Common Appraisal Methods 2: Narratives, Forced Choice & Forced Distribution

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  • 0:02 Narratives
  • 0:49 Forced Choice Technique
  • 2:13 Forced Distributions
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
An important part of performance management is designing and implementing performance appraisals. In this lesson, you'll learn about different methods used for performance appraisals, including narratives, the forced choice technique and forced distribution.


Lisa is a manager in the human resources department of a toy manufacturing company. She's breaking in Tanya, the newest addition to her team. Today, Lisa is explaining some of the performance appraisal methods that the company employs. She starts with a discussion of narratives.

A narrative, also called an essay, is simply a written analysis of an employee's performance. It's one of the oldest appraisal methods. Lisa tells Tanya that she can think of it as a written performance report on an employee. The method is very individualized and qualitative in nature. Lisa explains that this method also takes a long time and is subject to a high degree of bias from the person writing the essay given its subjective nature. Additionally, it's very difficult to compare employees using this method given the lack of quantitative measures, such as numerical rankings or scores.

Forced Choice Technique

Lisa moves on to explain the forced choice technique. Lisa explains that in the forced choice technique supervisors are given a series of multiple-choice questions regarding the employee. Each question asks the supervisor to select one choice from a list of traits or behaviors related to performance. The list of choices for each question will contain only negative or only positive traits or behaviors. Thus, sometimes supervisors must select among only positive traits or behaviors and sometimes supervisors will have to select from only negative traits or behaviors. Since these choices are either all negative or all positive, the supervisor does not know which answer is the best answer.

Lisa explains that this method tends to provide less biased results from supervisors. Of course, supervisors often don't like the technique because they want to determine whether the appraisal is good or bad and the technique takes that control away.

Tanya asks for an example, and Lisa is happy to provide one. A question may ask a supervisor to pick one of the following that best describes the employee: always on time, willing to work late, good team player or demonstrates initiative and independence. Tanya looks confused and asks Lisa which one is the right answer, and Lisa smiles and tells her that's the whole point. The questions are designed to get a realistic picture of an employee's performance, rather than a biased one where all the 'good' boxes or 'bad' boxes are checked off.

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