How to Increase Consistency in Performance Ratings


Measurer In focus groups with employees, we often ask, “What would make the performance evaluation process meaningful to you?” The most common, off-the-top-of-the-head answer is “make them fair.” In an effort to increase the sense of fairness, and to emphasize the value of consistency across work groups, the practice of calibration is gaining momentum.

In a recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and APTMetrics, 54% of organizations reported that they conduct formal calibration or group review sessions as part of the performance evaluation process. It can increase the accuracy of performance ratings, enhance communication, and break down silos.

In calibration meetings groups of supervisors from the same division or department discuss the rationale behind each employee’s performance rating. Performance calibration meetings provide a forum for discussing the individual performance of employees with the goal of making sure that leaders apply similar standards across the work group. The process helps to ensure that all employees are evaluated on the same criteria regardless of who is doing the rating. Calibration meetings also provide an opportunity for managers to learn how they can increase their ability to observe performance and apply performance standards.

In a calibration meeting, performance ratings are adjusted up or down as needed to ensure that ratings are consistent over work groups and reflect similar standards and performance expectations. Sixty-three percent of the SHRM survey respondents said ratings are changed infrequently during calibration meetings, but 35% said ratings are changed frequently. Rating changes are made because of inconsistency or when a manager learns new information about an employee’s performance during the calibration session.

For calibration to work in the public sector, the agency will need to deliver performance ratings on a focal date, ideally in support of the budget cycle. A neutral facilitator is needed to lead managers through what can be challenging conversations. In the end, taking on the practice of calibration can refocus your organization on what successful performance looks like and encourage discussions about improving performance across the board.

Calibration is one more example of the important conversations that should be taking place in your organization to drive a performance-driven culture. If your agency is struggling to find consistency in performance ratings, maybe calibration is the solution.

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