Unconscious Bias and Performance Management

Published on: Wed 3 June 2015 by Admin

Are Managers influencing under-performance?

Leaders need to be able to manage employee performance to meet business goals on a day-today basis, as well as at formal reviews. It’s important this is carried out equitably and in a way that meets the needs of both the individual and the organisation. But what happens if during this critical process we are inadvertently discouraging staff, limiting their opportunities to progress and excel, or leaving them feeling neglected?

Unconscious bias means that people often make choices or exhibit behaviours against one group or individual and in favour of another. What is perhaps more striking is that it is a result of an unconscious process and we have no idea we are doing it. Unconscious bias has the potential to damage all areas of the business so it is important that we take steps to raise awareness of this counter-productive behaviour amongst staff and particularly, amongst leaders, influencers and recruiters.

Unconscious Bias and Performance Management

When it comes to performance management specifically, unconscious bias can impact on the way we motivate and engage with staff. This means that we can actually be discouraging some staff, perhaps even setting them up to fail without any conscious intention to favour certain members of the team over others.

Failing to address this can have impact on lots of things: talent management, recruitment, diversity, creativity, teamwork, as well as core business outputs.

So how do we break the cycle?

You can make a significant impact by just raising awareness of unconscious bias. Once awareness of bias is raised from the unconscious to the conscious level, attitudes and behaviours change and improve the quality of the decision-making process, resulting in a far reaching positive impact on organisational performance. Testing and training however, is of course the most effective way of making a true impact across the organisation.

Good Practice Example – Chubb

Chubb have a core principle running through their business – “Never compromise integrity.” They apply this standard to diversity and inclusion in their organisation. They view workforce diversity as a competitive advantage and a business imperative. Rolling out unconscious bias training within the organisation is a demonstration of their commitment to diversity and integrity. They have also paired unconscious bias with performance management training.

Chubb’s Chief Diversity Officer, Kathy Marvel explains that this is to “help provide guidance on objectively linking performance with business goals while managing the challenges we may face due to unconscious biases we may have”

Check out our earlier blog: 3 Strategies to Reduce the Impact of Unconscious Bias