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HR's Guide to Accurate Evaluations

HR's Guide to Accurate Evaluations

Accurately rating staff and delivering performance feedback is difficult, to say the least. As a result, many managers give all employees overly high ratings—and end up undermining performance management and organizational strategy.

This toolkit includes training materials, workshop facilitation guides, and other resources to help HR staff improve the accuracy of managers' rating skills.

Ratings not as rosy as they seem

Rating Distribution vs. Organizational Performance

Too often, all frontline employees receive "above average" ratings on their performance reviews. While all performance ratings might be above average, not all employee performance is as strong.

These inflated ratings make it nearly impossible to identify true top talent, fairly link compensation to annual reviews, and provide feedback or support to staff that need it most.

The good news? Managers can improve their rating skills, and this toolkit equips HR staff with the resources to make it happen.

Overcome barriers to accurate ratings

Managers struggle with performance ratings for a range of reasons—from not wanting to have difficult conversations to not knowing how their grading style compares to peers'. They also rarely get feedback or pushback on ratings that seem off-base.

The first section of our toolkit is designed to help HR staff remove these barriers. It contains everything they'll need to host a practice rating session that will help managers apply the organization's rating scale consistently across departments and disciplines. This section of the toolkit also includes instructions, materials, and talking points for facilitating a role-play workshop on difficult performance conversations.

Identify and correct rating errors

Addressing barriers to accuracy is important, but it's rarely enough to eliminate inflated ratings outright. When inaccurate ratings do slip through the cracks, HR staff can play an important role in identifying and correcting them.

As such, the second part of our toolkit equips HR to work with the managers making these errors. The one-on-one conversation guide explains how to talk with particular managers about inaccurate ratings, and it links to tools in our corresponding Manager's Guide to Accurate Evaluations that can help leaders self-correct or justify their reviews.

While one-on-one coaching can help individual managers who struggle to rate accurately, rating calibration sessions can improve accuracy across a whole department. The final section of the toolkit contains resources to help HR leaders scope, structure, and facilitate these calibration sessions for individual departments or other parts of the organization. Since calibration sessions can seem time-consuming, the four tools we present are specifically designed to streamline the process and make sessions actionable.

7 tools for HR staff to improve managers' rating accuracy

Section I: Remove Barriers that Prevent Leaders from Rating Accurately

  • Rating scale practice session: Group exercise to encourage consistency in evaluations

    Section II: Help Individual Managers See and Correct Rating Errors

    • One-on-one conversations with managers about their ratings: Why and how to change

    Section III: Use Calibration Sessions to Double-Check Staff Ratings

    • Get leadership buy-in for calibration sessions: Answers to questions and concerns

    • Design the right calibration sessions for your organization: Clarify goals and participants

    • Calibration session planning in five steps: Ensure you don't overlook important steps
      • How to lead effective calibration discussions: Keep conversations focused and on time

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