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What is the Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS) Method?

Human behavior is subjective, and the employee appraisal process has long been challenging to navigate. Many companies have left it up to their HR departments to sort out which specific behaviors should be valued by the company. Of course, the danger of this lies in its subjectivity. Some companies have switched to behaviorally anchored rating scales to cut through that subjectivity and create rating scales that can be universally adopted and applied.

The behaviorally anchored rating scale (BARS) is a way to boil down the work that employees do into specific performance dimensions and apply a certain numerical value to their work. The variety of performance points that the BARS method covers are superior to what can be gleaned from traditional rating scales because there is just so much more data available. Various performance indicators may be used to paint a full picture of how an employee has performed for the company recently.

BARS Method Examples

It is vital to look at examples of how the BARS method can be used before deciding if it is right for your company. One way that it may be used is to determine the numerical performance of an employee in terms of how they treat customers. With scale points ranging from 5 to 9 (from poor performance to excellent performance), the BARS scale can help employers see how a specific employee is doing in this category.

Before putting this rating scale into practice, it is important to define what the expected and preferred outcomes are as far as employee behavior is concerned. When it comes to something like the treatment of customers, the expected outcome might be that the employee greets each customer who enters the business. The preferred outcome might be that they greet the customer AND provide them with a smile. If an employee does both of these things, then they may receive the highest rating on the BARS scale for their performance on that particular task. Employees who fail to do either of these things may receive a lower score on this performance management scale.

Another example of how the BARS method is often superior to a traditional rating scale is how ratings may be sourced from more than one person. Traditional rating methods relied heavily on the opinion only of the HR representative who happened to handle that specific case. However, the BARS method may prove more useful because it can glean information from other employees who interact with the employee being reviewed. This allows for a more holistic and accurate performance review.

The BARS method is often used in conjunction with the Critical Incident Technique (CIT). This involves taking note of critical incidents, or specific behaviors that had a positive or negative effect on the company. These incidents are then used to help shape the rating scale so that it accurately reflects what the company values in its employees.
When used correctly, the BARS method is an excellent way to get a well-rounded view of employee performance. It can help to create rating scales that accurately reflect company values and assess employee behavior in a more objective way.

BARS Method Pros and Cons

The BARS method has its set of pros and cons. Let’s take a look at some of these before deciding whether or not this is the best way for your company to rate employee performance.


User-Friendly - The BARS method is comprehensive but easy to use. Those who take this on as their way of rating employees often discover that there are not too many hurdles to implementing this new technique. It is designed with HR managers in mind.

Level Playing Field - The use of the BARS method produces a level playing field for all. The standards and expectations from the company are clearly defined, and the numerical rating that one receives is easy to understand and helpful. Employees can see the areas where they are strongest and the areas where they need to improve. They do not have to guess why an HR manager rated them a certain way any longer.

The Opportunity For Constant Improvement - This method has a built-in ability for constant improvement. By using critical incident techniques, one can reach out to experts and others about how they might improve the processes that their company currently engages in to create a better and more constructive space for their employees going forward.

Individualized Feedback - Every situation is different when it comes to managing employees. It is helpful that every employee can receive some personalized and individualized feedback to them specifically. When employees are granted this level of personalization, they can get more from the feedback that they receive. They can learn from the information they receive, and it may even be possible for them to take what they learn from their BARS review and improve upon their performance. Perhaps this can help put them among the 8.9% (on average) of employees who will receive a promotion at their firm this year.


Time-Consuming - There is a reason why some companies only review entire departments rather than each individual within that department, and it comes down to how time-consuming it can be to speak with each individual employee about their performance. This information may be very valuable to the employee, but the amount of work it takes to cycle through each individual on a case-by-case basis like this is more than some employers are willing to take on.

It Requires Frequent Updates - The BARS review that one receives today with its graphic rating scales may become completed outdated in a very short period of time. As employees progress (or regress) in their quality of work, the scale will need to be updated to reflect their latest actions. Needless to say, that kind of thing takes time, and it is not always easy to continue to go back to BARS review sessions time and time again to update them.

Expense - It can be expensive to use the BARS method. From reaching out to people using the critical incident technique to ranking everyone on an individual basis, a lot of time and effort goes into producing the ultimate result of the BARS method. There are companies currently attempting to sort out which methods they should use to rate their employees, and the BARS method is certainly on the table for many of them. However, the expense of using this method may prove to be a deterrent for some, and we have to respect that this may be the case.

Who Is The Bars Method Best For?

The BARS method is best for those looking to create a level playing field, increase transparency in their employee reviews, or decrease the amount of subjectivity that often seeps into these types of performance appraisals.

Large companies benefit the most because they can put the financial backing that a program like this demands. This is likely because the process of conducting BARS interviews with each employee can be very time-consuming, and larger businesses are more likely to have the resources available to dedicate to this task.

In addition, businesses that operate in fast-paced environments or industries may find the BARS method to be especially beneficial. The BARS method can provide employees with more specific and actionable feedback that they can use to improve their performance.

Need Help With Your Recruiting Strategy?

The BARS method can be used in recruiting to help identify potential candidates that have the desired skills and experience your company needs. If you need help attracting quality candidates, Lumina can help. Our tool quickly generates videos from your existing job ads. These videos are populated with your job requirements and promote your brand to help you stand out from the competition and attract higher-quality candidates. Try Lumina today!