traditional methods of performance appraisal

Performance appraisals are a critical part of any organization’s human resource management. These appraisals help to measure an employee’s performance against pre-defined goals and objectives, as well as evaluate their potential future contributions to the organization.

Traditional methods of performance appraisal have been used by most organizations since time immemorial, and are still used by many corporations today. This article will cover the basics of traditional methods of performance appraisals, including their structure and purpose:

Types of performance appraisal

Performance appraisal is an important element of human resource management and is conducted in a variety of ways. Organizations typically choose from three main types: traditional methods, modern methods, and 360-degree feedback.

The traditional method of performance appraisal involves the evaluation of an employee’s performance by their supervisor or manager. This may include looking at metrics such as attendance records, productivity metrics, goal achievement targets, customer feedback surveys, and more.

The modern approach to performance appraisal focuses more on the employee’s professional development and skills enrichment. This type of appraisal includes activities like:

  • Focusing on strengths and weaknesses identified by employees themselves.
  • Personal career development plans created by employees with the help of their managers.
  • Setting individual or team goals to be achieved.
  • Taking part in simulations and role playing exercises.
  • Participating in self-assessments or peer assessments.

360-degree feedback involves collecting evaluations of someone’s performance from peers, subordinates, supervisors, customers/clients/suppliers, as well as self-evaluation. The aim is to provide a comprehensive view into the strengths and weaknesses of an individual that can then be used to bring about improvements in areas where needed.

Traditional methods of performance appraisal

Traditional methods of performance appraisal are used to evaluate an employee’s performance and potential. These methods include written reviews, oral appraisals, 360-degree appraisals, and ranking systems. Each traditional method has its own advantages and disadvantages, which should be taken into consideration when deciding which one works best for your organization.

Let’s examine the pros and cons of each traditional method in detail:

Graphic rating scale

Graphic rating scale is one of the oldest and most common methods of performance appraisal. It is a traditional approach that relies on a numerical or graphic scale for rating employees’ performance, usually on a range from excellent to poor.

This system requires the supervisor to fill out a form that lists all of the job duties and skills for which the employee is being evaluated. For each duty or skill, there is usually a particular range within which supervisors mark how well they think the employee performed that task or skill. The range may vary from job to job, but normally it will go from outstanding to unsatisfactory, with multiple points in between such as excellent and poor.

The advantages of this method are its cost-effectiveness, simplicity, and objectivity. It encourages an individualized evaluation process; increases consistency among jobs related in terms of scope and task requirements; and establishes a clear comparison between actual performance and expected standards.

A major disadvantage can be over-reliance on subjective ratings due to inter-rater bias whereby one supervisor may rate an employee more favorably than another would have done in the same circumstances.


A checklist is one of the simplest, most straightforward traditional methods of performance appraisal. Essentially, it involves setting specific criteria (clearly defined job requirements) that an employee must meet in order to demonstrate job performance. A supervisor or manager rates the employee’s performance by checking off if they have met each requirement noted on the checklist. Something like rated-scale approach or free-criticism style cannot be employed with this method since it’s binary – either a piece of criteria is fulfilled or it is not.

Checklist-style appraisals are quick and easy for supervisors to complete and can quickly provide information about an employee’s performance in a quantifiable way. However, there are some drawbacks to this method of evaluation. Primarily, it does not provide any insight into an employee’s actual strengths and weaknesses – it only indicates whether certain criteria have been met or not met. Additionally, because checklists may be more narrowly focused on certain measures of success than other methods, they could also lead managers to overlook important aspects of a job that cannot be easily checked off a list, such as:

  • Developing relationships with customers
  • Creative problem-solving skills

that might contribute to a successful performance overall but are not directly addressed on a checklist.

Forced choice

Force choice is a traditional method of performance appraisal that focuses on ranking employees in relation to each other. This is done by allowing the manager to rank all their subordinates and choose which of them are performing optimally and which are underperforming.

The ratings used in force choice usually consist of specific adjectives such as “excellent”, “above average”, “average” and “below average”. The rankings may also be accompanied by numerical values or be based on a subjective evaluation from the manager.

The main benefit of this appraisal technique is that it encourages competition between colleagues and drives them to improve their performance over time. In addition, it provides a clear assessment for supervisors in terms of which employees need training and resources in order to improve their work performance.

However, this method also has some drawbacks including:

  • Discrimination against certain groups such as women or minority races;
  • Subjectivity which can lead to unfair evaluations; and
  • Lack of nuance when evaluating some more complex tasks or skills.

Essay method

The essay method of performance appraisal is a traditional and widely used form of evaluation. It involves writing out reflective and self-critical assessments of individual performance over a specific period of time. This type of appraisal is not quantitative, but relies instead on the employee’s subjective appraisal of his or her own accomplishments and areas needing improvement.

