The modern professional needs several skills for success at work. Effective problem-solving. Smart decision-making. And powerful communication.

But they also need another key trait: reliability. Being dependable at work makes them an indispensable part of a team. You know you can count on someone reliable. They’ll never let you down.

Definition Of Reliability

How we define reliability is based on a variety of tests. Every metric or method we use must adhere to the definition of reliability.

Something can be said to have high reliability when it delivers similar results under consistent conditions. In the corporate context, it is useful to analyze the performance of an employee or to see whether a particular business decision is working or not.

The measurement of reliability is conducted in the four most common ways. The traditional approach, as practiced by psychologists, is to measure three types of consistency:

  • Over Time (Test-Retest Reliability)

  • Across Items (Internal Consistency)

  • Across Different Researchers (Inter-Rater Reliability)

Because the definition of reliability grew from educational measurement, many of the measurement of reliability terms we use to assess and define reliable comes from the testing lexicon. A fourth standard method of measurement of reliability is Parallel Forms Reliability. It checks for the same or very similar results to define reliable.

Meaning Of Reliability

When we look at the meaning of reliability, all data monitored in management reports must be considered. All performance indicators must be specific and carefully established, measured, and reported to enable effective operations and maintenance supervision. The meaning of reliable is based on indicators that are consistently and accurately measured and reported.

The meaning of reliability is the very foundation of an organization’s stability, consistency and longevity. To define reliable is critical when it comes to business operations. For a telecoms network company, for instance, it is important to study the performance of their signal towers over some time and in different seasonal conditions.

If your phone network keeps fluctuating erratically, you will face a lot of inconveniences, won’t you? It is the same with organizations and the reliability of their processes, manufacturing units, and their logistics. Everything must be constantly checked for reliability and consistency.

The Four Types Of Reliability

1. Inter-Rater Reliability

The extent to which different raters or observers react and respond with their prognosis can be one measure of reliability. When different people measure, observe and judge the outcome, there is almost always a variance in the definition of reliability.

How many times have you been disappointed by a movie even though all the reviews you read about the movie gave it a good rating? Or think of the points received by a gymnast by a panel of five judges.  Now, if the points awarded are high and close to each other—say all judges awarded points within a range of 7 and 9 out of a total of 10— then one can safely assume the gymnast is good at her sport.

In Definition of Reliability, even highly-trained experts will disagree among themselves when observing the same phenomenon.

2. Test-Retest Reliability

As a consumer, will you offer a different set of responses when nothing about your experience or your attitude has changed? You would avoid restaurants where you feel the quality of the food keeps fluctuating, wouldn’t you? The restaurant’s managers may claim that they have not changed anything about their ingredients, cooking method or ambiance.

In this type of test, the meaning of reliability is checked by making the participants answer the same questions twice at two different times. That is why it could be important for an FMCG company to study the habits of the same set of consumers over months or years.

3. Parallel Forms Reliability

This checks for consistency of the results of two tests constructed in the same way from the same content domain. In other words, the versions of the assessment tool are different but they test the same skill. Getting the same or very similar results from slight variations on the question or evaluation method also establishes reliability. You’re looking for high correlations and no systematic difference in scores between the groups.

4. Internal Consistency Reliability

It is used to assess the consistency of results across items within a test. This is by far the most commonly-used measure of the meaning of reliability. It requires only one sample of data to estimate the internal consistency reliability. For example, if a respondent agrees with the statements “I like to eat crunchy chocolates” and “I’ve enjoyed eating Choco Crunch in the past”, they are less likely to disagree with the statement “I think Choco Crunch is far too crunchy to be tasty”. In effect, we are judging the reliability by evaluating how well the items that reflect a similar construct yield similar results.

Things To Keep In Mind

  • Reliability is the consistency of a measure or method over time

  • There are four standard measures of consistent responses

  • Although in most cases, one or two tests are sufficient to understand the reliability of the measurement system, it is always better to use as many measures of reliability as you can

  • Collect reliable data. They affect the validity of your measures, and ultimately the integrity of your decisions


The four types of reliability tests discussed above provide a broad framework for selecting the most appropriate approach that meets your objectives.

Harappa Education offers an excellent online course called Establishing Trust. This collaborative teamwork course will give you the tools to build and maintain trusting relationships by focusing on credibility and openness, being empathetic, and prioritizing your team’s needs. Trustworthiness is reliability. The meaning of reliability at the workplace primarily means being accountable, honest, and dependable. Sign up now and learn about building workplace trust and becoming a reliable employee.

Explore topics such as Building Relationships, Types of Power, Expert Power & Types of Reliability from our Harappa Diaries section.



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