Should We Retain Ranking Exercises? – The Implications on Human Resource

Bell Curve

Bell Curve (Photo credit: hardeep.singh)

In a recent Economist article on “Ranked and Yanked” (16 November), we read about Professor Robert Kaplan from Harvard Business School who had an alternative take on the bell curve rankings adopted by companies to weed out non-performers. At the end of a series of exercises, Kaplan posits that a bulk of average performers will remain within the system, which is typically the case because not everyone will make it to be in a lead position. The pyramidal structure of all organisations will tend to be similar, in that sense whether there be a flat hierarchy or not, the distribution of talent will always take the form of fewer top and many average performers.

These average performers are  the ones who hold the fort and do “good enough” to sustain a momentum while top performers push the boundaries beyond and set the pace. Without the average workers, the system will not be able to sustain itself properly in terms of the momentum needed for the business to carry on smoothly.
What is the major implication on HR systems on ranking exercises? 
Well, this means that the need for a compulsory “D” graders has to be relooked. A “D” grade only means that someone has failed repeatedly in a task which in the first place, puts the onus on the manager who is supposed to engage in training and development, mentoring, etc. to see to the success of the worker. There will be those who genuinely fall under that category not because of incompetence but perhaps from other possible factors like unhappiness that has led them to produce substandard work.

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