Do you love pizza? Who doesn’t love pizza? I love pizza. I love pizza so, so much. Such an incredible culinary invention. What about BARS? No, no. Not the type of bars you’re probably thinking of (…where everybody knows your name). I’m referring to behaviorally anchored rating scales (BARS). I love BARS too. Not as much as I love pizza but still, it brought me to this logical inquiry: Why not use pizza to show readers the usefulness of behaviorally anchored rating scales?
Hopefully, I don’t need to explain to you what a pizza is. But what the heck is a behaviorally anchored rating scale? Well, BARS are like old-fashioned rating scales with a little extra pizzaz (see what I did there?)! BARS takes your standard 1-5 type scale and bolsters it with specific behaviors, characteristics, and/or performance measures that reflect each rating. In turn, this provides a more accurate score reflecting some performance outcomes.
Most commonly, BARS is used as a performance management tool (think job performance). On that note, we’re going to have a little out of the pizza box fun with BARS. For our purpose, the performance outcome is the quality of the pizza itself, which might allow us to evaluate one major dimension of a pizza chef’s job performance. If I was running a pizzeria, I’d certainly want to ensure that the pizza-pies served up by my chef[s] are consistent of superior quality, which leads us to our million-dollar question:
What exactly are the characteristics of a top-notch pizza chef (level 5) and how does one even identify that?
Well, it starts with good ole-fashioned research and, lucky for you, I have done decades of research on this topic! All kidding aside, when creating BARS for job performance, you should identify relative performance dimensions, collect information about critical incidents (specific characteristics or behaviors that represent effective and ineffective performance related to the target performance dimension), re-translate (or re-classify) those critical incidents to achieve group consensus and create the final performance rating tool (i.e., behaviorally anchored rating scale). I’m not going to go into detail about that process in this post; we’ll just have to save that deep dive for a future blog.
For this exercise, let’s base our ratings on a pizza chef’s creation of a standard cheese pie. We’ll use a 5-point scale with five representing the highest score and one reflecting the lowest score. Know that I’ve run these critical incidents past a select group of raters to best reflect this dimension of a pizza chef’s performance. We’ve come to a consensus on our critical incidents and so, without further ado…
Ultimately, BARS provides us with the ability to rate performance in a more objective way than your standard numbered scale systems. Another benefit to defining dimensional performance expectations in this way is increased clarity for the pizza chef regarding the standards of excellent versus poor performance. One of the major drawbacks is that it might take a considerable amount of time, energy, and resources to create proper and comprehensive behaviorally anchored rating scales, but depending upon what you’re trying to accomplish, you might very well find that it was worth the effort.