If you use a performance review system (or if you don’t… yet!) and use performance ratings, you’ll know that rewarding staff in line with employee ratings can be a contentious topic. It presents a challenge for many businesses, which is why having a calibration process in place is an essential step to ensure fairness and accuracy when ratings are awarded.
Put simply, performance calibration is the process of ensuring the performance ratings and evaluations obtained by staff using your performance review system are consistent and fair. This has to apply across a business, and should NOT involve sitting in a dark room while senior managers tweak ratings in line with their subjective viewpoints!
You need to invite managers to attend who are of a similar level within the business, or in some cases within a specific business division. They should come ready to represent either their own direct reports or possibly the direct reports of managers that report into them. It is important they are briefed that they need to have specific examples/behavioural evidence that supports the rationale for a particular performance staff rating. This is where a good performance review system can help, as it provides an audit trail which managers can use to support and provide evidence of good staff performance. It is also very important to have a neutral facilitator at the performance calibration meeting who will run the session.
The calibration meeting provides a forum for discussing the individual performance of staff, with the goal of making sure that managers have applied similar standards across the board. The process helps to ensure that all employees are evaluated on the same criteria – no matter to whom they report. This is helpful to employ when you use a performance review system because the review discussion does not have any third party input.
These meetings also provide an opportunity for managers to learn how they can increase their ability to observe performance and apply standards, which very often is a powerful learning experience for managers and will help them improve on the content they input into the performance review system. Until the business is able to calibrate effectively, this is a key reason we don’t recommend attaching remuneration to the rating.
There are a variety of ways in which calibration of the results gained during performance reviews can run, including:
It is important to note that ideally, calibration should not include forced ranking or distribution. The distribution of ratings should be examined across various groups in the organisation and managers should discuss whether they fit with the overall business or team performance. Ratings should be adjusted through agreement only and managers should be prepared to feedback any changes in rating to the staff member.
The use of an employee performance management system can greatly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of performance calibration meetings. Technology provides HR and business unit leaders with immediate and direct access to individual and aggregate level performance evaluation data. All participants in performance calibration meetings can collaborate using technology to review performance ratings, supportive comments and historical data.