Essay evaluation takes into account both positive and constructive feedback, offering an opportunity for employees to recognize their personal weaknesses while still promoting growth. It is based around the idea that employees are best motivated when they are offered an opportunity to become aware of their own strengths and development needs, in turn giving them the insight to drive further progression.

The essay method requires supervisors to meet with employees for at least one hour to allow for open dialogue about strengths, weaknesses, successes, obstacles and opportunities for improvement in job performance. Additionally, supervisors should:

  • Identify areas where new skills could be developed or particular behaviors modified in order to improve effectiveness.
  • Actively encourage feedback from staff members on ways to achieve greater efficiency in job roles.

Once the individual has identified areas for improvement or skill acquisition objectives can be set as part of any further appraisals/development plans tailored for each individual employee that are based on the impact this may have upon overall staff morale and performance outcomes aimed at meeting desired organisational objectives.

Ranking method

The ranking method is the oldest and simplest method of performance appraisal. It involves managers and supervisors ranking employees within their class or department against each other on how well they are performing. This is done by assigning a numerical value (grade) to each employee, e.g. 1 for best, 2 for second-best and so on. The numerical values are then grouped together according to an employee’s performance, e.g., 1-3 as excellent, 4-6 as good, 7-9 as average, 10-12 as poor, 12+ as unacceptable etc.. The resulting ranking list is then typically used for salary reviews or promotions & dismissals decisions.

The main problem with the ranking method is that it does not take into account individual employees’ contributions to the organization – only their relative performance compared to other employees in that vicinity/department/group etc.. If an employee performs excellently compared to their peers but could have achieved better results if given more resources or training then this would not be factored into these rankings and subsequently not considered in any resulting decision making processes (e.g., salary review).

Another issue with this approach is that it produces a ‘status quo’ mentality where the same people remain at the top of the rankings regardless of new entrants or changing circumstances within the organization – removed from place setting any long term goals which would make everyone stretch themselves further than they currently do.

Critical incident method

The critical incident method of performance appraisal is a traditional approach, focused on an assessment of workplace behaviors. This method is commonly employed to identify and record specific occurrences that demonstrate employee behavior – both positive and negative – within their job role. Following the collection of diary notes or records over an extended period, the critical incident technique allows these observations to be arranged into a systematic approach to performance appraisal.

Performance appraisals based on this method involve categorizing events into ‘positive critical incidents’ (actions demonstrating high levels of performance) and ‘negative critical incidents’ (actions that did not meet the expectations of the job role). These events can then be used to provide examples relevant to employee development, clarification concerning workplace expectations or any other goals related to workplace performance through both the positive and negative occurrences. This can allow for more effective feedback enabling employees to understand what is expected from their work and clear evidence-based objectives when it comes assessing them in their positions.

Overall, this tool provides an extensive analysis of what is considered as ‘good’ or ‘desirable’ in terms of behaviour within a particular work context. Providing management with additional information with which they can improve motivating employees based on achieving exemplary results or identifying areas requiring further improvement in relation to job responsibilities.

Advantages of traditional methods

Traditional methods of performance appraisal rely on face to face interactions between managers and their employees. These methods provide an opportunity to discuss performance in detail, as well as give employees an opportunity to raise any issues they may have. They also provide employees with feedback that is appropriate to their individual needs.

Let’s take a look at the advantages of traditional methods of performance appraisal:

Easy to understand

Traditional methods of performance appraisal are generally easy to understand and, therefore, they are less likely to cause confusion or misunderstanding. These methods involve using a form or checklist which makes them straightforward and easy to comprehend.

Organizations also typically require supervisors to give clear, quantifiable feedback (e.g., “performance meets standards” versus “good job”) when completing the evaluation form or checklist so that all employees are held to a similar standard of performance. Additionally, supervisors may explain the ratings the employee receives during face-to-face feedback sessions, further reducing confusion and promoting a shared understanding of individual performance levels.


Traditional methods of performance appraisal are generally cost-effective. They require little to no financial resources and are relatively quick to complete. For organisations with a limited budget, this makes the traditional appraisal process a viable choice compared to the more expensive alternatives such as 360-degree feedback or computerised systems.

In addition to costing less, traditional methods can also be time-efficient. Once the process is set up and documented, appraisals can take place within an hour, ensuring that personnel objectives are achieved in a timely manner. Furthermore, the gathered data is easy to store and analyze; supervisors or senior staff can quickly review inputs from subordinate employees on short notice.

Traditional methods of performance appraisal have been established for many years, making them surprisingly resilient despite changing working dynamics or technological advances. Consequently, this type of management strategy continues to be popular among organisations seeking cost-effective and straightforward approaches for appraising their personnel’s performance capabilities.

Easy to implement

Traditional methods of performance appraisal are easy to implement, as they are straightforward and require minimum effort from the management. Unlike newer and more complex methods such as 360-degree feedback, which requires an elaborate preparation and planning, traditional models only require data collection and analysis.

