Calibrate To Motivate

Pam Brown

HR Director at Gallagher

Learning Objectives

In this presentation, learn about the benefits of Performance Calibration and specific instructions and resources to perform this process successfully at your organization. Pam Brown, CCP, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, HR Director, Gallagher is an expert on this topic, and she has published articles and trained HR professionals on how to go about this important process and reap the benefits.

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn the definition of performance calibration

  • Takeaway instructions on how to facilitate a calibration session

  • Gain understanding of the benefits of performance calibration to organizations, managers, and employees

"We want to keep an open discussion where everybody's voice is heard. "

Pam Brown

HR Director at Gallagher


Hi, my name is Pam Brown. I’m an HR director with Gallagher, one of the world’s largest brokers. I’m here to present Calibrate to Motivate. This is a lesson on performance calibration. It’s something HR professionals that better joining us can bring back to their organization.

With over 20 years experience, I’ve learned that performance review processes are often unfair. So, I saw a process to help fix that, and I found performance calibration. Today, our goals are for you really to walk away with an understanding of how to facilitate this successfully at your organization, and also understand the who, what, why, when, and where of performance calibration.

What is performance calibration? It’s a structured forum where managers from a given unit or it could be a given geography region, get together and discuss each of their employees, their ratings, grading, and several other areas we’ll talk about later. This provides for one set of defined ratings, one set of defined grading, and a forum to challenge each other to it to hold each other accountable to a fair rating process.

Who facilitates the performance calibration? For the purpose of today’s presentation, let’s assume that’s HR. At my organization, it is HR. I will often invite the Manager of the unit or the Regional Manager to join me in that facilitation, but they have me there as a resource. I found that, in the first year, that’s really important. Then, as the years go on, they also know how to facilitate.

The facilitators are there to set the rules. There are ground rules associated, and I’m going to share some sample ground rules with you later. One example would be confidentiality. We don’t want anything that’s discussed in the calibration room to leave the calibration room. We also keep the discussion focused on performance ratings, performance reviews, strengths, development areas. We don’t want to veer off those topics, because the meeting takes a while, and we need to stay on point. We also ensure that everyone gives input—even those quiet managers. We’re facilitators, not decision makers, so the managers are still the decision makers.

Why do we have this process? Again, it’s an objective performance assessment for each employee in relation to other employees. We have several managers within the same unit discussing their employees, discussing ratings, defining ratings, and it makes for a much more fair process.

When do we have performance calibration? Well, that would be immediately preceding performance reviews. One service I offer for my internal clients is that I like to take notes on everything being discussed. I share the notes back to the individual managers, and they can use those notes to write the reviews. It’s a copy, paste, edit, and own those reviews. It makes it much easier for them. In fact, after a couple of years of offering this to my clients, they come looking for me before performance review season.

How do we go about this process? To me, this is really where the rubber meets the road, because we’re going to give you the tools to do this at your organization. First of all, we need to set expectations with managers ahead of the calibration. That is explaining to them what calibration is, how they can prepare for the meeting, what to expect from the meeting. I like to share a sample schedule prior to the meeting, so they really know what to expect. Then, there’s a spreadsheet that I keep at the meeting where I keep notes. In my spreadsheet, in particular, there are different columns. I have a column for strengths, for development needs, strengths and accomplishments, development needs, career interests. We also talk about succession planning, because we take the opportunity during that conversation just in case. There are several other topics as well that we’ll go through a little bit later. We facilitate the meeting, and we take notes to share with the managers.

Should all managers attend performance calibration? I like to make sure the managers I do this with have a good sense of confidentiality. No one should really be in that role without that sense of confidentiality. Here’s a sample schedule I shared—I’d like to share a sample schedule ahead of the meeting as well. It could show the names of the managers, and how many reports they have, and how much time we’re going to set aside per person. The facilitator can also keep time to keep us on track.

Part of the how is explaining the why. So, I explain to my managers why we’re doing this. It’s to engage in thoughtful open discussions, and create a rationale for important actions. It helps us develop scrapped strategies for low performers, or how to engage with our high potentials. It also helps managers write effective performance reviews, and it creates a fair and consistent process. There are a lot of good reasons to have performance calibration sessions.

Here’s a sample of the ground rules that I like to offer. We want to focus on fairness. We want to keep an open discussion where everybody’s voice is heard. We want to make sure, above all, that everything in that room remains confidential. It’s really more than just a reading exercise.

A little bit more of the how. This is not forced ranking exercise. Forced ranking is when you force people into different reading buckets. So, if it’s not a forced ranking exercise, then why am I showing you percentages for each rating and grading category? Because a healthy calibration should result in something that resembles a bell curve. We’re not going to force the bell curve. Not everyone can be top talent, and not everyone is a low performer. So naturally, it should fall that way.

We discuss everyone on the team. At my organization, we both grade them and rate them. Grading is A top talent, B valued talent, and C less effective talent. Those are grades. The rating would be a five point scale. Example is here on the screen. Significantly exceeds expectations, exceeds, meets, meets some but not all, and does not meet.

Why do we do it both ways? Think about the difference between an A player that met some but not all in a given year, and a C player that met some but not all in a given year. The C player player might need a performance plan, whereas the a player maybe needs more challenging work, or a tweak to some aspects of their job. So, it’s helpful to have the information cut in two different ways.

These are the sections I put on my spreadsheet. You can do this different ways. These are the topics I found that I really like. Accomplishments and strengths, development needs. Are they doing the right work? I asked this question because what if they’re doing work that’s administrative, when they’re a manager? They could be doing an amazing job, but they’re not doing the right work that they’re paid to do. What is their desired career path? What do we see as their career path?

Then, we ask some questions to determine retention risk. Retention risk impact to the team. The reason for those questions is to determine if a succession plan is needed. That’s not a normal part of every performance calibration. We’ve added that process because we’re all together and talking about the employees anyway. Finally, we go into that rating and grading we talked about on the last slide. These are the ABCs, who, what, where, when, how, and why of performance calibration. I hope you learned a lot and I look forward to seeing you soon. Thank you

Get full Q/N Access

Sign up to Q/N with a few details to watch this presentation.

  • Hidden
  • Hidden