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Graphic Rating Scale
Graphic rating scales can simplify the performance evaluation process, are easy to use, and can provide objective and reliable data. Read on to learn about different forms of this tool and how to implement them effectively.

What Is a Graphic Rating Scale?

A graphic rating scale is a method of performance evaluation that compares the performance of team members to the ideal traits required for their respective roles in a company. This rating scale is typically used by department managers to quantify the performance of team members and provide information about their skills and areas of improvement. The rating scale consists of categories or dimensions of work, which team leaders use to provide team members with a score. There are various types of employee rating scales, including five-point rating systems, Likert scales, 10-point rating scales, alphabetic scales, behaviorally-anchored rating scales (BARS), goal status scales, observation frequency scales and development scales.

Types of Graphic Rating Scale

There are multiple types of graphic rating scales. Here are some of the most common:
  • Five-point rating systems. This is a type of rating scale where employees are rated on a five-point scale, usually ranging from poor to excellent. This simple and easy-to-use system is commonly used in performance evaluations.
  • Likert scales. This rating scale asks employees to rate their agreement with a statement, usually on a scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. This is commonly used in surveys and employee engagement assessments.
  • 10-point rating scales. Employees are rated on a 10-point scale, usually ranging from poor to excellent. This is similar to the five-point rating system, but offers more nuance in the ratings.
  • Alphabetic scales. This scale rates employees using letters of the alphabet, usually ranging from A to F. This is similar to the five-point rating system, but uses letters instead of numbers.
  • Behaviourally-anchored rating scales (BARS). This is a type of rating scale that combines elements of qualitative and quantitative data. It uses a series of specific, observable behaviors that employees should be exhibiting in their job role to evaluate employees on a 1-5 scale.
  • Goal status scales. This is a rating of measurable progress towards predetermined set goals or objectives. This is most commonly used in goal-setting and performance management.
  • Observation frequency scales. Observation frequency scales are a type of performance rating scale that measures how frequently an employee exhibits specific behaviors on the job. These behaviors are typically related to specific skills or competencies that the organization wants to develop or improve and are usually done on a sliding scale from “never” to “always.”
  • Development scales. Development scales are used to measure an employee's potential for future growth and advancement within the company. This type of rating scale assesses an employee's skills, abilities and potential for development, rather than their current performance. The ratings are based on various factors such as job knowledge, ability to learn and adapt, communication skills, leadership potential and other relevant attributes.

Pros and Cons of Graphic Rating Scales

Like every tool, graphic scales come with their own list of pros and cons. Some of them to keep in mind are:

Pros of Graphic Rating Scales

  • Easy to use and understand. Graphic rating scales are considered easy to use and understand because they typically involve rating employees on a defined set of criteria or behaviors. This can make it easier for managers and employees alike to understand the expectations and standards for performance. Additionally, graphic rating scales often use clear and concise language, making them easily accessible to people at all levels of the organization.
  • Low cost to develop. This holds true particularly compared to more complex assessment methods such as assessment centers or 360-degree feedback. They can be developed in-house or purchased from a vendor and can often be customized to fit an organization's specific needs.
  • Simplifies the evaluation process. As graphic rating scales provide a clear framework for evaluating employees, they can simplify the overall process. Instead of relying on subjective judgments or vague assessments of performance, graphic rating scales provide concrete criteria for evaluation. This can make the evaluation process more objective and consistent across managers and departments.

Potential Cons of Graphic Rating Scales

  • Not everything is quantifiable. These types of evaluations are not able to define all strengths and areas for improvement an employee may have. Rating scales can only give an idea of quantifiable progress and actions such as promptness, productivity and goal progress. They are not able to fully quantify more abstract but equally valuable skills such as performing well under pressure, strong communication skills and empathy.
  • Subject to bias. As the scales are subject to interpretation, they are vulnerable to bias. If an employee is self-evaluating, the scale is subject to the employee’s own ability to self-evaluate accurately. If you’ve ever met an arrogant or self-conscious person, it’s clear how these cognitive biases can color a self-evaluation. Additionally, studies have shown how an attractive physical appearance can impact the evaluation of others. This is called the “halo effect.”
  • Less feedback. The use of rating scales can sometimes result in evaluations that lack detail. This can lead to a lack of specific feedback for employees.

How to Design and Implement a Graphic Rating Scale

Now that you understand graphic rating scales, how is one created and implemented? Designing and implementing a graphic rating scale involves careful planning, development and testing. It's important to ensure the scale aligns with its purpose and is easy to use and understand for both raters and employees being evaluated. With this in mind, here’s a straightforward step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Identify the Purpose

First, you need to determine the purpose of the graphic rating scale. What do you want to measure and how will it be used? For example, do you want to measure employee performance, potential for growth or a specific skill set?

