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6 Min Read

Ensure Fairness and Consistency During Performance Reviews with Calibrations


Here at 15Five, we know the importance of not only running regular performance reviews, but also in ensuring that the process is fair and equitable. With no intentional focus on fairness, it is easy for the review process to be biased and inconsistent across managers and teams, which can cause a lot of frustration and distrust, and undermine the performance review process at your organization.

That’s why we don’t just offer the tools you need to run performance reviews — we also offer Calibrations, a feature that helps HR leaders reduce bias and create consistency across teams and managers. This feature enables HR leaders to compare and adjust performance ratings in real time, right in 15Five.

But there’s always room for improvement, and we’re so excited to share that we’ve made several powerful improvements to our Calibrations feature. 

But first, let’s rewind a bit.

What are calibrations and why are they important?

In our Reviewing the Performance Review Report, we found that the number one concern that HR leaders expressed surrounding performance reviews was ensuring that the review process is fair and equitable. Reviews are perceived as fair when they are consistent, accurate, unbiased, and open to voice and input. When a review is perceived as fair, people will be more willing to accept the outcomes, even if they are undesirable. 

Thus, it is alarming that while 79% of HR leaders and 70% of managers said that the performance review process at their organization is fair and equitable, only half (50%) of individual contributors agreed.

Furthermore, we found that HR leaders (75%) are more likely than managers (66%) and individual contributors (43%) to think that the performance review process provides an accurate representation of employee performance. 

It’s clear that, while fairness and equity are highly valued in the performance review process, many organizations are still not succeeding in designing and scaling a process that actually feels fair and equitable to all members of the organization.

A main barrier to fairness and equity is lack of clarity and alignment around what a particular performance rating actually means. 

For example, let’s say there are two employees with two different managers. Both employees are performing what is considered “at level” for their role. When it comes time for performance reviews, Manager A gives her employee 5 out 5, because she thinks the employee is meeting the expectation of the job description. Manager B, on the other hand, gives her employee 4 out 5, because she thinks her employee is meeting the expectations of the job description but still has room to grow.

Just simply viewing the meaning of a 4 vs. a 5 and/or what number on the scale correlates to “at level” can cause a lot of discrepancy between different managers and their teams. Given the example above, the two teams may both overall be performing at level, but Manager A’s team will appear to be performing better than Manager B’s team, simply because of the difference in how the two managers assigned ratings.

When you get multiple managers who all think about ratings a bit differently, plus a combination of everyone’s implicit biases, it makes creating a fair and objective review process difficult. This becomes even more important when things like pay raises, promotions, or terminations are on the line.

There needs to be a step of the performance review process where performance ratings are reviewed and adjusted to eliminate bias. That’s where Calibrations come in. 

For HR teams running performance reviews, calibration sessions help them ensure performance is being reviewed fairly across teams and managers. Calibration sessions are often used to determine which employees are up for promotion, deserve a compensation change, or need to be on a performance improvement plan.

Updates to Calibrations in 15Five

With Calibrations in 15Five you can visualize the distribution of review ratings across different managers and easily adjust those ratings in real-time, without leaving the 15Five platform.

Many teams have to deal with the headache of importing a bunch of employee data into a massive spreadsheet so that the right people can have a calibration discussion. 15Five makes this process a seamless part of the review cycle, saving HR leaders time, giving managers confidence, and ensuring everyone is making the best decisions possible.  Our features stand out by being: 

  • Fair: Reduce bias and objectively assess performance, promotion readiness, and more.
  • Convenient: Bring your calibrators together and adjust scores in real-time with a simple drag and drop. No more large, complex spreadsheets.
  • Detailed: Compare ratings based on people-attributes such as gender, race, and tenure, to name a few.
  • Transparent: Not sure why certain ratings were changed? Can’t remember who changed what? Refer to the ‘track changes’ activity feed or check the review summary which shows original vs. calibrated scores

“We moved to 15Five because their talent calibration tool allows us to quickly visualize our talent pipeline and make adjustments on the fly, to ensure a consistent and fair talent review process.”

Scott Morgan, Head of People Growth, Pendo

15Five customers have been running Calibration Sessions within the platform for a long time, but our team recently released a few enhancements to make the review and calibration process even smoother.

What’s new in Calibrations?

Drag and Drop adjustments: 

A customizable Talent Matrix helps reviewers to easily visualize, collaborate, and take action as a team. Reviewers can simply drag and drop a participant’s avatar to adjust their rating.

Access to employee snapshots: Reviewers can reduce recency bias and get detailed information on less-familiar employees, like Last Cycle Rating, without leaving the screen.

Collaboration in real time: Reviewers can adjust review answers, flag employees for discussion, and track changes with comments all in one place.

Interested in learning more? Schedule a demo today!

Already a 15Five customer? Learn all about the new Calibrations features here.