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What Is a Qualitative Performance?

K.C. Bruning
K.C. Bruning

Qualitative performance is an open-ended assessment method. It is a compilation of responses that are used to gauge success, provide information and devise ways to improve the subject in question. The technique is often used alongside its opposite — quantitative performance, which is measured with finite statistics about the subject. Qualitative performance typically is meant to provide detail and variety that cannot be found with uniform groups of facts.

Making a qualitative performance review reveals different shades of meaning. It gives significance to statistical information. Looking at performance from a qualitative perspective can often explain the reasons for statistics better than a review of data alone. The results of a qualitative performance review are also typically more complex and comprehensive. This is primarily because there are fewer restrictions with this kind of approach.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

Using the qualitative method can help uncover characteristics of the subject that are not clear to people who are involved with it on a regular basis. Depending on the number of participants in the review, it can provide a comprehensive view of the subject or simply give a few new insights. Without the restrictions of rigid questions, it is more likely that there will be fresh discoveries in the results. On the other hand, quantitative performance results can reveal new insights only with patterns of statistics.

One of the most common ways that conducting a qualitative performance review begins is with the gathering of information via surveys, interviews and other direct-response methods. Data can be collected on one occasion or compiled over time. For example, employees might keep journals or other records of their progress with the intent of later sharing them for analytical purposes. The open-ended format of the qualitative method can yield useful revelations, but it also can be helpful to have some guidelines for the responders to follow. This also can ease the process of categorizing and analyzing results.

Another step of qualitative performance analysis is the review of collected information. To draw meaning from the results, it is typical to create categories. A researcher might go into the project with categories in mind. It is often more useful for the nature of the data to be allowed to dictate at least some — if not all — all the categories.

After the information is arranged in categories, it is possible to make a comprehensive review of the results. This can include analysis of both detail and the big picture. The latter reveals patterns, and the former often explains what those patterns mean.

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