Additionally, employees may be more familiar with traditional appraisal models than with newer and more complex ones, therefore taking less time to adapt to them.

Another advantage of a traditional performance evaluation is that it is based mostly on tangible results of job performance such as objectives achieved or projects completed; making it easier for a manager to give feedback and make assessments on their employees’ job performance. Traditional methods also generally rely on numerical ratings making it easy to compare between different employees. Finally, traditional performance evaluation methods have been used in organizations for many years, making them familiar and well established in most companies.

Disadvantages of traditional methods

Traditional performance appraisal methods for evaluating employees’ performance have been widely used by employers for many years. This type of evaluation involves making judgments or ratings of employees on basis of measurement criteria such as productivity, accuracy, punctuality and other quantitative factors. While this method may be able to provide objective data, there are some potential disadvantages to consider when evaluating its effectiveness.

In this article, we will be discussing the drawbacks of traditional methods of performance appraisal:


Subjective appraisals are heavily biased. Traditional methods of performance appraisal usually involve supervisors or managers assessing their subordinates’ performance by providing subjective feedback. This can often be done with an unstructured approach that doesn’t provide a standard set of criteria or measurement tools to accurately assess one’s ability. The lack of objective data taken into consideration can lead to biases, such as:

  • Favoritism/nepotism
  • Assumptions/stereotyping
  • Inadequate feedback due to a superficial understanding of the employee’s strengths and weaknesses.

As a result, subjective appraisals may not represent the true nature of an employee’s capabilities and can lead to inaccurate information being used in decision-making. Additionally, individuals may be less likely to provide honest feedback for fear of repercussions from those who operate in positions higher up the chain of command.

Time consuming

Performance appraisals are often a time-consuming process for both managers and employees. Gathering information from all relevant parties, completing the appraisals, providing feedback and then following up by setting goals and objectives can be a daunting task. This can lead to delays in the completion of the appraisal, putting additional strain on staff workloads. Furthermore, manual processing of performance appraisals requires a significant amount of paperwork which can also add to the workload.

Traditional methods also require face-to-face assessment. This may not always be possible due to geographical distance or other restrictions such as limited resources or time constraints. Additionally, if there is an unforeseen setback in the schedule such as sickness or unavailability of staff or managers, this may further delay performance appraisal review schedules.

Another disadvantage of traditional methods is that they rely heavily on subjectivity which can lead to bias in rating employees’ job performances along potentially unfair parameters. This could mean that their performance may be judged on personal opinions rather than actual evidence and objective criteria. The lack of standardized measurement tools with traditional methods also affects the accuracy and consistency of rating results as different assessors often employ different measuring scales and criteria when evaluating employee performance.

Lack of objectivity

One of the main drawbacks of traditional methods of performance appraisal is that they can suffer from a lack of objectivity. Subjectivity can have an effect on the overall outcome of the performance assessment, and this makes it difficult to make accurate evaluations about an employee’s job performance.

By giving appraisals based solely on the subjective opinion of a supervisor, organizations risk overlooking critical details, such as:

  • How well employees are performing against established goals
  • Their level of skill in areas they may not receive direct feedback on, like customer service or positive attitude

Without taking these into account, traditional methods can result in appraisals that fail to adequately represent employee performance accurately.


The traditional methods of performance appraisal are still popular despite many innovative methods being introduced in the last few decades. These methods are simple to understand, easy to administer and require less time consuming in comparison with others. Hence these methods offer significant advantages over other modes of appraising employees’ performance.

However, these traditional ways come with certain drawbacks such as subjectivity, rating errors, leniency towards employees etc., some of which have pushed organizations to gradually move away from them towards more scientific evaluation systems like 360-degree feedback, behaviorally anchored rating scales etc., that offer more accuracy and precision.

In conclusion, Traditional Methods remain a valid option for managers in measuring their teams’ performances with their own set of advantages that are likely not achievable through modern means alone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a traditional performance appraisal?

A: A traditional performance appraisal is a system of review and evaluation that relies on managers providing employees with periodic feedback and ratings on their job performance. It typically involves an annual review, where the employee’s performance is assessed against predetermined criteria and goals.

Q: What are the benefits of traditional performance appraisal?

A: Traditional performance appraisals have several benefits, including providing an opportunity for managers and employees to openly discuss job performance, promoting employee accountability and helping managers identify areas of improvement. They can also help to ensure that employees are being held to the same standards, and that rewards and recognition are given to those who exceed expectations.

Q: What are the drawbacks of traditional performance appraisals?

A: Traditional performance appraisals can be time-consuming and may not accurately reflect an employee’s overall performance. They can also create an atmosphere of anxiety and stress for employees, making them reluctant to take risks or ask for help. Additionally, they can be subjective and biased, leading to an unfair evaluation of an employee’s work.

Hansica Kh.