Here’s a great post written by Josh Bersin that’s gotten a lot of attention in the past few days: The Myth of the Bell Curve. As I mentioned several weeks ago, more and more evidence shows that employee performance in the 21st century does not follow a bell curve, and that forced stack ranking is a destructive practice.
As Josh explains, employee performance more typically follows a power law (or Pareto) distribution with a sharp peak of just a few highly performing employees, followed by a long tail of what might be considered below average performers. But a better way to think of the distribution is of a set of hyper-performers embedded within — and often tremendously helped by — a large pool of normal performers. Yes, there are occasionally truly poor performers, but it makes no sense to arbitrarily label 5-10% of all employees as such. In fact, even without forced bottom rankings, there are several ways in which the assumptions behind bell curve-driven evaluation schemes hurt performance and undermine the teamwork and collaboration essential for success in a modern information-based economy (or academic environment).