Types of Performance Reviews

Performance reviews can track the output of even the most diverse workforce. However, knowing which type of evaluation will yield the data you need can be a challenge. Could your enterprise benefit from one of the following methods?

360-Degree Appraisal

360-degree (or feedback) appraisals are popular because they offer insight into an individual’s interactions and performance areas. Coworkers, supervisors, and even clients are asked for feedback regarding an employee’s actions.

This method of collecting performance data provides a comprehensive examination of the areas within its scope. However, there are also opportunities for personal bias to creep in. For example, an employee may excel at an assigned task, but if he or she has personal issues with any of the assessing individuals, he or she may receive an unwarranted bad review. Conversely, a professional may not have the right skill set for the job but is so well-liked that the assessment is artificially inflated.

Management by Objective

Management by objective (or objectives) occurs when a person and his or her superior set a measurable goal that must be reached within a specific time period. This makes success or failure easy to assess. This is particularly common for evaluating the performance of managers, whose individual duties may otherwise be difficult to define.

However, management by objective isn’t suitable for all job types. For positions whose duties already have specific directions, this type of evaluation adds a needless layer of complexity. It may also lead to the pursuit of short-term goals above long-term objectives. For responsibilities related to more lasting changes, another type of assessment should be considered.


A variation of management by objective is the checklist, where a rater is given a list of traits and behaviors and is asked to determine whether or not the employee possesses these qualities. This method can be simple to administer and is adaptable across many fields. It can also assess individuals at any level in the company. However, even a trained rater may have difficulty interpreting what qualities the subject exhibits, particularly if the terms are poorly defined. There can also be problems deciding which traits are most important.

Forced Choice

A forced choice assessment is another type of checklist. This tool presents the reviewer a series of statements regarding the employee’s performance. The evaluator must decide which are true. This reduces the opportunity for bias, as the assessor must choose whether the assertion is accurate or not. The difficulty is in creating easily understood and assessed statements.

Rating Scales

Rating scales are popular because, though they take some time and effort to develop, they’re adaptable and comprehensive. Usually, rating scales have multiple categories an individual receives a numerical rating in. These are then added and averaged for an overall score. Companies using rating scales often require a baseline level of performance from their employees.

The adaptability of rating scales means they can be used to assess any type of job performance, which is particularly handy within companies that favor certain characteristics for specific duties or want to measure a common set of abilities at different levels. Handling the first is a simple matter of switching forms when judging these divisions. The second can be compensated for by placing different weight on the assessment categories.

Although rating scales are flexible and adaptable, they also leave ample room for error. Raters, for example, may have difficulty understanding what they’re being asked to assess. They may also be biased towards generosity or strictness, just as with 360-degree assessments. Rating scales introduce a different type of partiality, though; when used over time, reviewers tend to gravitate towards average ratings, leading to a lack of differentiation.

Forced Distribution

The forced distribution method has fallen out of favor in recent years, but some companies still use it. With this method, a supervisor is required to rank his or her personnel on a normal curve. The employees must be equally distributed according to the standard percentages.

Although this method reduces the tendency to assess everyone as being average, forced distribution is associated with a number of problems. In fact, the basic assumption of a normal distribution in a trait is extremely problematic. Few traits are distributed on a normal curve, which means this assessment form is innately artificial. It can also lead to personnel conflicts.

Some companies use professionally developed tests and assessors to determine their employees’ skill levels. Employees can either go to an assessment center or have the test administered at the company. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages.

Assessment Centers

Assessment centers administer a variety of tasks that test aptitude in different dimensions. The participants perform in teams, and the simulations are aimed to accurately measure skills necessary to perform in an actual work situation. Although these centers can accurately determine whether a candidate has the capabilities needed for the job, technical proficiency may be overshadowed by the test-taker’s interpersonal skills or lack thereof.

Using assessment centers also presents logistical problems. Sending people to them can be costly. If there isn’t one in your area, someone has to pay for lodging and transportation. Examining several people is expensive, while picking only a few can lead to personnel conflicts.

Performance Test

Effective performance tests can accurately assess a person’s aptitude for a subject. However, they may not dependably measure current ability in the area. Depending on your perspective, this can be a bug or a feature. The main problem with performance tests is that developing them can be expensive, and reliable testing requires trained administrators. Teaching or hiring experienced administration is another expense, and unqualified test-givers may lead to inaccuracies.

What’s Best for Your Enterprise?

The best reviewing systems use different methods of assessment. By customizing a survey based on these prototypes, you can address the weaknesses of one method by using another. Once you find the right system for your business, you can reliably collect long-term data and follow up on commercial goals. Other methods may be trendier, but a handmade system will ensure your business’s capabilities for a long time. For more information on putting together an evaluation exclusively for your team, sign up for our performance review creation tool today.

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