Performance Rating Scale

What is a Performance Rating Scale?

A performance rating scale is a type of measurement used to rate the performance of an employee. It is done by assigning a number on a scale of one to five to rate the performance. Employees are rated on several factors like attendance, competency, time management, and so on. These ratings help understand an individual’s performance and provide direction for growth. It also helps in the collection of performance data to take better talent decisions.

Rating scales can be numeric, alphabetic, or adjective. For example, an employee can be rated on a scale of one to five, ‘a’ to ‘e,’ or ‘satisfactory’ to ‘excellent.’ Companies are now moving towards adopting a more positive rating scales that include ratings such as ‘acceptable,’ ‘effective,’ and ‘very effective.’

What Are the Types of Rating Scales?

BARS (Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale) and five-level management scales are commonly used. Different companies and teams may benefit from different types of rating scales, or even by adopting a modern method of rating scales. The different types of performance rating scales are:

  1. Numerical rating scale
  2. Graphic rating scale
  3. Likert scale
  4. Behaviorally anchored rating scale
  5. Critical incident rating scale

1) Numerical rating scale

In this type of rating scale, employees are rated on a scale of one to five or one to ten. The lowest number represents a low performance and vice versa.

2) Graphic rating scale

Graphic rating scales include rating levels like very bad, bad, good, and excellent where an employee is rated on a single or multiple factors. For example, for the factor ‘teamwork,’ the reviewer may select ‘good’ or ‘very bad.’

3) Likert scale

Likert scale is a type of graphic rating scale where the parameters are ‘strongly disagree,’ ‘disagree,’ ‘neutral,’ ‘agree,’ and ‘strongly agree.’ There are specific statements or questions, with the parameters being the same for each one.

4) Behaviorally anchored rating scale

As the name itself suggests, this type of rating scale uses specific behaviors or examples that act as ‘anchors’ to measure the employee against these standards. An anchor could be anything, from attendance in engagement activities or finishing tasks before deadlines.

5) Critical incident rating scale

An employee’s work is rated against specific incidents or events during the review period. This rating scale captures the best and worst events in work.

What are the Advantages of Rating Scales?

The main advantage of a performance rating scale is that it clearly differentiates top performers from poor performers. Rating scales help quantify and assign a rating to every response. Some advantages of a rating scale are:

Provides simple comparisons between employees

Rating scales involve a specific criteria that helps assess employees in a fair and consistent way. This helps identify underperforming employees and those who cannot improve. Thus, employers can decide if they want to let go of employees or plan training programs.

Speeds up the appraisal process

Rating scales are compatible with companies that have quantifiable goals. They are simple, fair, and less time-consuming, making it easier to assess employees. Once the process is completed, decisions are made regarding a pay raise and promotions.

Sets clear performance standards

Companies can set specific standards for each skill, personality trait, and behavior. This helps the supervisors to compare an individual against these standards. Managers help employees reach these standards and develop specific action plans.

Allows further modification

A rating scale allows flexibility – meaning that other practices like 360-degree feedback, self-evaluation, and continuous feedback can be added to make it well-rounded and less subjective.

Helps take better talent decisions

After rating each employee, supervisors can better understand their strengths and weaknesses. Thus, the right talent is placed in the right role.

What Are the Disadvantages of Rating Scale?

Just as any other performance evaluation method, rating scales may not be compatible with every company. It could be attributed to the company’s growth, employee morale, and other factors. Some other disadvantages of a rating scale are:

Cannot evaluate multiple aspects

When there are multiple aspects of an employee that need to be evaluated, a 360-degree feedback gives a better view of the performance. While a rating scale can be used, it’s too time-consuming for the reviewer.

Unsuitable for long-term use

While many companies did continuously use rating scales for an extended period, it ultimately proved that rating scales are suitable for short-term use. Owing to the fact that a company keeps growing, certain aspects may not even be evaluated, or the standards set might become unrelatable.

Prone to subjectivity

There are chances of misuse by the reviewer, leading to biased ratings. The raters may also have a different understanding of scale levels and employees might be rated inaccurately across the organization.

Does not capture complex behaviors

As rating scales cannot be used to measure multiple aspects, they also fail to capture aspects that are non-quantifiable. In such times, not every rating scale can define the strengths and areas for improvement of an employee.

What Are the Examples of Rating Scale?

Some examples of a rating scale are:

Likert rating scale

There are different statements with the same parameters. For example:

“The employee invests time to stay updated with technology.”

  • Strongly disagree
  • Disagree
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Agree
  • Strongly agree

Numerical rating scale

Employee is rated on a numerical scale of 1 to 5, 1 to 10, or whatever is suitable for the organization. For example,

“On a scale of 1 to 5, how consistent is the individual in meeting deadlines?”

1 2 3 4 5

Critical incident rating scale

Employee is rated during specific incidents in a review period. For example,

“When Employee ‘A’ started working on a project, he underestimated the time and encountered unexpected challenges. As a result, the project was delivered with a delay. On a scale of 1 to 5, what was the impact of the incident on the project?”

1 – Minor

2 – Moderate

3 – Serious

4 – Critical

Graphic rating scale

Multiple factors are rated using the same parameters. For example,


  • Poor
  • Fairly poor
  • Fairly good
  • Good
  • Excellent


  • Poor
  • Fairly poor
  • Fairly good
  • Good
  • Excellent

BARS (Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale)

Employee behavior is rated against specific standards. For example,

“The employee is often impatient, regularly requiring help with work.”

1 2 3 4 5

“Remains calm during a crisis and comes up with a solution systematically.”

1 2 3 4 5

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