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Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale: All You Need to Know

Parvathi Vijayamohan

Last Updated:  

7 February 2024

4 min read

If you manage a team of employees, it’s important to have a way to fairly and accurately assess their performance. One popular method to do this is the behaviorally anchored rating scale (BARS). 

In this blog post, we’ll give you everything you need to know about behaviorally anchored rating scales: 

What is a behaviorally anchored rating scale (BARS)? 

A behaviorally anchored rating scale (BARS) is a quantitative method of evaluating employee performance. It uses descriptive ratings (which sounds like an oxymoron, but it isn’t).

In other words, BARS are like vertical scales, similar to ruler markings. But instead of centimeters or inches, it has ratings, with descriptions and examples assigned to each rating. 

The key focus of BARS is behavior; behavior ratings are collected according to specific work criteria. These ratings can be on a five, seven, or nine-point scale.

However, each number represents a level ranging from poor to moderate to good. Also, each level comes with behavioral examples.

How to use BARS in performance evaluations: A step-by-step breakdown

  1. A behaviorally anchored rating scale is a tool to rank specific employee behaviors. Unlike, say, a generic rank for a skill.
  2. For this reason, managers need to choose behavior that is specific to each role.
  3. How do you choose those behaviours? First, use job analysis methods like the critical incident technique (CIT) to identify the essential job duties and requirements for a role. 
  4. Then, use this information to outline the key performance areas and the expected standard of behavior for each area. 
  5. Assign BARS values to each area. Your final scale is ready for distribution. 
  6. In order to evaluate how well an individual has performed, we compare and analyze the ratings alongside the standard.
  7. These ratings are then used as performance benchmarks by the management. These benchmarks help them measure an employee’s proficiency in the areas that matter to them – such as dependability and job knowledge. 
  8. By assessing this data, a company can provide feedback that’s more concise than “You need to work on XYZ.”  

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using BARS in performance management?

+ Pros:

  • A behaviorally anchored rating scale can be an effective tool because it provides both descriptive and numerical data.
  • Through the use of predetermined criteria – such as skill levels, finished tasks completed or quality of work – the BARS provides an objective assessment of employee achievement over time. 
  • By combining traditional ranking scales with behavioral observations, companies are able to provide meaningful feedback that strategically improves their staff’s performance.
  • By using BARS, employers can assess and rank major job responsibilities in terms of their importance.
  • Using this method, managers can gauge whether employee behavior meshes well with the company’s goals.
  • Moreover, BARS focuses on behavior instead of outcomes. That’s helpful for creating a working environment that values learning and improvement over strictly measuring results.

− Cons:

  • Creating a behaviorally anchored rating scale can be time-consuming. Especially if you have a rapidly growing company or fairly specialized roles across teams
  • BARS as an evaluation tool requires intense effort from managers as well as an in-depth understanding of their employees.
  • Assigning weights or determining behavior metrics can be complicated by bias or subjectivity.
  • Developing a behaviourally anchored rating scale often requires the help of experts, especially when applying job analysis techniques. 
  • Fast-changing sectors like SaaS, media and home automation require constant upskilling and re-skilling. A behaviorally anchored rating scale may not be the ideal performance appraisal tool in such cases.

Nevertheless, behaviorally anchored rating scales are one of the most effective forms of performance management available today.

Steps to create a behaviorally anchored rating scale
Steps to create a behaviorally anchored rating scale

How do you implement BARS in your organization’s performance management system?

  • Include key staff in developing and establishing a comprehensive rating scale, as well as any supporting documentation and criteria. 
  • Train all organization members using BARS to ensure that they administer ratings effectively and consistently. 
  • Provide continuous training to managers and supervisors on the use of BARS. This will help maintain a high level of accuracy in performance evaluations. 

A better alternative to the BARS method

ThriveSparrow stands out as a streamlined and user-friendly alternative to the BARS method. Here’s why:

1. Ease of use: Setting up and deploying surveys is straightforward with ThriveSparrow, eliminating the complexity often associated with the BARS method.

2. Flexible customization: Whatever the role or department, you can adapt it to fit your needs. This flexibility ensures that your performance evaluations are always relevant and impactful, offering a level of personalization BARS can’t match.

3. Scales with you: As your organization grows, ThriveSparrow effortlessly scales to meet your expanding needs. This capability allows for efficient feedback collection across any size of team.

4. Track performance trends: Tired of the same tired old spreadsheets? ThriveSparrow’s performance trend chart paints a clear picture of the performance trajectory of your employees across teams.

5. Comprehensive feedback: ThriveSparrow supports 360-degree feedback, incorporating views from peers, managers, and self-assessments. This comprehensive perspective enriches the evaluation process, offering a more complete picture of performance than a typical BARS.

6. Seamless integration: Integrating smoothly with your existing HR tools, ThriveSparrow streamlines workflows and is easy to onboard. Automated reminders and processes ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

Curious about ThriveSparrow? Sign up here for free.

Wrapping Up

A behaviorally anchored rating scale is a tool that managers can use to rate an employee’s job performance. BARS links specific behaviors to levels of performance. This helps appraisers be more objective in their evaluations. 

Although BARS has several advantages, there are also some disadvantages to using this performance appraisal method. If you decide that a BARS is right for your organization, you must create specific behaviors that align with your company’s values and goals. 

Once you have created your custom BARS, you can implement it into your organization’s performance management system. 

Where does SurveySparrow come into this? You can use our survey templates to create your own customized, branded BARS and fancy dashboards to visualize the results and spot patterns. Book a demo with us today to see how our software can help improve your performance management process.

Parvathi Vijayamohan

Growth Marketer at SurveySparrow

Fledgling growth marketer. Cloud watcher. Aunty to a naughty beagle.

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