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Traditional Bell Curve Model May Not Fit Modern Workforce

Researchers say the traditional model that shows gradual distribution of employee performance has been used since the 1950's.

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Photo: Bill Abbott (Flickr)

Research suggests a small number of highly productive individuals drive substantial growth in modern companies.

Business researchers are finding that the traditional bell curve model on employee performance may not fit most companies. According to one researcher, a small number of dedicated individuals may drive a lot more growth in company productivity.

Kelley School of Business Professor Herman Aguinis authored a recent study of nearly 700,000 individuals that assessed employee contribution to a company’s overall performance. His findings discredited the traditional model of employee performance across an even spectrum and instead found that a few employees contributed the most overall.

“The distribution is such that there are many more people that are superstars than are currently believed. So the contribution of a few people to performance is much greater than we believed based on the normal curve,” he says.

Aguinis said these findings could change the structure of most businesses, and could affect the processes of business recruitment, training, and performance management systems.

“Our data have implications for pretty much every intervention related to how you manage people in organizations,” he says.

While these findings apply to many businesses, some have already begun to make changes.

President of Human Resource Firm Schrader and Associates, Chris Schrader said this research is key to implementing successful business practices that can have greater benefits for the company overall and cut unnecessary costs.

“You can spend training dollars and development dollars evenly distributed across your population but the fact of the matter is, you won’t necessarily rise all boats with that and translate that into a superior performer,” he says.

Schrader says his own observance over the years has led to a similar conclusion and this trend is becoming more and more visible in the workforce.

  • Larryhartog

    R, This so true. I experienced it while I was at Kentucky Trailer. 

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