Behavior Based Performance Systems

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Unlike trait-focused methods, which emphasize generic personal characteristics, behavior-based evaluation systems attempt to discern what a person actually does. The relatively tangible, objective nature of these systems makes them more legally defensible than personality scales.

A behaviorally anchored rating system (BARS) defines the dimensions to be evaluated in behavioral terms and anchors or describes different performance levels. When introduced in the 1960s, BARS was claimed to be a breakthrough technology because raters could match observed activity on a scale instead of judging it as desired or undesired.

Such a rating system relies on a customized analysis of the specific job and a breakdown of its component parts. In contrast to trait-based formats, then, behavior-based methods tend not to suffer from either vagueness or lack of job specificity. In fact, that is their strength—they are customized for a job or job group:

Yet this method is often not practical because each job category requires its own BARS; either for economic reasons or because of a lack of employees in a specific job, the approach is often infeasible. Most experts do not find that the potential gains in using BARS warrant the substantial investment the system requires in time and resources.

Overall, then, whatever else trait- and behavior-based systems may do, they are largely silent on the question of what an employee is to accomplish, as they do little to ensure the alignment of goals and future plans except in areas denoted as deficient. For that reason, like trait-based assessment instruments, behavior-based instruments are often combined with a future-oriented or developmental component.

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