphic Rating Scale entails rating the employee on a scale of 1 to 5 (lowest to highest). Mixed rating scale is a more layered form of measurement. In the first step, the employee is rated as high, medium or low on a given set of parameters. Each parameter is then broken down and scaled as above (+), equal (0) or below (-) (Shaout & Yousif 2014).

The major disadvantage with attribute approach of performance measurement is that of subjectivity. In other words it may be heavily reliant on the nature of the evaluator. Another limitation of this method is that it is accurate at identifying only the best and the worst performers. However, the advantage of this method is its simplicity, because of which most organisations go with it (Landy & Conte 2007).

Behavioural approach of measuring performance

This is one of the oldest performance measurement techniques. The Behavioural approach consists of a series of vertical scales for different dimensions of the job. This can be done using BARS technique or BOS technique. The Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS) technique consists of five to ten vertical scales. These scales are based on parameters (called “anchors”) which are decided consensually from all employees. Employees are then ranked on each of the anchors according to their performance.

On the other hand, Behavioural Observation Scale (BOS) is an recent version of BARS. It provides a more specific description along with frequency in regards to the employee behaviour for an effective performance. The overall score is the average of all these frequencies. Although the Behavioral approach is suitable for the reliability and accuracy, the major drawback in this approach is the voluminous data that the managers have to remember. Supervisors tend to remember only those behaviours that define closely to the performance scale which leads to a biased rating (Bohlander & Snell 2010).

Result approach of measuring performance

This approach is a simple and straight-forward concept, wherein  organisation rate employees on the basis of employee performance results. The first type of result approach is the Balanced Scorecard technique. This technique focuses on four perspectives namely:

  1. financial,
  2. customer,
  3. internal & operations and
  4. learning & growth.

The second approach is Productivity Measurement and Evaluation System (ProMES). It is very effective in motivating employees for enhanced productivity and measuring the feedback. It consists of four steps. The first step is to identify the objectives which the organisation want to achieve. The second step measures how well these objectives are made. While the third step involves how effective are they in evaluating the employee performance. Finally, the last step gives feedback to the employees. Organisations calculate an overall productivity score as a summation of the performance scores of all these factors.

The main advantage of result-based approach of performance measurement is that it converts strategy into operations with a more holistic view. It takes into consideration the external environment of the job such as like customers and learning and growth. It does not simply rely on financial indicators of job performance. However the disadvantages are the lack of focus on human resource aspect, and absence of certain key stakeholders in the indicators (Gomes & Romao 2014).

Quality approach of measuring performance

This approach focuses on improving customer satisfaction by reducing errors and achieving continuous service improvisation. This approach takes into consideration both person and system factors. Also employers take regular feedback on the personal and professional traits of the employee from managers, peers and clients to resolve performance issues. The Quality Approach mainly focuses on the use of Kaizen process in order to continuously improve the business processes. The advantages of this approach includes:

  • assessment of both employee and system,
  • problem solving through teamwork,
  • use of multiple sources to evaluate performance and
  • involvement of both internal and external factors

However practitioners of this approach believe that this approach does not correspond with quality philosophy of an organisation (Noe 2008).

Benefits of using performance measuring approaches

Organisations can use all these approaches together effectively to evaluate the employee performance. This has positive impact on employees’ motivation and they tend to perform better. They can identify their strengths and weaknesses and work on improving their skillsets. Since the employees are well aware of the organizational goals, they can also work on improvising their skills further to achieve them. Employee performance enhances the communication between an employee and the supervisor to discuss job duties and work related issues for a healthy work environment. With the changing trend, more recent techniques and approaches are being formulated to measure employee productivity and organizational performance.


  • Bohlander, G. & Snell, S., 2010. Managing Human Resources, Mason: Cengage Learning.
  • Gomes, J. & Romao, M., 2014. Advantages and limitations of performance measurement tools: The balanced scorecard. In 7th IADIS Information Systems 2014 Conference (IS 2014). Madrid: ISEG School of Economics and Management.
  • Landy, F. & Conte, J., 2007. Work In The 21St Century: An Introduction To Organizational And Industrial and Organisational Psychology, New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill Education.
  • Martocchio, J., 2011. Strategic Compensation: A Human Resource Management Approach, Noida: Dorling Kindersley.
  • Noe, R., 2008. Human Resource Management, New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill Education.
  • Shaout, A. & Yousif, M., 2014. Performance Evaluation Methods and Techniques Survey. International Journal of Computer and Information Technology, 3(5), pp.966–979.
  • Taylor, T., Doherty, A. & McGraw, P., 2007. Managing People in Sport Organizations: A Strategic Human Resource Perspective, Oxon: Routledge.

Abhisikta Dey

Research consultant at Project Guru
Abhisikta is a Bachelor in Economics from Calcutta University and a Masters in Business Administration in field of Finance & Marketing from Birla Institute of Managementand Technology. She has worked as a Business Research and Advisory Manager withGenpact, Evalueserve and Reliance Industries for 10 years. She has been a team player and a mentor to most of her peers and team members. She takes pride in her children and loves her work as a research consultant. In her spare time shetakes keen interest in travelling, socializing and dance.
Abhisikta Dey

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