Performance Appraisal

4 Ways to Take the Bias Out of Performance Reviews

 
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Researchers at Stanford University have recently found that despite a lack of gender differences in objective performance metrics (e.g., grades, fitness scores, or class standing) and decades of equal opportunity efforts, the language used to describe women hurts their advancement opportunities.

It’s not just that women are more often ascribed negative attributes—it’s the words themselves that are also unsettling. The most occurring positive characteristic applied to women is “compassionate.” But it’s followed by a long list of negatives: “inept,” “selfish,” “frivolous,” “passive,” “gossipy,” “vain,” and “temperamental,” to name a few.

The most common attribute for men—“analytical”—reflects a sharp mind and the potential to intelligently lead an organization in the most effective direction. There were only two negatives most commonly attributed to men: “arrogant” and “irresponsible.” The researchers concluded that when people are asked to envision leaders, they still picture men.

Language Is Not Neutral

The words in performance reviews hold power in concrete results, influencing both promotions and layoffs when performance numbers are comparable. Even an “arrogant” leader can still be effective, but an “inept” person is unlikely to be promoted.

Assertiveness is an especially tricky area for women to navigate. The same behaviors tend to be perceived differently depending on whom they come from. Research from Stanford University revealed that aggressive communication styles led to more than twice the amount of negative feedback for women than men. Women were told, “your speaking style is off-putting,” while men received compliments like “tackle” or “drive.” What is positively seen as “assertive” or “confident” in men is perceived as “abrasive” or “aggressive” in women.

Women are often described as “supportive” and “collaborative,” but these gendered skills are less valued in a leader. A collaborative success, even a major one, can still make a woman seem incompetent and can undermine her chances of promotion. While women are also known to show biases in performance evaluation language, the shortage of women in executive positions certainly doesn’t help. Consider that men with the name John alone outnumber all women in the top levels of Fortune 500 companies.

How to Reduce Bias in Your Company

To expand their views of leadership, men and women both need more personal experiences with women as peers and bosses. Begin with these four action steps to reduce gender bias in your company:

Train and educate HR.

According to McKinsey & Co.’s 2015 Women in the Workplace study, 70% of men view gender diversity as important, but only 12% believe women have fewer opportunities for advancement. And 13% believe their own chances are hindered when these programs are in place.

It takes more than a PowerPoint® presentation to unpack these biases because managers will assume that they aren’t guilty of them. They have to consciously learn how to correct these unconscious biases. Ongoing training ensures that new hires don’t fall through the gaps and that established employees continue to build understanding.

Pay close attention to what training strategies are most effective with your teams, and make adjustments depending on your people’s awareness and willingness to change viewpoints. Even when biases are deliberate, training can still work to adjust behavior, which can lead to changing attitudes.

Use concrete, consistent performance metrics.

Review your performance evaluation metrics to make sure they exclude personality judgments that don’t directly correlate with a job. Someone’s “approachability” or “humor” is difficult to tie to job performance. Focus on verbs instead of adjectives. If you can’t provide concrete examples of how a trait affected someone’s work, it doesn’t belong on a performance review.

Shifting away from subjective review methods to fact-based feedback can reduce opportunities for negative perceptions. If someone in HR conducts the review, make sure he or she understands which skills are most important for the job and that all criteria are tied to concrete performance metrics.

Adopt 360-degree reviews.

Even in a perfect world, a single manager can’t be expected to provide a complete picture of an employee’s performance. Getting feedback from more than one source helps identify biases by including more objective data in the review process. A diversity of opinions minimizes the power of an individual’s comments and elicits the most relevant information.

These 360-degree reviews may also give women the opportunity to get feedback from other women, which can be vital to their ability to thrive in a given role and improve their skills and work habits in order to move up in a company.

These reviews should include chances for anonymous feedback. With the opportunity to submit feedback anonymously, women—and other protected groups—can point out inequalities so managers can identify them (if they are unintentional) and correct them. Keeping feedback anonymous makes sure every voice is equally heard without the fear of repercussions.

Track and share feedback or data.

Employees should be able to access their performance data. When workers know how they’re perceived, they can identify and report their concerns to management. Transparency combined with data builds trust that managers will be held accountable for feedback—and that any who block women (or any other demographic) from advancing will be identified so the behavior can be stopped.

The catch-22 that women experience is troublesome not only for them but also for companies; holding women back in their careers holds companies back, too, because they miss out on half the population’s potential. Correcting this bias requires awareness and action at all levels.

-HRDA


5 Ways to Improve Performance for Small Teams

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There’s no substitute for great performance. In all industries, from manufacturing to professional services, that businesses that lead ahead of the pack tend to be the ones that emphasize and aim for great performance.

There are several aspects of achieving great performance. Great performance can be achieved on an individual level by one person, by a team of talented people, or by an entire business made up of many small and large teams.

