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Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS) | Working, Benefits and Limitations

Last Updated : 18 Apr, 2024
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In the world of performance appraisal and employee assessment, various methods and tools have been developed to provide more accurate and comprehensive evaluations. One such method is the Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale, commonly known as BARS. BARS can be defined as a structured approach that combines the benefits of both narrative descriptions and numerical ratings to assess an individual’s performance.

BARS

What is Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS)?

Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS) can be defined as a tool used for evaluating the performance of employees based on their behaviour. The Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale was first introduced by Smith and Kendall in the early 1960s. It was developed as an improvement over traditional rating scales, which often lacked clarity and consistency in performance evaluations. BARS aims to provide a more detailed and objective assessment by combining behavioural descriptions with specific performance criteria.

How does BARS Work?

BARS is typically created through a multi-step process involving job analysis, expert input, and data collection. A general sequence for the working of BARS can be described as:

1. Job Analysis: Before implementing a BARS system, it is crucial to conduct a thorough job analysis. This involves identifying the key behaviours or competencies that are essential for success in a particular job role. Job incumbents, supervisors, and subject matter experts are often involved in this process.

2. Behaviour Descriptions: Once the key behaviours are identified, a team of experts describes these behaviours in observable and measurable terms. These descriptions are specific and tailored to the job role in question. For example, if punctuality is a critical behaviour, the description might be, “Consistently arrives on time for work, meetings, and appointments.”

3. Anchoring: The heart of BARS lies in the “anchoring” process. This involves creating a rating scale with specific performance levels or categories, often ranging from “unsatisfactory” to “outstanding.” Each level is anchored with the behaviour descriptions created earlier. This ensures that the scale is behaviourally based and that the rater has clear guidelines for assigning ratings.

4. Evaluation: During the evaluation phase, the rater assesses an employee’s performance by comparing their behaviour to the anchored descriptions. This process helps in determining which level on the rating scale best represents the observed behaviour.

Benefits of using Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS)

1. Enhanced Clarity and Specificity: BARS guidelines provide detailed, behaviour-based descriptions of performance expectations. This clarity helps both employees and raters understand precisely what constitutes good or poor performance.

2. Improved Consistency: BARS uses anchored scales, reducing subjectivity that can arise in traditional rating systems. This leads to more consistent and fair evaluations, especially when multiple raters assess employees.

3. Development-Oriented Feedback: BARS facilitates the provision of specific feedback on behaviours and actions. Employees can use this feedback to understand what they need to improve, enhancing their professional development.

4. Customisation: BARS can be customised to match the unique requirements of different job roles within an organisation. This ensures that performance evaluations are relevant to the specific responsibilities of each position.

5. Alignment with Organizational Goals: BARS can be designed to align with an organisation’s strategic goals and values, ensuring that employees are evaluated based on behaviours that contribute to the company’s success.

6. Transparency: BARS guidelines create transparency in the evaluation process. Employees have a better understanding of the criteria used to assess their performance, which can improve job satisfaction and motivation.

Limitations of using Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS)

1. Resource-Intensive Development: Creating and maintaining BARS guidelines can be resource-intensive. It requires a significant investment of time, expertise, and effort to develop accurate and relevant behaviour descriptions.

2. Rater Training: Raters may need training to effectively use BARS guidelines. They must understand how to apply the behaviour descriptions and anchoring scales consistently and fairly.

3. Subjectivity: Despite its structured nature, some level of subjectivity can still be introduced. Raters may interpret behaviour descriptions differently, leading to variations in ratings.

4. Limited Applicability: BARS is most effective for roles with clearly defined and observable behaviours. It may be less suitable for assessing performance in roles where outcomes are less tangible or measurable.

5. Time-Consuming: The process of evaluating performance using BARS can be more time-consuming than using simpler rating scales. This can be a drawback in organisations where efficiency is a priority.

Challenges and Considerations of using Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS)

While BARS is a valuable tool, it’s not without challenges:

1. Resource: Developing and maintaining BARS can be time and resource-intensive, particularly for organisations with a large number of job roles.

2. Training: Raters may require training to effectively use BARS, as it involves a more complex evaluation process compared to simple numerical ratings.

3. Subjectivity: Despite its structured approach, some subjectivity can still be introduced in the rating process, as raters interpret and apply behaviour descriptions differently.

Conclusion

The Behaviourally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS) is the most powerful method for evaluating employee performance. By combining specific behaviour descriptions with numerical ratings, it offers a more comprehensive and objective assessment. When implemented effectively, BARS can contribute to better employee development, improved performance, and fairer evaluations within an organisation. However, it is essential to invest in proper training and resources to make the most of this evaluation tool and ensure its success in the workplace.



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