A Step-by-Step Performance Review Calibration Guide


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Is your employee appraisal process held back by inconsistency and uncertainty? Performance review calibration could be the solution to your problems.

Article 4 Minutes
A Step-by-Step Performance Review Calibration Guide

Employee performance reviews should be a source of opportunity for your business and its workforce. The company gets to learn more about its employees, their strengths and potential for development, while individuals receive valuable feedback on how they're progressing.

However, the unfortunate reality is that this process can often be difficult and unproductive for all involved, especially when it's poorly planned and managed.

One of the most common problems HR leaders should be aware of is inconsistency in appraisal procedures. This can lead to confusion and perceptions of unfairness if employees feel they're not getting the credit they deserve, or they see co-workers receiving more recognition for the same standard of work.

If this has been an issue for your company in the past, you could benefit from performance review calibration.

What is performance review calibration?

Performance review calibration is an effective way to remove bias and unpredictability from employee appraisals, and consequently ensure every member of the workforce is properly acknowledged and rewarded for the work they're doing.

It provides a structured workflow that managers can follow to maintain regular practices and send clear messages to staff about what's expected of them and how their conduct will be assessed.

This can be vital if you're seeing inconsistencies in how managers rate their direct reports. For example, one team leader might give an employee who adequately fulfills the essential responsibilities of their role a score of five out of five, while another might score the same person only three or four, because they're not pushing themselves to a higher standard. 

Both of these approaches can be positively motivated. The former manager may want to reward workers who are delivering steady results and doing the basics well, while the latter might prefer to reserve the highest performance ratings for those who excel and exceed expectations.

However, from the employee perspective, these differing methods could be considered misleading and potentially unfair, especially if the ratings influence decisions around promotions and pay increases.

That's why a clearly defined and systematic review process can prove vital if you want to ensure everyone is being treated equally.

Performance review calibration step-by-step

Performance review calibration can help you achieve this consistency by ensuring every manager appraisal is subject to the same checks and analysis before feedback is passed on to employees.

Step 1: Set out a clear performance plan

A key first step is to outline a performance plan that ensures everyone in the business - from senior executives to new recruits - has a unified understanding of the standards they're expected to uphold and how this connects to the company's broader strategy and objectives.

Having this fundamental structure in place makes it easier for managers to work in harmony with one another and to set goals and expectations for employees.

Step 2: Decide on your rating scale and definitions 

Another crucial step when adopting performance review calibration is the selection of performance rating scales for your workforce. There are many factors to consider here, such as how many points to include in your scale, whether to use descriptive rankings or stick to numbers, and the possibility of using dedicated structures to evaluate certain capabilities, such as soft skills.

Make sure key information including what the different ratings actually mean and how they relate to standards and development is clearly conveyed to staff.

Step 3: Collect peer feedback and employee self-reflections

Once the fundamentals are in place, you can move on to collecting the data required to accurately assess individuals and the results they're delivering for the business. This will involve asking people to complete self-evaluations, collecting feedback from their peers and accessing any other available sources of insight into the level of performance.

Step 4: Complete manager evaluation

Managers combine the information gathered in step three with their own knowledge and thoughts to formulate their initial appraisals of particular employees. This is then passed on to a dedicated group comprising senior managers, HR representatives and any relevant departmental stakeholders for the calibration process.

Step 5: Calibrate employee ratings

Arguably the most important point in the entire workflow, this is where the vital work is done to ensure consistency and fairness across all employee ratings. The people brought together to oversee the calibration process will engage in activities such as talking to managers about how they reached their conclusions, comparing and contrasting the findings of separate reviews and making changes where necessary so all ratings are standardized and fair.

Step 6: Deliver results and feedback to employees

After the calibration work has been done, line managers can deliver the final results and feedback to their staff. This should happen in one-to-one meetings, with employees being given the chance to ask questions, share opinions on their performance and work with management to plan the next stages in their professional development.

This establishes a strong foundation for every member of the workforce to continually benefit from the performance review process and achieve positive results for themselves and the business.

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