A company’s performance management process should give all employees equal opportunity to excel through valuable feedback on their performance. Unfortunately, having an employee’s performance review decided, primarily, by a manager during performance management processes can unintentionally introduce bias into reviews and favor certain employees while being disadvantageous to others.

To rectify and overcome any form of unintentional bias, performance calibration review is one methodology to follow. In this article, we will talk at length about performance review calibration and unpack the following:

What is Performance Calibration?

Performance review calibration is a process in which managers from the same department agree to use a set of standards for reviewing employees. The process ensures that employees get fair and objective ratings during performance appraisals.

The objective is to find a framework that will allow consistency in the evaluation of employees’ performance. By using this procedure, managers can reduce bias in the performance review process and ensure employees’ performance reports are created according to a common set of performance calibration criteria.

Ideally, all managers discuss their ratings before sharing their performance reviews with employees, so they can make any adjustments if necessary. Thus, performance calibration can help managers to ensure that they apply the same standards to all employees and objectively evaluate employees on uniform parameters.

Importance of Performance Calibration Meeting

So far, we have understood that calibration meetings are conducted by managers to set standards for reviewing their employees, create a process to differentiate top performers, and review employee ratings proposed by managers.

Employees highly value fairness. In one study, 85 percent of employees felt their performance review was unfair and hence, considered quitting their jobs!

Let us take an example to understand the importance of performance calibration ratings. Some managers are inclined to give all their employees a rating of 5 since they did everything in their job description. Alternatively, a stricter manager might give their top performers a rating of 3 if they meet the same performance criteria. The strict manager may come up with a reason such as the top performers only managed to meet the set requirements for their role, not exceed them.

In other words, it’s likely that managers want a fair review process, but they can miss the mark if their own review process isn’t compared with others.

The more vagueness there is in the performance review process, the greater is the chance for bias and inaccurate feedback. The process of performance calibration ratings is a great way to remove any form of ambiguity. Thus, a company should prioritize performance calibration meetings since they can help to ensure that review standards are fair, equitable, and balanced across an organization.

Talent calibration meetings also allow managers to identify top performers throughout their organizations and honor these standout employees.

In addition to providing employees with a learning opportunity, these meetings also assist managers in improving their ability to observe employee performance and set performance standards. By having checkpoints before sharing performance reviews with employees, self-doubting managers will gain confidence in their reviews.

Also read: Re-evaluate Your Performance Management Practices

Who Should Participate in Performance Calibration Meetings?

Your organization’s size and structure will determine who would be part of the performance calibration meeting.

Performance appraisal meetings generally involve managers who will complete the performance appraisals along with HR personnel. The HR professionals would provide guidance wherever required. Additionally, having a representative from each department can be helpful for overseeing the process.

In larger companies, involving all managers together at the same time may not be possible. In such situations, it is best to create subgroups within your company so meetings can be managed efficiently, without any form of chaos.

Preparing for Performance Calibration Meeting

A manager or supervisor should prepare performance review appraisals in advance and submit their drafts to senior leaders and/or HR leadership for review. At performance calibration meetings, they should be prepared to get their ratings reviewed or discussed with their peers and managers.

HR facilitators must facilitate the compilation of essential and historical data for the business. This data would include average ratings based on key factors; trends in performance, and the identification of exceptional performers. 

Step-wise Procedure to Calibrate Performance Ratings

When managers have gathered to calibrate their performance ratings, what does the process look like? To give you a better perspective, we have shared detailed step-wise procedures for performance calibration meetings. In order for performance calibration to be successful, there are four key steps:

  1. Evaluation

In order to calibrate ratings, you must understand what the ratings are. Performance calibration meetings should not be viewed by managers as a group activity session of rating employees’ performance. Rather, they must complete the reviews themselves before the meeting and present their findings.

It helps managers if they are given prior training or refresher courses on how to evaluate their employees’ performance, based on the performance calibration process.

  1. Calibration

In a performance calibration meeting, managers should discuss the performance appraisals with some tangible examples and reasoning to support their views. 

When managers share drafts of their performance reviews, their peers may have some suggestions for certain points. It is possible that other managers may feel that a rating for a particular employee is too high or too low, causing some additional discussion.

As a result, the manager may realize their overall rating is not based on performance, but rather on arbitrary decisions. This way performance calibration meeting may help a manager to modify the rating after the discussion.

Another factor to consider when calibrating your system is the comparison of current data with historical data for individual departments and for the entire company. By doing so, a manager can better understand an employee’s performance in your organization as a whole.

