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Three Tips to Create a More Inclusive Performance Management Process

| Director  
Erin is a Director on the Training & People Development team. Prior to Paradigm, Erin spent more than 13 years at Google as a program and people manager, working on increasing equity and inclusion in computer science and developer education.


Somehow, the end of another year is rapidly approaching. I feel like it was just yesterday when I was sweating my way through July, thinking about all of the things I wanted to accomplish at work this year. Yet, here it is, November, and I’m rushing to get it all done. While there are a lot of items that will likely have to wait until January (another year, another chance!), the big “to-do” on my list that I can’t wait is thinking about my team’s end of year performance reviews.

As an employee at Paradigm, I know how important it is to think about both performance and management from a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) perspective for fairer outcomes and happier employees. As a manager, I know  it’s critical to make sure performance management diversity stays top of mind year-round, not only during performance review time and cycles. But I also know how time consuming it can be and how busy we all are. With that in mind, I’d like to provide you with a starting point for what you can do to create more inclusive performance management.

Inclusive Performance Management Tips

Be clear on role criteria

Have you ever had an internal employee, who you felt wasn’t doing the best job, but couldn’t put your finger on why? Or have you had someone on your team you knew could do anything you put in front of them?

Whether positive or negative, we all have feelings related to the work those around us do. What we shouldn’t do is rely on those feelings to assess the performance evaluation of individuals’ work. That’s why it’s so important to outline criteria for roles before discussing individual people’s performance. This could be as simple as looking over the job descriptions you hired for or asking a peer to look over the current role expectations to make sure they’re clear.

No matter how you approach it, being clear on role criteria isn’t just helpful for you during performance evaluations, it is also critical for your direct reports to understand what they will be measured against so there won’t be surprises during review time.

Focus feedback on the process

Whether you are a manager or an individual contributor, you may be providing feedback on performance results to co-workers this performance review cycle. Think of this as your chance to help foster a growth mindset – or the belief that we can improve our skills and abilities – within your company culture and healthy workplace relationships. The most useful feedback focuses on the process and not the person.

For example, rather than saying, “She’s the best project manager I’ve ever seen,” you might say, “She keeps information organized and updated in all four project plans she’s managing and created the template that all the project managers on the team now use.” By focusing on the process and empirical data, you are less likely to comment on feelings-based personal and systemic biases too. If you aren’t sure if your feedback is feelings driven, try to give examples of what has shown up.

Hold yourself (and your peers) accountable

The final tip to highlight is around calibration among manager-level workers. You might have specific criteria and process-driven feedback, but if you are not aligned with other leads, there will be different expectations for similar roles.

Calibration is a chance to identify biases and ensure alignment across lead team members, digging into questions like: Do the criteria apply equally to anyone in the role? Is there any potential bias baked into these criteria? Are the criteria easily measurable? Do we agree on what examples of the criteria may look like?

It is useful to have calibration across teams, but it can be just as important to calibrate in smaller groups. In either case, having someone in the room who is not connected to any individual or role under discussion is an opportunity for an objective voice that centers the discussion on role criteria that helps ensure more equitable outcomes for those under discussion.

Why build in objectivity?

For you data-driven folks, you may be wondering why it’s important to implement structures and protocols around a performance management system. Download Paradigm’s white paper on managing unconscious bias for the compelling research behind working toward objectivity.

This is just the start. Performance management is complicated not just in Q4 but all year, and we encourage all managers to slow down and create the time and space to be thoughtful about inclusion practices and the approach to this delicate, critical process. If you need help training your people leaders on inclusive performance management practices, check out our course in Paradigm Reach or email us about our live workshops.

November 15, 2022

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