June 23, 2018

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Calibrate Performance Review Ratings Across Your Management Team

If you are a manager who takes the responsibility of doing performance reviews seriously you are probably frustrated with the process. It’s far from a perfect science but one thing is certain, if promotions and other career decisions are based in part on the performance reviews of employees, it’s important that managers are consistent in how they evaluate employees.

Impossible you say? One way I’ve helped managers get more in synch with one another is to facilitate a “calibration session” just before performance reviews are conducted with employees.

A calibration session catches the “easy graders” and “tough graders” and helps them rate their employees more realistically. In addition, managers who are not dealing with problem performers are challenged to provide honest feedback and a plan of action. At the same time top performers are identified and the company’s talent can be managed more proactively. Here’s how it works.

I ask the manager team to come to the session with rough drafts of all the performance reviews for their direct reports. In addition, I ask them to force rank their employees from lowest to highest performing. They bring copies for everyone.

We set ground rules for the meeting that set the expectation that they will be open, honest and use specific examples in our discussion. We start with the best performers on everyone’s lists and plot them on a wall chart that indicates results as well as the interpersonal and customer skills necessary for success.

Discussion is robust. Managers who have worked with the individual being discussed provide their own perspectives and examples of the employee. Someone might give an example of an exchange between this employee and his own employees, or share something he saw the employee do when the person’s manager wasn’t around.

This session needs to be facilitated by a neutral party with no vested interests and with no political attachments. Sacred cows need to be roasted and probing questions should be designed to provoke reflection and open discussion.

Recently, a management team challenged one of their peers to rate one of his employees higher than he was planning to. In another case, the group agreed to move a good employee into a job that fit her skills more closely.

Occasionally a manager will admit the employee didn’t meet his goals but will want to give a good rating anyway. The healthy dialogue challenges the manager to reconsider his rating and come into line and hold the employee accountable.

The outcomes of a calibration session are many. And over time, a leader team gets more skilled at the process.

Here are some outcomes you can count on:

  • The leader team takes ownership of the talent they share among them, not just for their own direct reports.
  • They hold each other accountable to enforce high standards.
  • The leaders use the same language and have a shared understanding of the competencies and expectations of behavior.
  • Hard and easy graders are influenced and come into line with their peers.
  • Decisions about high and low performers are made and supported as a group.
  • Every employee has the benefit of more than one rater assessing their performance.
  • Senior manager(s) in the room see first hand how their mangers are developing and managing their human resources.

If you’ve never had a calibration session with your manager team I urge you to consider it. Not only is it the right thing to do for your employees, it’s a great leader development process for your entire management team.

- Joan Lloyd

Internal Consulting Skills for HR Professionals is Joan Lloyd’s intensive, interactive full-day workshop for HR practitioners. Human resources professionals—both functional experts and generalists—have a new found opportunity to act as internal consultants who can help their organizations with organizational changes, performance coaching, conflict mediation and other value-added services. This workshop focuses on giving HR professionals the tools and strategies they need to help their organizations as well as advance their careers.

As a participant, you will have an opportunity to work on the problems and opportunities you face in your own organization, as well as to hear innovative ideas from other organizations. Few training opportunities provide this level of intimate, hands-on experience. Call us for information about having Joan Lloyd work with your HR Team (800) 348-1944. (Occasionally, we run this workshop as an open enrollment training offering. Subscribe to Joan Lloyd’s “Article of the Week,” where we announce these sessions, as they are scheduled.)

Joan Lloyd has a solid track record of excellent results. Her firm, Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding. This includes executive coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, customized leadership & presentation skills training, team assessment and teambuilding and retreat facilitation. Joan also provides consulting skills training for HR professionals. Clients report results such as: behavior change in leaders, improved team performance and a more committed workforce.

Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (800) 348-1944,, or

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