Survey: Most Large Firms Calibrate Performance

By Rebecca Hastings, SPHR Dec 15, 2011
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​​Fifty-four percent of HR professionals surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) said their organization conducts formal calibration or group review sessions as part of the performance appraisal process, according to “Performance Management and Other Workplace Practices,” a SHRM Poll released Dec. 15, 2011, in conjunction with APT Metrics.

Sixty-one percent of the organizations that conduct calibration meetings said HR professionals are present at and participate actively in such sessions. Yet 17 percent said HR representatives attend when requested or under special circumstances, and15 percent said they merely facilitate such sessions but do not participate actively. Two percent said HR seldom or never attends.

To calibrate employee performance reviews, organizations bring groups of supervisors together, typically by division or department, to discuss the rationale behind each employee’s performance rating and adjust the ratings up or down as needed to be sure that employee ratings reflect similar standards and expectations.

Although the majority of respondents (63 percent) said employee ratings are changed “infrequently” as a result of calibrations sessions, 35 percent of respondents said such ratings are changed “regularly.”

Inconsistent ratings, cited by 69 percent of respondents, topped the list of most frequent reasons for changing employee ratings. Yet nearly half (45 percent) said ratings were changed because a people manager has learned new information about an employee’s performance during calibration, and 39 percent said they were trying to fit the ratings to a planned distribution.

Calibration sessions increase the consistency of performance appraisals and are a good idea, says Dick Grote, author of How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011). Yet the process can serve another purpose, he noted, by providing managers with greater confidence prior to performance discussions—particularly when such feedback is negative—because managers know that their decisions have been reviewed and confirmed by a group of peers.

Other Findings

Although 98 percent of respondents told SHRM that they had a formal employee performance evaluation process, less than half (46 percent) said they require people managers to attend formal training about the process. Eight percent of respondents said they provide people managers with no training. Forty-four percent of organizations provide voluntary training.

Although the majority of respondents give employees, regardless of their level, the opportunity to provide direct input into their own evaluation, less than 20 percent gather feedback from peers, direct reports or customers.

Eighty-six percent of respondents provide employees with a formal process that can be used to appeal their performance rating.

Respondents to the poll included 510 SHRM members from organizations with 2,500 or more employees. Forty-three percent of respondents came from firms with 25,000 or more employees. Seventy-one percent were employed by firms with multinational operations, while 29 percent were U.S.-based.

Additional information about calibrations is available in HR Magazine.

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.​

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