How Organizations Can Rate Employees Fairly

When it comes to performance ratings for employees, different raters can use different standards of how to rate people. Frame of reference (FOR) training is intended to get all raters on the same page and reduce idiosyncrasies. Raters are said to be high on idiosyncrasies when their ideas about performance do not match up with the organization’s standards of performance.  Raters are said to be low on idiosyncrasies if their ideas about performance are similar to the organization’s standards of performance. The authors of this article (Uggerslev & Sulsky, 2008) wanted to determine how FOR training would affect the two types of raters, those who were high on idiosyncrasies and those who were low on idiosyncrasies.

In the study, undergraduate students were asked to rate teacher performance. These students were identified as being high in idiosyncrasies or low in idiosyncrasies.  The participants were then randomly assigned to FOR training or control training. Results from the study indicate that raters higher in idiosyncrasies benefited the most from FOR training, but overall everyone who received the FOR training improved, regardless of their level of idiosyncrasy. Another interesting note from the study was that every trainee was idiosyncratic to some extent about what dimensions are needed to be an effective teacher. In conclusion, FOR training appears to be effective for everyone and not just people with alternate schemas about performance. Organizations may consider various efforts to get all raters on the same page prior to making performance ratings. This will help streamline the rating process and maximize fairness to all employees.


Uggerslev, K. L., and Sulsky, L. M. (2008). Using frame-of-reference training to understand the implications of rater idiosyncrasy for rating accuracy. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(3), 711-719.