Blog Post

It’s Performance Management Season: Time for Some Inclusion Nudges

August 15, 2017

For many organizations, this time of year marks the season for performance management discussions and talent planning. It presents an excellent opportunity to equip people managers and team leaders with tools for enabling high performance on diverse and multicultural teams, by supporting bias-free evaluations and practicing inclusive leadership in the performance management process. And if your managers have already been through Unconscious Bias, Cultural Competence or Inclusive Leadership training—then it is a great time to reinforce those earlier learnings with ‘inclusion nudges’ and behavioral prompts to ensure their assessments are accurate, fair and rewarding top talent.

Indeed, the need to implement and expand unconscious bias education and resources is also a key tenet of the CEO Action pledge that many DBP member companies signed, as part of the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The pledge states:

“We will implement and expand unconscious bias education: Experts tell us that we all have unconscious biases — that is human nature. Unconscious bias education enables individuals to begin recognizing, acknowledging, and therefore minimizing any potential blind spots he or she might have, but wasn’t aware of previously. We will commit to rolling out and/or expanding unconscious bias education within our companies in the form that best fits our specific culture and business. By helping our employees recognize and minimize their blind spots, we aim to facilitate more open and honest conversations. Additionally, we will make non-proprietary unconscious bias education modules available to others free of charge.”

In support of these ideas, and remembering that many organizations struggle with how to help their people managers apply concepts of unconscious bias to the people decisions they make day-to-day, below we share some insights that have proven helpful for all managers, both novices and veterans alike. Taken from LCW’s suite of tools for Managing Unconscious Bias, first we recap the Types of Evaluator Bias that frequently play out in the performance management process, and then we frame some practical tips for managing such biases with Tips for Evaluating Talent Inclusively. Please share these tools with the leaders, and people managers in your organization—along with your own tips on what works and doesn’t work in your experience toward identifying and mitigating blind spots in talent evaluation.

Types of Evaluator Bias

Evaluator bias, which can be positive or negative, is an inaccurate way to assess (consciously or unconsciously) an employee’s performance, on the part of the rater. With negative evaluator bias, the evaluator ’s review may put the employee at a disadvantage, resulting in penalties that impact them personally. Conversely, when positive bias is at work, the rater may take shortcuts and tilt the bias favorably toward individuals they perceive to be more like themselves. Some evaluator biases that can have a significant impact on talent evaluation include:

Availability Bias

When our evaluation of an individual is influenced by what we remember most easily or is visible to us, including our proximity to someone. A subset form of Availability Bias is Recency Bias, where raters use recent behaviors or performance to make evaluation and rating determinations rather than the overall behaviors and performance.

Affinity Bias

When we more positively evaluate those who are like us and share one or more of our worldviews. We may unconsciously feel more familiar with or positive about their performance and competence, which works against those who are different from us. A subset form of Affinity bias is Hired or Inherited Bias, where our involvement in the hiring decision may create a connection with that person and become a source of affinity.

Implicit Stereotyping

When we rate someone differently based on preconceived expectations about the group or groups they belong to. This may result in unconsciously setting a higher standard for people who belong to particular groups, requiring them to prove themselves more often or demonstrate greater achievements because they don’t fit “the norm”.

Halo & Horn Bias

When a positive first impression causes us to ignore negative or neutral aspects of a team member’s performance, or conversely, a negative first impression causes us to overlook important positive aspects of performance. Allowing one aspect of an individual’s performance to overly influence unrelated areas of that person’s performance is another example.

Confirmation Bias

When we unconsciously filter evidence to support already held points of view and ignore or overlook evidence that disproves them.

Tips for Evaluating Talent Inclusively

Review this list of inclusive behaviors when evaluating talent. Check the box if you already engage in the behavior, leave it unchecked if the behavior is an area of opportunity for you.

Ensure top performance is clearly defined and measurable, and not limited to only those behaviors that are similar to how things are usually done.

Be aware of your own cultural filters and expectations of performance. Are you inadvertently giving higher ratings to certain groups, or to individuals that share your background, experiences, or work styles?
Understand that how people approach their work varies based on their influences, experiences, and how they were taught. Did the person meet the performance expectations, but just in a different way than you anticipated or would have done it yourself?

Consider culturally-influenced and learned approaches that are different from the dominant organizational “norm” as positives, and ask yourself if you can you stretch your comfort zone and find value.

Monitor performance at the same level and standard, regardless of background or culture. For example: Are you inadvertently micromanaging some groups but not others? Are you unconsciously lending an extra helping hand to some more often than to others? Are you granting the benefit of the doubt equally when mistakes are inevitably made?

Access resources to help you think through and manage your biases immediately before you execute a performance evaluation. Ensure each team member is truly being listened to.

When giving performance feedback to an employee:

Be supportive—or at least neutral—in tone (“Help me understand why you took that approach…”, “Tell me more about where you were coming from…” , “What may I be missing?”, “That’s helpful to know…”).

Address the specific behaviors and statements being made vs. the person making the statement.

Be sincere in your openness to other perspectives. Acknowledge the importance of multiple points-of-view, and that you value theirs.

Practice active listening. Shut off all internal conversation and running commentary. Focus on their communication to you.

If you’d like to see more of the targeted solutions we have to propel support more objective Talent Management discussions in English and 20 other languages—ranging from our “Introduction to Managing Unconscious Bias” and “Evaluating Talent Inclusively” eLearning (both available in 20+ languages) to our “Managing Bias in Talent Review” workshop and digital toolkit—contact your DBP Account Representative or Monica Marcel [email protected] for free demo access.