Behavioral observation is a method used to measure the behavior and value of employees whose job performance cannot be evaluated on the basis of productivity alone. Such measurements are usually made based on a behavioral observation scale that is used to evaluate everyone in a comparable manner. Such scales are generally used to record whether or not an employee engages in a certain type of behavior or action and, if so, how often. Each employee's result can be compared to other employees' results or to some objective baseline for expected behavior. Evaluation of this sort can be used to ensure that an employee is meeting expectation or to determine if disciplinary action is necessary.
Workers who can be evaluated based on productivity are seldom judged on a behavioral observation scale. This is because it is usually possible to quantify, or at least to have a general idea of, how much the worker produces compared to his co-workers and to expected standards. Many workers, particularly those with white-collar jobs that may not necessarily produce anything tangible, must be rated on this scale because there is generally no better way to evaluate their accomplishments.
A behavioral observation scale is generally presented as a questionnaire to be filled out by either the employee himself or his manager, or both. A variety of different questions may be included on such a questionnaire, and responses are usually given in the form of numbers on a scale. The questionnaire may include questions about how often an employee misses work, whether or not he takes excessively long breaks, how often mistakes appear in his work, and whether or not his work must be double-checked regularly. The numbers assigned to each of these and other questions may be evaluated individually or can be added together into a total score that can be compared to the scores of other workers.
Many employers use a scale to assess the performance of new employees in training. Poor performance on such assessments is generally unlikely to result in reprimand, as such evaluations are primarily intended to make the new employee aware of the expectations of his employer. Failure to demonstrate improvement over the course of a series of evaluations may, however, result in reprimand or termination of employment. Such failure to improve may represent an inherent incompatibility between the business and the new employee.