Perspectives

Mitigating bias in performance management

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Bias can come in the way of treating employees with objectivity and fairness and can negatively impact employee productivity, engagement, and well-being. Organisations can mitigate bias before it distorts objectivity and decision-making in performance management.

Performance management is a set of processes that feeds into an organisation’s talent pipeline. Traditionally, performance management processes are a two-phased approach, with an initial performance review commonly taking place mid-yearly and a final review taking place at the year-end, with the subsequent allocation of an overall ranking. The more “contemporary” approach includes regular interim feedback sessions, often referred to as “check ins” followed by one final review at the end of the year.

A key component of a performance management process often involves the allocation of a “tangible” ranking (usually in the form of a numerical value against a Likert scale system) to a team member. Some organisations also implement a self-review process, in order to allow employees the opportunity to identify and list their achievements, strengths and areas of improvement. These two processes are usually concluded via a face-to-face verbal feedback session, often referred to as the performance conversation.

Some organisations integrate a calibration exercise within their performance management process, where the rankings allocated by managers to their team members are often discussed and agreed to, usually in the presence of an HR professional. During such calibration processes, one of the key challenges that HR team members might face (and to a certain extent pro-actively notice) is the presence of bias in the ranking process. This presents a major challenge for any HR team member, and could lead to the dilemma of whether or not to contest a ranking with the respective manager.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be! Several behavioural, social, and neurological studies show that humans are biologically inclined to be biased. So, does this mean that an HR function should just accept this and consider it as fait accompli? Far from it! The solution to mitigate bias in performance management systems lies within a strategy called “training”, an area that often; due to various reasons, is neglected and utilised solely in a reactive mode, rather than in a proactive one. Training on how to conduct performance management reviews should be a mandatory yearly session for all managers that are involved in performance management reviews. Strategies on how to mitigate bias should also be a crucial component within such workshops.

Webinar: Mitigating bias in performance management

On October 21, our Human Capital team will be hosting an online event that will focus on ‘Mitigating bias in performance management’. During the session, we will help participants to:

  • Define bias and the impact it has on a performance management systems;
  • Identify key strategies on how to manage bias in performance management;
  • List what leaders, team members and HR professionals can do in order to mitigate bias in PMS;
  • Understand the role that technology can play during performance management; and
  • Understand how bias can be minimised during a performance review conversation.

To register for this event click here or use the registration button.

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