How to calibrate results from a performance review system

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.

Performance Ratings

What is performance calibration?

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!

How to run an effective calibration meeting

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.

How calibration of the results can run

There are a variety of ways in which calibration of the results gained during performance reviews can run, including:

  • Viewing all the staff with a specific rating band in place, and encouraging other managers to comment (constructively) on anyone who stands out as having a rating either higher or lower than expected.
  • Speaking with all the managers one by one and discussing the evidence with other managers commenting on the evidence, or offering additional behavioural examples to support or challenge the rating.

It’s not about forced ranking

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.

Performance calibration meeting agenda

  • Discussion about confidentiality
  • Review of the rating scale/s employed and what each rating means
  • Initial review of performance distribution of the business unit, including how the distribution compares to the previous performance period and/or desired distribution
  • Discussion of how initial ratings align with the results produced by the business unit
  • Presentation and discussion of each employee’s rating/s and the manager’s explanation /rationale behind the rating
  • Adjustment of ratings, as necessary, to accurately reflect performance over the performance period

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.

For more information, get in touch below for a demo of the Actus System and find out how performance reviews, as part of a performance management system, could benefit your organisation.

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