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Oct 31, 2022

How Can You Create an Unbiased Performance Review?


It’s about time for most businesses to plan their annual performance reviews. While most management teams would love to say they present a fair, unbiased experience, the truth is that gender, and cultural biases are present in the modern workplace.

According to an article from the Harvard Business Review, women were 1.4 more likely to receive critical subjective feedback over their male peers.

Performance reviews should be a time when your employees shine, gain constructive feedback, and have the opportunity to earn coveted raises and promotions. Biases that rest beneath the surface of performance reviews often take these opportunities away.

Let’s take a moment to examine the performance review process and the steps your management team can take to ensure yours is as unbiased and fair as possible.

Define Your Evaluation Process

Sticking to one evaluation process that doesn’t change from person to person is a great way to keep inherent biases from surfacing during a review.

We recommend having a set of criteria you follow for each review and a defined list of questions you’ll ask each employee. When there aren’t criteria in place it’s easy for gender and cultural biases to take over the review process. Develop an agenda, set goals you expect for each employee, and define how you’ll reward and reprimand employees that fall under specific areas of your process.

Once you have a streamlined process in place and metrics to follow throughout every review, your process will be naturally fair and flow smoother when you aren’t changing the agenda with each employee.

Avoid Double-Standard Approaches to Performance

Double standards can be a real issue for everyone involved in a review and can really bring out the bias where it doesn’t belong.

When describing the faults and merits of your employees, be thoughtful about the words used to describe universal standards you’ve set for your reviews.

For example, if you’re going to describe an employee’s actions as “aggressive,” make sure that you have a global definition of the term you can use for every employee it applies to.

In other words, if you plan on using the term “aggressive” as a way to describe an employee that digs into their work, leave it at that definition for everyone. When you don’t it’s easy for a word like “aggressive” to sneak into a comment that mistakenly reflects gender bias when used to describe a woman’s business-first attitude that may or may not make male counterparts uncomfortable.

Approach each situation on a situational basis and not based on the person sitting in front of you during the review.

Back up negative feedback with concrete examples derived from the goals you’ve defined in your blanket review process. Combining this approach with the standardized evaluation process should help eliminate a bias problem within your reviews.

Be Specific During Reviews

It’s important to be specific and not vague during reviews.  Men often get specific feedback, and women get vague feedback on their personality, not performance. This type of feedback removes the potential growth that should occur during a performance review.

Train Your Employee Evaluators

Employee reviews should never be another thing managers thoughtlessly check off on a to-do list. Make sure everyone involved in the review process is aware of your drive to eliminate review bias. It’s especially important to train on unconscious bias in the appraisal process.

Oftentimes this means adding gender and cultural bias training for management throughout the year. This effort improves your performance review process and serves as some great first steps toward having a more culturally diverse and equality-driven workforce.

Add Frequency to Reviews

Sometimes one review a year isn’t enough to remove bias from the equation. Investing in software that takes an unbiased approach and adds frequency to your reviews can help your business accomplish its bias elimination throughout the year.

Software like Workday, Culture Amp, and Trakstar can help you create weekly goals for employees, perform gender-neutral, anonymous surveys, and provide constructive feedback on a level playing field.

Broaden Your Reviewer Portfolio

Having a more diverse management team involved in the review process helps prevent biases from tainting the process. In other words, when everyone is represented at the review table, the right questions get asked, and every situation is set up for a comprehensive, fair approach from the board of reviewers.

Take an Unbiased Approach to the Workplace With DEI Recruiting & Consulting

Sometimes taking the steps toward becoming an unbiased workplace requires extra effort. With the help of a team like DEI Recruiting & Consulting, your employees can experience hands-on workshops, continual training, and exposure to modern best practices that keep all employees feeling equally appreciated.

If your small to medium business needs help reaching its diversity goals and broadening its hiring pool, we’re ready to help!

Contact DEI Recruiting & Consulting today for more information about our process.

DEI Recruiting and Consulting