Pride Month kicked off this week around London with a series of concerts, parades, parties and other big events. This celebration honors LGBT+ community members and their positive influence on society.
LGBT+ rights have come a long way in recent years. But discrimination is still a part of our society and a part of the workplace. A vast body of research shows that we’re prone to favoring someone who’s similar to us. And stereotyping colleagues at work can affect recruitment, hiring, promotion, retention and evaluations.
Fortunately, we live in more enlightened times where conscious bias is frowned upon. What HR teams have to contend with is something much more subtle: implicit or unconscious bias. According to Harvard University researcher Mahzarin Banaji: “Most of us believe that we are ethical and unbiased. We imagine we’re good decision makers, able to objectively size up a job candidate…and reach a fair and rational conclusion that’s in our, and our organisation’s, best interests. But more than two decades of research confirms that, in reality, most of us fall woefully short of our inflated self-perception.”
This unconscious bias, if left unchecked, will eat away at the foundation of an effective performance appraisal process: its objectivity. The system you have in place needs to recognize top performers and give them the chance to grow within your organisation. A good performance review process is also able to quickly spot low performers, who can then be given the advice and motivation they need to improve.
Like it or not, our brains sort information into categories to process it more easily. But this can lead to making snap judgments about a person without even realizing it. And your company’s evaluation practices may contain implicit biases, without you even realizing it.
Here are a few ways to reduce bias:
- Raise awareness: When it gets close to performance review season, spend some time on training your people about the most common rater biases. Making colleagues aware of bias is the first step towards reducing it. Supervisors or managers would probably benefit from in-depth training on understanding and reducing their own unconscious biases. These decision makers could then set a positive example for the rest of the organisation.
- Avoid subjective language: Use review questions that ask about observable, objective behaviors. If one of your managers has to make a subjective judgment about a team member’s personality, style, or attitude, they’ll wind up going with their gut. That’s exactly where unconscious biases bubble up and affect ratings.
- Do it with data: This one’s a biggie. Managers who gather and analyze observational data evaluate team members’ performances more accurately. So your people data needs to be kept up to date and easily accessible. The result will be more effective performance reviews evaluated without bias.
- Get points of view: One way your managers can conduct less biased reviews is by getting the perspectives of other people – peers, not managers – about the person you’re reviewing. This way, managers can look for patterns in feedback instead of relying on their own singular, potentially biased view.
Take pride in your work: celebrate by acting to reduce bias
It’s important to focus on helping your organisation truly live the values that Pride celebrates: dignity, equality rights, sexual diversity and community. Bias isn’t inevitable. Being aware and making a few adjustments to your performance review process will significantly reduce implicit bias. And in the end, your entire organisation will benefit from a more balanced and representative picture of your people.