Employee Performance Ratings – Words or Numbers?

Sep 16, 2019 | Performance Management Discussion

So, you’re designing your new employee performance management process and you’re wondering how to rate employee performance. Should you use numbers or words for your overall performance score?

You might be considering a 3, 4 or 5 point scheme with “Outstanding” as the best performance and “Improvement Required” as the lowest.

Or perhaps rather than words, you might be thinking about numbers, e.g. 1 to 5 where 1 is the best performance and 5 the worst. Some people think that numbers are simpler than words, so gravitate towards this.

Well, we tell you how to rate employee performance: Don’t use numbers!

Let me tell you why. PerformanceHub has a great suite of analytical tools, one of which is called a “Rule Breakers Report”. This report will highlights managers who may have done a poor quality review. It works this out by comparing different aspects of an employee’s appraisal to see if they align.

PerformanceHub has analysed tens of thousands of appraisals, over many years and what we have found  is that if you use numbers rather than words, around 10% of managers give an overall rating that’s the total opposite to what they intended! This insight, along with many others, is easy to spot in PerformanceHub’s Analytics and Reporting suite

Our working theory as to why this happens is that some people see a 1 and think “That must be the best rating” – like coming first in a race. Whereas some people see the 1 and think “that’s the worst rating” – like getting a low score in a game. Even with clear guidance as to which number to choose, people just follow their engrained thought pattern. With words, you simply don’t have this issue.

Check out some of the other features PerformanceHub has to offer, and maybe take it for a spin.



PerformanceHub performance management software

Employee Performance Management Software

Get a feel for PerformanceHub with a demo

    You may also like: