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How to Manage Bias and Build Better Performance Reviews

From your business’s most established employees to the newest recruits, everyone needs direction to develop. But during the Great Resignation, the sole annual performance review may no longer be enough to engage and retain top talent.

According to research from Gallup, only 14.5% of leaders believe they’re delivering the most effective feedback for their workforce. Meaningful feedback and direction provide the foundation for employees to flourish and grow into the leaders you’ll need in the future. However, bias damages this foundation by hindering well-intended reviews and alienating your workforce.

In fact, an analysis from McKinsey & Company, a corporate consulting firm, finds many employees feel the feedback they receive is biased or otherwise not related to their work.

So if leaders and employees agree most performance reviews aren’t achieving their greatest effect, how do we get the process back on the right course?

Luckily, by properly understanding performance bias and deploying the right tools to help manage its impact, you’ll be able to transform reviews into the platform your employees need.

Breaking down bias

Before you can effectively limit bias in the workplace, it’s important to keep this in mind: Bias is inevitable.

This doesn’t mean we have to accept the consequences of rampant bias — such as unfair policies, procedures or pay grades. But since bias emerges naturally as a part of our primal defense mechanisms, a strategy for managing has to be both informed and persistent.

When these inclinations manifest in performance reviews, even seemingly harmless habits can lend themselves to bigger problems for your workforce’s development.

Building better reviews

When your leaders prepare for an employee evaluation, establish a set of consistent metrics that is peer-reviewed and informed by the needs of the workforce. Harvard Business Review recommends building a checklist of specific, relevant questions to add uniformity to your process, while also giving leaders a rubric to lean on, should they feel their performance conversations are impartial or otherwise biased.

And a tool to help you conduct these reviews efficiently and consistently can add the structure you need to sustain, adapt and improve your process as the need arises. When you use technology to enhance the performance management process, it enables you to give employees:

  • real-time, accurate and unbiased feedback
  • clear and equitable goals
  • insight informed by a library of historical performance data
  • greater opportunities for engagement

But managing bias doesn’t stop at performance reviews. Often, the most telling sign of bias arises in discrepancies between employees’ pay. Adopting a system to help ensure equality by giving you a clear view of compensation spending — while keeping you within budget — offers the foresight you need to avoid a potentially bias-ridden pitfall.

Finally, exercise transparency in communication surrounding performance reviews. When employees are uncertain about how they’re evaluated, it may be hard for them to feel confident about the process as a whole. Clear and consistent messaging, paired with a tool to empower employees to ask questions about their evaluations, helps eliminate the air of mystery that detracts from your workforce’s development.

Remember, though eliminating bias completely from your organization isn’t possible, removing it from the processes that drive employees’ growth is.

Explore our talent management tools to learn how Paycom’s single software drives employee development in performance reviews and beyond. And read our guide, How Bias Impacts Business (and How to Address It), for even more strategies to enhance your evaluations.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.