Diversity and Performance Management

07/10/2021 1 By indiafreenotes

Fairness is fundamental to a diverse and inclusive company culture, yet according to Gallup, only 29% of employees strongly agree that their performance reviews were fair.

And it only gets worse once you start digging deeper into the data. For example, one study found that African Americans and women were less likely to get good ratings, and that ratings were more favorable for people that shared the same race as the rater.

Employee engagement is directly tied to performance results. The more engaged the employee, the more likely they are producing results that outweigh their cost to the organization. In a workplace where diversity, equity, and inclusion are lacking, at an absolute minimum, this will impact those on the “outside.” Those employees who have picked up on the personal or systemic biases living within individuals and organizations, those who do not feel utilized or leveraged, or those who know they do not have a real seat at the table, are not engaged and, therefore, are more than likely not producing the best results.

There is also the risk of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our biases create an invisible wall that prevents deeper professional relationships with those who the bias is against. When healthy workplace relationships are not created between the two parties, coaching, mentoring, and professional development are unlikely to happen, resulting in the person who is receiving the bias not having an equitable chance at career advancement and/or business impact. Not to mention the bias receiver (the person who the bias is against) is likely feeling dissatisfied, frustrated, or stuck and unable or unwilling to perform at their optimal level. When performance review time comes, it is doubtful they will be scored as a star performer. You cannot build a healthy relationship when biases are present. To add another layer, we must be extremely careful that performance management is not solely based on the strength of the relationship between the two parties but on the results the individual achieves and the impact on the organization.

  1. Set clear goals to base performance on facts, not opinion

If expectations are unclear, employees may feel like they’re not evaluated based on their performance. Instead, factors unrelated to their contributions, such as gender or age, seem to creep into their assessment. Of course, a manager could also simply have a bad day and therefore give more critical feedback.

Defining and assessing performance based on specific objectives and clearly articulated behaviors ensures that the focus is on what people actually contribute to the organization. And it limits the tendency to base performance on a gut feeling that’s subject to biases and prejudices.

  1. Use multiple feedback sources to limit bias

Basing performance evaluation on one person’s perception at one point in time makes biased reviews much more likely. Similarity bias makes us devote more attention to people similar to them. As a result, you might have to work harder for recognition in your performance review if your manager is an Ivy League graduate, and you’re not.

Adding 360-degree reviews to your performance management process ensures you include multiple sources (managers, colleagues, reports) and reduces the likeliness of biased reviews. In addition, a culture of ongoing feedback helps tackle recency bias. The more frequent the feedback and the more diverse the group of people it’s coming from, the more balanced a view you get of someone’s performance.

  1. Nudge people into using inclusive language

Even with the best intentions, words often convey prejudices, stereotypes, and discrimination. For example, words can suggest expectations or limitations related to their social group. The sentence “I’m surprised you stay on top of all the latest trends in the industry, especially given your age” may sound like a compliment. But more importantly, it suggests age-related limitations and has no place in an employee evaluation.

To avoid discrimination of any kind, remind staff to check their language when talking about other people’s job performance. An easy way to embrace diversity and inclusion (D&I) through words is to include a helpful note in all performance review and peer feedback forms.

  1. Reinforce inclusive behaviors

Role models are a prerequisite for inclusive behaviors to spread across your organization. Also, employees who don’t associate these desired behaviors with positive responses tend to put in less effort.

So if you want a culture of inclusion, reinforcing inclusive behavior is key. Encourage staff (and especially leadership) to keep their eyes open for inclusive behavior of their co-workers and to recognize it publicly when they see it. For example, someone who actively seeks input from people who don’t usually contribute much in meetings should be reinforced in that behavior. If you use Small Improvements, you can add a custom “Includer” badge to our Praise feature that people can use to give kudos to inclusive colleagues.

  1. Ask employees how they feel

You might think team members feel welcome at work perhaps because you do but actually, they don’t. The only way to find out if people feel included is to ask them.

Engagement or pulse surveys are an effective way to gauge people’s perception of diversity, inclusion, and belonging regularly. Consider using a pulse survey question template that measures the state of D&I in your organization.

A great way to start checking for biases on a deeper level is to simply be aware of what they are and how they can manifest in the workplace. Here’s a list of some of the most common performance management biases from the experts at Diversity Best Practices.

  • Halo and Horn Bias: Like an availability bias, this bias comes from a good or bad first impression we let come before the whole picture of a person’s performance.
  • Availability/Recency Bias: The most recent, or most memorable moment crowds out the rest. This bias slants a review to one or two big moments and makes it much less holistic.
  • Confirmation Bias: When we unknowingly focus on the evidence that supports our worldview and ignore evidence that counters it. Sweeping generalizations like “bad employees have disorganized desks” can come from confirmation bias.
  • Implicit Stereotyping: Our preconceived notions change how we see someone’s performance. Racism, sexism, ableism, and other ‘isms’ all come into play here.
  • Affinity Bias: We see people like us in a more positive light and it seeps into how we judge their performance.