How to Conduct Bias-Free Performance Reviews

Posted by Lauren • October 12, 2021 (Last modified December 17, 2021) • 4 min read

Conducting bias-free performance reviews is something many people struggle to do. Why? People, by their very nature, are prone to making unfair judgments about others. Even the most open-minded, objective thinkers are influenced by their subconscious cognitive biases. A cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that is often a result of your brain’s attempt to simplify information processing. Our decision-making is influenced by our personal beliefs, life experiences, and emotions whether we know it or not.

Biases are common in the workplace, especially when managers are asked to evaluate the performance of their team members. There is ample information to consider when completing performance reviews and raters can easily get caught up in incorrect or irrelevant details known as rater bias.

Unfortunately, you cannot prevent people from having biases as they are simply human nature. However, you can create an effective performance management process that keeps biases out of evaluations. 

How can you ensure you are providing fair and accurate performance-based reviews? Read 6 tips below. 

Trying to implement a performance review process? Learn more about Trakstar Perform, or sign up for a live demo of our fully integrated platform to see how easy it is to create the ideal performance review process for your organization.

Set Employee Goals As Milestones For Performance Reviews

The first step is to define exactly what successful job performance looks like for every employee. Instead of relying on generic evaluation competencies like “initiative” and “teamwork,” set goals for every employee that have clear intended outcomes.

The SMART-method results in objective goals to help employees understand exactly where to focus. Go through each letter in the acronym (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely) and set appropriate goals to use as the basis for each employees’ performance review.

Create Effective Performance Review Forms & Rating Scales

While SMART goals will account for most of the review, you should round out evaluation forms with the right behavioral and leadership competencies. However, don’t use the same supplemental competencies for every employee. Instead, consider what criteria are relevant to their role. You can also include descriptions with each competency so raters know what to consider when scoring an employee on subjective criteria.

Additionally, use a “semi-quantitative” rating scale instead of a purely-numerical 1-to-5 scale. A semi-quantitative scale has five scoring options, with each titled for context (e.g. “not effective,” “minimally effective,” “effective,” “highly effective,” “exceptional”). 

Use Performance Notes During Reviews

Performance review periods are often lengthy and raters should not be expected to remember all of an employees’ accomplishments and struggles. Using a modern performance management system enables managers to document an employee’s highs and lows throughout the review period.

Notes can reflect any progress or setbacks related to an employee’s goals. Managers can also record notes relevant to the secondary competencies being evaluated. Then, during the review completion period, there is a detailed record to consult, helping to avoid recency, spillover, and false-attribution bias.

Collect 360-degree Feedback

Biases are most prevalent when only one person reviews an employee. By collecting feedback from multiple raters, a clear picture is created around what an employee is doing well and what they can improve on.

When using 360-degree feedback, employees are reviewed by their immediate team members, colleagues from other departments, direct reports, senior leaders, and even people outside the organization. The manager still completes the final evaluation but has different perspectives to consider to help them overcome any personal biases.

Encourage Employees To Do Self Performance Reviews

Instead of a one-sided conversation with employees only listening to their manager’s appraisal, allow them to provide their own input. Ask them to complete a self-review to rank themselves on the same competencies other raters do. They can discuss the results with their manager to foster a two-sided dialogue. 

Self-reviews help counter any biases the manager may have. The employee shares their first-person perspective on why they approach their job the way they do.

Conduct Regular Employee Check-Ins

Performance shouldn’t be discussed only once a year or quarter. Employees should meet with their manager regularly to share what they’re working on and how they’re feeling about their job. The manager can then provide immediate feedback that will help the employee resolve any challenges they’re facing.

Continuous performance-related conversations prevent managers from making any snap judgments when completing formal reviews. They will already be aware of where the employee has been striving to improve and the problems that have hindered progress. 

Optimize Performance Management With Data

Regardless of the measures in place to prevent bias, there will always be raters who give inaccurate performance reviews. With Trakstar Perform, you can identify rater biases in an easy-to-understand report. The Rater Bias Report that shows the range of scores given to employees or teams. This enables you to pinpoint who is either too lenient or strict in their evaluations and provide coaching to help them fairly evaluate employee performance going forward. 

Set expectations and show employees how to make an impact from the start with Trakstar Perform. Get a live demo of our fully integrated platform and see how easy it is to create the ideal performance review process for your organization.

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