How a calibration committee can correct bias in employee evaluations
- Calibration committees can correct performance evaluation scores inflated or deflated by a manager's bias or inconsistent standards, according to a study published by Harvard Business Review. The report examined a multinational organization's use of calibration committees over three years and found that they refined the consistency of the evaluation process, but decreased the variation of the ratings, which complicated the identification of high and low performers.
- A calibration committee comprises higher-level managers who assess employee performance at a macro-level, analyze ratings given by supervisors and adjust those numbers according to the average before the supervisors meet with individuals to discuss their scores. Downward adjustments occurred more frequently than boosts to too-low numbers, the study reported. "You might be a top supervisor and you might give an employee a three, and I might give that employee a four or a five," Karen Sedatole, a professor of accounting at Emory University's Goizueta Business School and one of the authors of this study, told HR Dive in an interview. "It's the same employee but the macro-level knowledge is the big picture of what all the supervisors have given to all the different employees."
- As the committees calibrated the evaluations, the process improved the consistency of the original ratings as well. When the committee heightened the score of an employee one period, her supervisor gave her higher marks the next period, adjusting to the calibrated scale. The study also found, however, that supervisors did not lower scores all the way to the calibrated level after being corrected. The employees appreciated that the committees made the evaluation more fair, Sedatole said after surveying them. "It was a little bit of a black box — they didn't know what their originals ratings were and they weren't privy to the conversations of the committee. But at the end of the day, they felt like they improved the fairness of the system," she said.
A whopping 86% of executives said they think their organizations should check in with employees more often — a sentiment echoed by employees and employers alike. But this study indicates that employers and HR may need to rethink the employee evaluation process both in terms of its quality and fairness, as well as its format and frequency.
Evaluation and feedback can be powerful tools, but if wielded incorrectly, they can hurt more than they help. Companies whose supervisors and managers affirm the strengths of their employees experience 14.9% less turnover than companies whose employees receive no recognition, according to a Gallup survey. And another survey by Zenger and Folkman revealed that 92% of respondents agreed: "Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance." But what if it isn't delivered appropriately? And what if that assessment is too harsh? According to a different study, 98% of those polled said negative feedback prompted a form of aggressive behavior in employees toward managers.
As employers change the way they evaluate their employees, they may want to consider adopting a measure for quality control, too. The study published in HBR found that the calibration committees did tack on some time to the feedback process, but the results may warrant the sacrifice.
- Harvard Business Review Why Managers Shouldn’t Have the Final Say in Performance Reviews