Calibrations in Best-Self Review® help HR leaders and managers make more fair, objective, and transparent assessments of performance and talent decisions with ease by allowing calibrators to see the distribution of review ratings across team managers and adjust those ratings in real-time.

In this article, you will learn...

Access and availability

⛔️ Required access to Best-Self Review® and Calibrations.
👥 This article is relevant to Review admins, Cycle collaborators, and Calibration session contributors.
📦 This feature is available in the Perform and Total Platform pricing packages.


What are calibrations?

Calibrations in 15Five help ensure fair and consistent ratings across your organization. In calibration sessions, teams discuss key criteria for top performance, review answers given about employees in manager reviews, and adjust answers as needed for alignment. By identifying and addressing inconsistencies, the tool promotes fairness and consistency and reduces bias in performance reviews.


Key components

Private Manager Assessment

As you create calibration sessions, you can select which sections of manager reviews you want to include: Private Manager Assessment answers, Company Values ratings, Competency ratings, and Objectives ratings.

The Private Manager Assessment (PMA) questions in 15Five lay the foundation for an unbiased review by asking managers what they would do with each team member, rather than what they think of that individual. When combined with Calibrations, PMA results add another layer of fairness and consistency to performance reviews. Unlike Private Manager Assessments, calibration sessions rely on people other than the manager to provide input about performance. The combination of these methods increases consistency and can reduce bias.

Talent Matrix

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


Employee Snapshots

Contributors can get detailed information, like Last Cycle Rating, for less-familiar employees without leaving a calibration session.


Activity Feed

The Activity Feed serves as a handy record of all changes made within calibration sessions and allows you to provide contextual comments about why decisions were made.


Calibration process


  1. Create calibration sessions: Before manager reviews are due, you should create calibration sessions. As manager reviews are submitted, calibration sessions will populate. If additional manager reviews are submitted in your review cycle, their answers will also populate the calibration session.
  2. Hold calibration sessions: Contributors hold calibration sessions to change manager review answers as needed.
  3. Lock calibration sessions: Finalize changes by locking calibration sessions. At this point, changes will be reflected in manager reviews.
  4. Managers share review results, hold final meetings, and finalize review results: On the "Start sharing on" milestone, managers can share results and hold final meetings with their direct reports. 

Best practices

Create standardized performance rubrics upfront

To increase fairness, we recommend creating a set of expectations (i.e. performance rubrics) to measure performance against. This should happen long before creating a review cycle, and performance expectations should ideally be communicated during role clarity conversations between managers and their teams. Having a clear process agreed upon before the review process that sets clear process expectations for managers and participants will create a fair and transparent environment.

Use performance data to inform pay and development conversations

Pay and development conversations should both include performance data gathered through review cycles. Though pay and development conversations should occur separately, calibrating performance review results leads to objective and unbiased conversations for participants.

Consider multiple sources of data as you calibrate reviews

You can select which sections of manager reviews you want to include in calibration sessions: Private Manager Assessment answers, Company Values ratings, Competency ratings, and Objectives ratings.

Ensure that calibration conversations are grounded in Private Manager Assessment answers and as many measures of behaviors and results as possible (e.g. Competencies and Objectives). Data has objectivity and when combined with Private Manager Assessment results creates a holistic performance picture.

If you choose not to include these additional sections in calibration sessions, we recommend having reports on Competencies, Objectives progress, etc. ready to reference during calibration sessions. You should also have performance rubrics and definitions handy for the session, as well as performance agreements, company values, and competencies.

Aim for balanced representation in calibration sessions

Within each calibration session, you are asked to appoint contributors. Contributors are the people who are responsible for holding a calibration session— that is, discussing results and making changes as needed. Aim for a balanced representation of managers, leadership, and HR in calibration sessions to ensure diverse perspectives and fair evaluations.

We also recommend appointing a Moderator to make sure everyone in the session has an equal opportunity to share their insight.

Utilize calibrations as often as feasible

Ideally, you should use calibrations in every review cycle featuring Private Manager Assessment questions, particularly in cycles involving compensation or promotions.

Strategically structure calibration sessions

Since you can include as many calibration sessions in a review cycle as you want, you can choose whose review results you will calibrate in separate and distinct calibration sessions and who should calibrate those sessions.

How you lay out your sessions is up to you. Some common breakdowns we see are by department, manager, level, or role. You can base this on your company/department dynamics, psychological safety, and the logistics of holding multiple sessions. Just keep in mind that the more sessions you create, the more time you'll need.

For example, you may decide to hold separate calibration sessions for each role. As you appoint Contributors for Customer Success Managers, you may choose to appoint the Manager of the Customer Success Team, the VP of the Customer Experience Department, and an HR delegate, who will also moderate the session.

Give yourself enough time to hold sessions

Give yourself around 2-3 weeks to hold calibration sessions, as discussions can take longer than you might expect depending on your organizational setup.

Document the "why" behind answer changes

Include any notes or points of emphasis behind the decisions in the notes section of the calibration session. This not only increases transparency but can be referenced at any time to spot trends.

You can also download a file containing individual calibration session data, which can serve as a helpful record of what changes were made in a calibration session.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What roles and associated permissions are there in calibration sessions?
  • Review admins and Cycle collaborators can create calibration sessions, view answers in all calibration sessions, and lock calibration sessions.


    Review admins and cycle collaborators are not added as Contributors by default, and must be appointed as such if you want them to have the ability to edit answers in a calibration session.

  • Contributors can view and change manager review answers in calibration sessions they're a Contributor for.


Contributors can be appointed during the process of creating a calibration session.

Will managers see if you change their Private Manager Assessment (PMA) answers?

Yes. Once the calibration session is locked, they will see updates in the PMA section of the manager review.

What criteria must be met to include calibrations in a review cycle?

To include calibrations in a review cycle, the following criteria must be met:

  • The review cycle includes manager reviews (since manager review answers are what's calibrated in a review cycle)
  • During review cycle creation, the review admin checks the box next to "Include calibration sessions in this review cycle" and sets a 'Calibrations due by' milestone (this date should fall after the manager review milestone and before the 'Start sharing on' milestone)
Can I add calibrations to an active review cycle?

If you decide after creating a review cycle that you want to include calibrations, Review admins can enable calibrations until the "Start sharing on" milestone by editing review cycle settings.

What calibration-specific notifications exist?

The following calibration-specific notifications may be sent in a review cycle. All of these notifications can be managed individually in individual notification settings or company-wide in company notification settings.

Notification Type Audience
Invited as a contributor to a calibration session Email & in-app notification Sent to all contributors (except the person who created the session) upon session creation
Calibration session locked Email & in-app notification Sent to all contributors (except the person locking the session) upon locking a session
Calibration sessions are due in 3 days Email & in-app notification Sent to all calibration session contributors 3 days before the "Calibrations due by" milestone
Calibration session deleted Email & in-app notification Sent to all contributors and review admins (except the person who deleted the session) upon session deletion
Mentioned in an activity feed comment Email and in-app notification Sent to anyone who is mentioned in the activity feed comment immediately upon the mention
Calibrate reviews in the [Session Name] session. Due in [x] Days. To-do shown in Highlights and on the Cycle overview page Shows for all contributors when they’ve been added as a contributor to a created calibration session

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