  1. Avoid forceful implementation:

    You should not force or even try to retain a consistent distribution of ratings – quarterly, annually, or departmentally. It is quite common for employees to observe some variation in their performance with time. As a manager, you should always remember that consistent performance measurement is the key, not employees’ consistent outcomes.

Calibration can be carried out once all the information has been collected. The managers should adjust employee evaluations as deemed appropriate to align with a company’s objectives.

  1. Feedback:

Once necessary adjustments have been made, managers can communicate their performance reviews with their employees and engage in direct discussions about those reviews. 

At this point, managers should have more confidence in the validity of their reviews. Similarly, employees should feel the same about the evaluation process.

Also read: How to provide constructive feedback to your employees?

Procedure for Kicking-off Performance Calibration Meeting

To get you started with the Performance Calibration meeting, here are the procedures:

Establish a positive tone: Thank participants for attending the Performance Calibration meeting. Make sure participants understand the significance of the meeting and encourage full engagement by stressing the importance of performance calibration.

Ensure confidentiality: Make sure that the meeting’s content, as well as any outcomes, remain confidential. 

Examine rating scales: Before discussing employees’ ratings, take time to review your organization’s scale and system, used to measure performance.

Comparison of performance distribution: You can compare the pattern of performance to the hoped-for performance distribution (decided by managers) or by comparing it to the previous period.

Employee’s performance ratings: In the next section, discuss each employee’s performance ratings. Managers should explain their ratings and explain the rationale for them.

Obtaining opinions: Attendees should be given an opportunity to voice their opinions if they feel an employee’s assessment is biased or if they want to add something to the review.

Adjust ratings as needed: If managers need to change any ratings, they can do so during the meeting.

 

Express gratitude: Express thankfulness to participants for their time and dedication for making sure employees receive honest and unbiased feedback.

Benefits of Performance Calibration Process

Identifying top performers:

Performance appraisals are designed to distinguish top performers from average or subpar performers and to reward and retain high performers. 

Organization benefits:

For HR and senior management of the company, managers’ performance calibration ratings on employees’ objectives, competencies, and other factors help to set benchmark or traits of a top performer. Furthermore, the ratings can be used not only to determine a pay raise but also to make a decision on promotion and development plans. Thus, with the benchmarks set, organizations can benefit from performance calibration massively as performance becomes quantifiable. 

Performance ratings are more accurate:

By calibrating performance ratings, managers are able to provide more accurate evaluations. Calibration problems can chase high performers away if they are not rewarded for their performance. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure performance ratings are accurate and reliable. The performance calibration process ensures that all employees are rated on the same standards. 

Accountability and transparency:

Managers are held jointly accountable for the performance assessment ratings created for all employees. Managers can gain new insight into employees’ performance by discussing their performance collectively. Discussions among peers could bring transparency in regards to the way managers tend to give ratings – which can be generously or sternly. 

Establishment of a new supportive organizational culture:

Performance calibration is a necessary activity for organizations that have undergone a merger or acquisition. There will need to be an alignment of cultures and performance benchmarks. Merging multiple performance principals through the performance calibration meeting can facilitate the establishment of a new reliable and encouraging organizational culture.

Brings clarity:

During a performance review calibration meeting, if a manager shares and clarifies the rationale for the performance appraisal ratings, it would serve as an example for other managers too. 

Consequently, others managers too will be equipped with supporting reasons for the employees’ ratings, next time a Performance Calibration meeting occurs, eliminating any form of bias. This enables the management team to better understand and reinforce the key performance indicators.

Increases the feelings of equitable treatment:

It is important that employees believe their managers are evaluating them fairly, since compensation, promotion, and succession decisions are based on performance evaluations. Also, organizations may face challenges such as low productivity or a high attrition rate when employees feel they are treated unfairly. Thus, when the performance ratings are accurate and clarified, employees are more likely to perceive the performance appraisal process as acceptable.

Conclusion

Performance Calibration is an indispensable aspect of any performance appraisal cycle. It not only ensures that employees’ performance evaluations are unprejudiced and genuine but also makes the working culture conducive for having a successful workforce. 

Therefore, if your company tracks and measures an employee’s performance manually, you can boost it through an automated evaluation system with Performance Review Calibration measures incorporated within it. This can be achieved through Engagedly’s performance review system, with the parameters of Performance Calibration embedded within it. 


Performance review calibration meetings