Today, we’ll focus on the second type of performance: team performance. Read on to discover five ways that you can improve the performance of your small team using a selection of human resources management tactics.

1. Make integrating into the team part of your performance appraisals. 

Many people thrive independently but struggle to work as part of a team. This can result in great performance on individual projects but slow, inconsistent results in an environment where communication and teamwork is important.

Instead of focusing solely on individual productivity, make integrating into the team a major priority of your management. It’s not just skills that matter, but also being a good team player and someone that others can depend on.

2. Don’t just focus on team members – focus on the team’s leadership. 

Even a team of top-performers will struggle to achieve its goals without an excellent leader. Does your team have a leader that sets the right goals and keeps members of the team motivated?

Effective leadership means understanding each team member’s role and priorities, then ensuring all team members can work effectively together. It’s important to be just as attentive about leadership as the individual performance of each person.

3. Set goals that can be achieved on an individual and team level. 

Does your team have goals that can be achieved both individually and collectively as a team? The best goals are ones that can be achieved as a team, as well as being able to be broken down into small goals that can be achieved by individuals.

Create major goals, then break them down into sub-goals for individuals or smaller groups to focus on. This gives your team a major goal to work towards, but one that isn’t so large it seems impossible to achieve.

4. Make sure communication between team members is a priority. 

Communication is the key to effective teamwork. When people with different skills can communicate with each other clearly and openly, problems that can otherwise hold progress back are quickly avoided or overcome.

Is your team designed for open, simple communication? Create an environment in which communication is encouraged and you’ll make your entire team much more focused, effective and productive.

5. Keep morale as high as possible by celebrating every achievement. 

It’s important to stay focused on achieving your team’s goals. It’s also important to occasionally step back and view the progress you’ve made in order to keep morale high and team members energized.

When your team achieves a major goal, take a moment to celebrate. Achieving large goals not only helps your team move towards its objective – it also strengthens the ability of each team member to work effectively with their peers.

4 Performance Appraisal Mistakes That Can Hold Your Business Back

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Do you know how well each of your staff members is performing? Reviewing your employees’ performance through appraisals (also called performance reviews) is a great way to keep track of the people responsible for your business’s success. When done right, performance appraisals let you gain a deeper understanding of each employee’s role in your business, the specific challenges they face, and their work abilities.

When done wrong, however, performance appraisals can give your key decision makers little useful information on how employees are performing and result in employees feeling as if they aren’t being graded fairly or truly appreciated.

Worse yet, when completed ignored, a lack of performance appraisals can result in your business losing track of how each employee contributes to its overall success.

Would you like to make your business’s performance appraisals more effective in achieving your objectives? Read on to discover four common mistakes that may be holding your performance appraisal process back.

1. Not sharing important information with employees. 

It’s essential that you provide important information to employees as part of your performance appraisal process. The reason is simple: employees need to know the way that they’re perceived and viewed in order to work their best.

Many managers make the mistake of leaving suggestions and improvement ideas out of their performance appraisal process, often to avoid offending an employee through sharing ways in which their performance could improve.

Instead of only sharing positive feedback with employees, be open about areas in which employees can improve. This prevents employees from receiving an overly positive assessment that doesn’t always match their objective work reality.

2. Not providing actionable feedback and suggestions. 

Does your performance appraisal process give employees actionable feedback that can be used to improve their performance, or does it simply offer vague suggestions that are hard to implement?

Many performance review processes are built around vague metrics of success and failure that can’t be tied to actionable improvements. As such, employees only gain an understanding of how well they’re currently doing – not how they can improve.

Instead of simply reviewing an employee’s performance in broad terms, make sure you provide actionable, effective feedback and suggestions that employees can use to improve their workplace performance and generate better results.

3. Assessing performance based only on recent events. 

One common performance appraisal mistake is letting recent events – for example, a missed sales opportunity or a mistake at work – create an overly negative picture of an otherwise talented, effective and productive employee.

It’s also possible to let recent events – for example, a closed deal or a recent success at work – create an overly positive picture of an employee that, recent events aside, may not be achieving at their very best.

Instead of only looking at recent events to form an opinion of an employee’s work performance, look at both recent and past events so that you gain a full picture of how an employee carries out their role within your business.

4. Not providing praise when employees perform well. 

It’s important to point out an employee’s mistakes and provide actionable feedback for improvement. It’s equally important to praise employees when they perform at a level that exceeds your expectations.

Providing praise when employees do well is an essential part of building confidence and encouraging people to do their best. Positive feedback, when it’s deserved, can strengthen your relationship with employees and improve workplace productivity.

Many people wrongly associate performance reviews with negativity – ways that an employee can improve, for example. Focus on positivity in your performance review process and you’ll raise employee morale and create a better work environment.