A Comprehensive Guide to Performance Calibration

Over 70% of organizations in the US are currently tweaking their performance management process. There’s a reason for this; old processes break down as companies grow, and new processes must replace them.

With so many changes taking place, it’s easy to get off track. Performance calibration gives you a chance to pause and reassess.

Think about it as the review for your review process.

Managers discuss the performance of their employees with the ultimate goal of creating a consistent set of standards. It helps ensure fairness and consistency when evaluating employee performance. That way the scoring process is less susceptible to bias.

Meeting at the end of every review cycle helps managers recalibrate the process. It ensures that different managers review and rate different employees the same way.

You rely on the performance management process to identify your top performers. If your reviews aren't properly calibrated, your top performers could go unnoticed. If they don't feel valued, they are going to start looking for a job elsewhere.

Data from the review cycle determines compensation and promotion decisions. It also determines the allocation of developmental resources for low performers.

Following performance calibration best practices will help:

  • Improve the accuracy of your performance ratings
  • Clarify standards among management
  • Increase the perception of fairness among your employees.

Keep reading our performance calibration guide to learn exactly how to make the process work for you.

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The Role of HR in Performance Calibration

HR is almost always in charge of performance management, and for good reason. Someone has to oversee it all, and no other department is better equipped to do that than human resources.

HR can provide training and resources to managers and team leads on how to conduct performance calibration meetings. They can dig into the data to support managers as they prepare for a performance calibration meeting.

Managers know how performance management impacts employees, but they don’t have a big-picture view of how the process affects the company. HR can make sure the process is compliant with company policies and legal requirements.

Because they have a big-picture view of the process, HR can track and audit the performance calibration process. They can identify and address potential biases and inconsistencies to ensure it is fair and transparent.

While managers review employees, HR can review managers. They can provide feedback and offer to coach managers and team leads to improve the entire performance management cycle. Everyone gets more comfortable with the performance calibration process because they know what to expect.

Best Practices for Performance Calibration

Having a meeting for performance calibration isn't enough. Your performance management review process can be effective or ineffective. So too can the performance calibration process.

It all depends on whether or not you follow best practices for performance calibration.

Start by creating a standardized rating scale or performance criteria. You might standard scales and criteria company-wide or create department- and team-specific criteria. This ensures employees get consistent and fair evaluations.

Don’t just make a change because it sounds good, or it’s one that management is asking for. You should support the performance calibration process with actual evidence

  • Dig into the data
  • Discover how managers rate employees on their performance
  • Uncover discrepancies
  • Think about what kind of data you want to collect that isn’t currently measured.

Performance management software can help you store data related to performance reviews.Learn More

Not only does it boost your chances of creating a better process, but it also makes the process fairer, so employees feel better about any changes.

HR should be present at calibration meetings to encourage open and honest discussions about the process. Ask questions such as:

  • Why did two managers rank the same employee differently?
  • What do managers dislike about the current system?
  • Which teams have the lowest turnover rates, and why?

Part of being involved in the process means helping managers and team leaders avoid biases. For example, HR might talk about or conduct training on the halo effect and horn effect. These biases could cause managers to have an inaccurate impression of an employee based on factors unrelated to their work.

Conducting a Performance Calibration Meeting

Just because HR should be involved in the process doesn’t mean HR has to conduct the process once all the pieces are in place.

How managers rate and review employees is at the core of performance calibration. The process is much more powerful if managers run the performance management calibration meeting.

But, what does that look like?

First, the team lead or manager should work on the meeting agenda. They can work on the agenda with HR and they can get input from other managers to ensure the right topics are addressed.

An agenda might include:

  • Reviewing information and data from the latest performance management cycle
  • Discussing discrepancies, potential biases, and consistencies
  • Redefining the criteria and how it's used during the process
  • Agreeing on a standardized performance evaluation process for the next review cycle

Think about what questions you want to ask (more on that below) and how long you think each portion of the meeting will take. That will help you determine when to schedule the meeting and for how long it should run.

Once you iron all that out, you have to decide who to invite to the meeting. Consider inviting all managers who are part of the process, HR, and senior leadership.

Questions to Ask During a Performance Calibration Meeting

Asking the right questions is essential to the calibration process. You might ask uncomfortable questions, but difficult conversations help you get a performance management system that works.

A few examples of performance calibration questions you might want to ask at your next meeting include:

  • What were the employee's key achievements and contributions during the review period?
  • What areas did the employee excel in and where did they need improvement?
  • Did the employee achieve their performance goals and meet expectations?
  • Are there any mitigating factors to consider? Think about changes in job responsibilities or external factors that could affect performance.
  • Is there a different way to interpret behavior or performance?
  • Is there any evidence to support your assessment?
  • Is there any evidence that disconfirms your assessment?
  • Are there any assumptions you might be making about employees?
  • Would you have made the same judgment if the employee was someone else?
  • Are there any assessments that were difficult to give? Why?
  • What’s your least favorite part of the process?
  • What questions do you wish were on the assessment? And which questions would you get rid of if you could?

Using Performance Calibration Tools

Even if you’re tempted to celebrate the completion of the latest round of reviews, you can’t skip performance calibration. Implementing performance calibration best practices ensures fairness and consistency in employee performance evaluation.

Still worried about how time-consuming and labor-intensive performance calibration can be? It’s a lot easier with the right tools.

By using PerformYard's data and reporting, you can quickly and easily collect, analyze, and compare data without having to do it by hand. It brings together the right information for you so all you have to do is present it at your next meeting.

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