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4 ways to combat bias in the workplace with Performance Reviews

Apr 14, 2021| Reading time: 10min

BY ChartHop

Our unconscious biases are stronger than we think. According to renowned neuroscientist Erik Kandel, who received a Nobel Peace Prize for his research on memory in 2000, 80-90 percent of our decisions and judgements are formed unconsciously.

From years of systemic discrimination, learned behaviors, and prejudiced cultures and values, our brains often jump to conclusions about certain groups of people, whether we realize them or not.

When these biases leak into the workplace, they can have serious repercussions on culture and performance. Gallup estimates that employees who experience bias are three times more likely to be disengaged at work, costing companies around $450-$550 billion annually. It’s rare these employees stay — those who are discriminated against are more than three times as likely to leave their current jobs within the year.

When your people don’t feel that they can show up as themselves and with the full breadth of their ideas and creativity, both your people and your business suffer.

With the increasing visibility of discrimination in the workplace over the last year, business leaders committed to creating equitable workplaces are asking: how do we effectively combat bias in the workplace?

While there is no single, definitive answer, there are a series of steps that can help prevent discrimination. One important way is by creating a fair, objective performance review process — something that has traditionally been imperfect in organizations of all shapes and sizes. By refining performance review initiatives to increase impartiality and facilitate equity, companies can help ensure fairness at every level.

Again, fostering equality at work is a holistic initiative — your appraisal strategy is only a place to start. But it is a crucial step. And with a performance management tool like ChartHop, it can make a serious impact. Below are four ways how an objective performance review initiative can help combat bias in the workplace.

1. Set clear goals to ensure objectivity

To reiterate, the nature of performance reviews has been largely subjective. When our unconscious biases come into play — whether they’re towards race, gender, ethnicity, ability, or otherwise — they can hold people back from growing professionally.

With employee evaluations, there’s simply no room for subjectivity. That’s why it’s important to give employees and teams clear goals, objectives, and KPIs from the start, so when it comes performance review time, they have something concrete to be evaluated off of.

ChartHop OKRs

With ChartHop, teams can store and track data related to OKRs.

With a performance management tool like ChartHop, hiring managers can create and share definitive objectives with their teams. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Be transparent about how goals align: ChartHop fuels transparency and alignment to a company mission. From there, you can design OKRs and KPIs for departments, teams, and individuals that roll-up into each overarching goal, so everyone knows exactly how they fit into the larger picture.
  • Have a standardized, objective system: Set an org-wide review process, so employees know what to expect and what’s expected of them for their level and position. This should include evaluation forms, prompts, and rubrics that the entire business can adopt and follow.
  • Set holistic goals: OKRs and KPIs don’t have to be focused around productivity. For more well-rounded reviews, include goals around professional development, leadership opportunities, communication styles, and more.

2. Have a comprehensive and continuous review cycle

Surveys show that employees are unsatisfied with the traditional annual review cycle. According to CEB, nearly 60 percent of employees believe that having a review once a year has “no impact” on their performance. Instead, ongoing feedback is preferred — 76 percent of employees would like to have monthly conversations about their work.

Performance review data by race

ChartHop supports continuous performance management and empowers teams with the data they need to uncover biases in their review process.

Implementing continuous and comprehensive reviews can help managers have fairer, more valuable conversations with their employees about performance. Why? Simply knowing their employees and what’s going on in their personal and professional lives can help prevent bias and spark more extensive appraisals.

A performance management tool like ChartHop allows you to:

  • Review from all sides: In addition to upward/downward reviews, you can implement and track 360s, skip-levels, and self-evaluations.This gives leadership the full picture to eliminate or minimize personal biases.
  • Communicate frequently: Whether it’s hosting weekly 1:1s or bi-monthly check-ins, managers should communicate with their employees on an ongoing basis. ChartHop’s 1:1 forms allow you to ask for consistent feedback, document roadblocks, and create a plan before reviews roll around.
  • Host calibration meetings: Share individual performance metrics with senior staff to ensure objectivity, especially when it comes to promotions, raises, and more.

3. Provide a space for constructive feedback

Oftentimes, reviews use an arbitrary rating scale to measure how well people are performing in the workplace. But simply assigning a number or an adjective to someone’s performance doesn’t promote success. Instead, people need specific, granular feedback to address issues and inspire growth.

When it comes to using performance reviews to combat bias, provide a space for constructive and explicit feedback. Then, consider the following:

  • Be conscious of language: Data shows our unconscious bias can creep up into the language we use to describe performance. Educate your managers on the implicit bias of language, so they’re cognizant of the words they use and what they can infer.
  • Use data and metrics: Business leaders need numbers, especially when it comes to constructive criticism. Data won’t solve all your problems, but it can help leaders interpret performance and provide feedback that’s bias-free, relevant, and actionable.
  • Create a plan: When managers do address room for growth, they need to support their employees to grow. Use metrics and data to inform performance plans, so employees know what their new objectives are and how they can meet them.

4. Support employees with reliable resources

Performance reviews are valuable, but employees still need ongoing support in other areas if they’re going to succeed. From career pathing and professional development, to human resources, your people need a space to consistently turn to if you want them to succeed.

With a platform like ChartHop, your employees can:

  • Own their career path: With ChartHop, your employees can access everything they need to drive their own success. Performance plans, training completion rates, 1:1 feedback from managers: all of it lives in one, accessible resource for them to leverage.
  • Contribute to the review process: Give your people a place to anonymously review the review cycle to ensure fairness and implement change as needed.
  • Have a system of record: ChartHop acts as a single source of truth for everyone to use. From an HR perspective, this ensures a space to store reviews, document problems, and record cases of bias. At the aggregate level, leaders can then see if there are large-scale organizational issues that need to be addressed, then take action accordingly. With robust access permissions, performance data is viewable to only those who need to see it.

Start with Performance Reviews, but don’t stop there

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single answer to stopping implicit bias from creeping into the office. But knowing the role performance reviews play in perpetuating bias and deliberately designing them to be more objective is a good first step.

This doesn’t mean they’re a means to an end. Use performance reviews as a springboard to fostering a more equitable workplace. With the help of technology like ChartHop, you can set the foundation for inspiring fairness across business operations and giving your employees a place to thrive.

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