Forced Ranking definition

A ranking system, also known as the vitality curve, forced distribution or rank and yank, grades a workforce based on the individual productivity of its members.

Members, most often employees but sometimes managers, are graded into groups A, B, or C. A employees are the most engaged, passionate, charismatic, open to collaboration and committed. B workers do not display as many of the positive qualities of A employees but are crucial to the organisation’s success because they are so abundant. In contrast, C employees are commonly non-producing procrastinators.

Forced ranking is a controversial technique because it focuses on making relative comparisons between a company’s best and worst employees using subjective criteria. It’s effectiveness also tends to peter out after a few years because C employees will often leave the company once they realise where they have been ranked, resulting in a smaller concentration each time the grading is carried out.

Despite the criticism, forced ranking is popular within large organisations because it’s a relatively easy and economical way to improve worker efficiency.


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