Step 2: Select the Type of Rating Scale

Choose an appropriate rating scale type that aligns with your purpose. Consider the type of data you want to collect and the level of precision you need. Here are a few examples of what scales collect what data best.
  • Likert scales. Likert scales are best suited for gathering attitudinal data, such as opinions or perceptions of employees. For instance, an HR team might use a Likert scale to gather information about employee satisfaction with the company's benefits program, asking employees to rate their level of agreement or disagreement with statements like, I am satisfied with the benefits offered by my employer.
  • Behaviorally-anchored rating scales (BARS). BARS are designed to capture specific behaviors demonstrated by employees. They are particularly useful for evaluating performance in roles where specific actions or behaviors are important for success. For example, a BARS could be used to evaluate a customer service representative with specific behaviors like listened actively to customer concerns or responded promptly to customer requests included on the scale.
  • Goal status scales. Goal status scales are used to measure progress towards specific goals or objectives. This type of scale is best suited for evaluating performance in roles where objectives can be easily defined and measured, such as sales or project management. For example, a goal status scale could be used to evaluate a sales representative's progress towards their quarterly sales target, with specific milestones and targets included on the scale.

Step 3: Define the Performance Dimensions

Define the specific performance dimensions that will be rated. For example, if you are creating a rating scale for customer service, you might include dimensions such as friendliness, responsiveness and problem-solving skills.

Step 4: Develop and Test the Scale

Depending on the type of rating scale you have chosen, you may need to create statements, questions or behavioral descriptions that align with the performance dimensions. Each item should have a corresponding rating scale, such as a Likert scale or a numerical scale. Then you’ll want to test the scale to ensure it works as intended. Get feedback from a sample group of employees or managers and make any necessary adjustments to the scale.

Step 5: Provide Training

Train the raters on how to use the rating scale effectively. Provide examples of good and poor performance for each dimension and explain how to use the rating scale to rate performance. As these tend to be very user-friendly, usually a written explanation of expectations and how to fill out the questions is adequate. The complexity of the training depends on the complexity of the questions.

Step 6: Collect Data and Analyze the Results

This step is to follow through with using the graphic rating scale you’ve developed. Depending on the purpose, this can be done through self-evaluation, supervisor evaluation or peer evaluation. Once the data has been collected, analyze the results by looking for patterns and trends to identify areas of strength and areas that need improvement for each employee.

Step 7: Provide Feedback

Provide feedback to employees based on the results of the rating scale. Use the feedback to help them improve their performance and achieve their goals. This should be done considerately and with tact. Employees should be well informed on what the results mean and how the results directly tie to their compensation, opportunities and security in their position. Results should be communicated in an easy to understand way that respects the privacy of each individual.

Step 8: Evaluate the Effectiveness

Finally, evaluate the effectiveness of the rating scale. Did it achieve its intended purpose? Were the results meaningful and useful? Use the feedback received to make any necessary adjustments to the rating scale for future use.

Graphic Rating Scale Examples

There are many scenarios in which graphic rating scales prove to be an effective tool. Here are a few examples:

Performance Evaluation of Sales Representatives

A five-point rating system could be used to evaluate the performance of sales representatives. The scale could include criteria such as sales volume, customer satisfaction and teamwork. The data collected would be quantitative, providing a measurable way to evaluate sales representatives' performance. A five-point rating system is a good fit for this scenario because it provides a straightforward and easy-to-understand way to evaluate employees' performance based on specific criteria.

Training and Development Program Evaluation

An observation frequency scale could be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a training and development program. The scale could include behaviors such as attendance, participation and engagement during the program. The data collected would be quantitative, providing a measurable way to evaluate employees' engagement during the training program. An observation frequency scale is a good fit for this scenario because it provides a simple and effective way to track employee progress and engagement.

Talent Management and Succession Planning

A development scale could be used to evaluate employees' potential for development and growth within the company. The scale could include criteria such as leadership potential, willingness to learn new skills and adaptability. The data collected would be qualitative, providing insights into employees' potential for development and growth. A development scale is a good fit for this scenario because it provides a structured way to evaluate employees' potential for career advancement and future success within the company.
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Kayla Farber

Kayla Farber

Kayla is the Chief Innovation Officer at Hero Culture, where the passion is to create company cultures of retention using the power of personality.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
360 Review
9 Box Talent Review
Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS)
Demotion
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Employee Monitoring
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Multi-Rater Feedback
OKRs
Organizational Development (OD)
Performance Improvement Plans
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