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Do away with outmoded staff appraisal system

It is shocking that many companies in Singapore still adopt outmoded policies such as grading their employees on a bell curve.

This ranking system requires the appraiser to use a rigid rating, which may not be fair.

Human resource departments also tend to treat personnel as digits to be accorded fixed gradients in order to fulfil the requirements of the curve.

No individual likes to be pigeonholed in such a manner.

Companies that use the bell curve classify employees into "excellent", "average" and "poor" performers. It is assumed that most will fall neatly into the mid-range, a smaller number will occupy the top of the curve and a few unfortunate individuals will find themselves at the bottom. This is even though all employees may be equally capable.

The average-ranked employees may feel that their contributions have not been appreciated by the management, while the bottom- ranked employees may feel insulted by such a label. Nothing destroys morale faster. There is also the chance that insecure leaders rank sub-par workers highly, as they pose no threat to their position, and put outstanding staff in the average range.

Teamwork and collaboration will quickly disappear under the bell curve system. It is a regressive form of appraisal with more drawbacks than benefits. As the workplace evolves, this mode of ranking has outlived its usefulness and should be done away with.

Simon Owen Khoo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 30, 2017, with the headline 'Do away with outmoded staff appraisal system'. Print Edition | Subscribe