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Case Code: CLHR044
Case Length: 6 pages 
Period: 2016-2017  
Pub Date: 2016
Teaching Note: Not Available
Subject : Human Resource Management
Organization :Infosys & HCL Technologies
Industry : Performance Appraisal Methods
Countries : India

Bell-Curve: A Relative Method to Evaluate Performance or an Arbitrary Process of Stacking Employees?



The use and design of performance management techniques have received significant attention and modification in recent years. The environments in which organizations are operating and competing are dynamic and changing rapidly. This requires constant up-gradation and changes in organizational strategies. Many organizations are redesigning their existing performance measurement techniques to ensure that they reflect the strategies and trends of their current environment. The case describes one of such adjustments in the performance management techniques of some big companies such as Infosys, HCL Technologies, KPMG, and Microsoft. The case depicts the departure of these companies from the bell curve performance management system to a more open feedback and absolute rating system. Different views and opinions of industry experts on the benefits and shortcomings of the bell curve appraisal system have also been discussed in this case. It has been found that forced distribution of the bell curve method creates a feeling of discomfort and injustice among high performers.
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  • 1) Evaluate the bell curve as an appraisal method and comprehend other methods of performance appraisal.
  • 2) Understand what could be the basis for selection of different types of appraisal methods to evaluate employees’ performance.
  • 3) Analyze how the changing needs of the new generation work force influence the strategic decisions of the company?
  • 4) Indentify the challenges behind implementing the feedback and face-to-face appraisal method.
In September 2015, India-based multinational software company, Infosys Ltd (Infosys) announced that during the July–September 2015 quarter, it had discarded the forced ranking system of performance appraisal, the bell curve, for its 176,000 employees and replaced it with an open ranking system. The decision proved beneficial for the company, with the attrition rate falling to 13% during the quarter, compared to 20% in 2014. The senior vice president of human resource development at Infosys, Richard Lobo, said, “One of the big reasons for this (attrition) to come down is because we consciously got rid of the bell curve”. Similarly, another Indian IT major, HCL Technologies, announced in October 2015 that the company was giving up the bell curve performance assessment and replacing it with a feedback-based appraisal system. Asked why such a decision had been taken, Prithvi Shergill, chief human resources officer at HCL Technologies, said, “We are slowly trying to strengthen a culture of dialogue and feedback.....


Bell curve, performance appraisal method, distribution curve, feedback, peer group, employees, HCL Technologies, Infosys

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