Are you Perpetuating Gender Bias with your Performance Review Process?

Working toward gender equality is a slow grind. Gender Bias is systemic; for change to truly happen, discussions need to be front and center in business every day. Businesses need to look deep into existing processes to see where gender bias is institutionalized. Performance reviews and processes are one of those areas where the status quo of inequity becomes perpetuated.

Performance Reviews and Gender Bias

We can start to address gender bias by looking at normal business practices. Harvard Business Review published an illuminating article that identifies clear patterns of gender bias in annual performance reviews. Its author, Paola Cecchi-Dimeglio, reached a number of important conclusions about the current state of annual reviews:

  • Traditional review methods are out-of-date
  • Objective feedback tends to be equally fair to men and women
  • Subjective feedback can lead to gender bias, favoring men over women
  • Feedback for women tends to be more vague than feedback for men
  • Double-standards in performance review language consistently favor male employees
  • Women often do not receive full credit for their work compared to the credit that men get for similar work
  • Eliminating bias hinges upon using objective data
  • Performance tracking tools that capture real-time feedback help minimize bias

Gender bias in performance reviews causes a chain reaction, leading to fewer promotions at every level. The numbers validate this pattern. Here’s a breakout of workforce demographics by gender, clearly demonstrating that women are passed over for promotions at every level:

Percentage of Women in the Corporate Hierarchy:

  • 21% – “C-Suite” (CEO, COO, CFO etc.)
  • 22% – Senior Vice President
  • 29% – Vice President
  • 34% – Director / Sr. Manager
  • 37% – Manager / Supervisor
  • 48% – Entry Level

Addressing this inequity starts with how companies evaluate talent as an integral part of doing business.

Understanding Your Workforce

Unfortunately, businesses don’t pay attention to their own people the same way they pay attention to their customers. Marketers, for example, use complex tools and metrics to better understand their customers; company leadership needs to do the same thing with its own people. The better a business understands its customers, the better it can serve them. The better a business understands its employees, the better it can eliminate gender bias.

Where do companies fall short, then, in understanding their employees to the same degree that they understand their customers? In order to neutralize gender bias in performance reviews, evaluation methods and tools need to be gender-neutral.

Fixing Gender Bias in Performance Reviews

To level the playing field in performance reviews, Cecchi-Dimeglio identified changes that are easy to implement and produce concrete results:

Use objective criteria, minimizing personality-based feedback

  • Broaden the group of people providing feedback, including supervisors, colleagues and clients
  • Increase the frequency of feedback
  • Use automated, real-time communication tools to snapshot performance over time
  • Use gender-neutral language in feedback forms and fields
  • Design forms and fields to encourage constructive feedback

These ideas also contribute to a company culture that’s built around employee satisfaction. Businesses can reinforce teamwork with opportunities for colleagues to celebrate each other. They can encourage employee engagement by providing clarity to workers on how they contribute to company goals.

Using the right tools helps identify leadership skills, even at the entry level – and creates gender-neutral pathways to promotion. Our breakthrough software platform OpaConnect does more than meet the need for regular objective feedback – it keeps the entire company focused and on track, and helps recognize leadership skills at every level. We designed OpaConnect to be a best-in-class solution for performance management. If you’re dedicated to success and workplace satisfaction, you can learn more about OpaConnect here.

We’re proud of our women-led company. We’ve seen the powerful leadership that comes naturally to women: as entrepreneurs, as executives, as board members, and business leaders. We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve seen, and we’re committed to empowering working women at every level. We believe in women, and we believe in doing the hard work to achieve equity in the workplace.

Jill Pappenheimer, President

Calling All CEOs: A Case Study in Transparency

Posted on the walls of their Dubai offices, the consulting and training firm Biz Group, hangs decorative signs that say, “Supporting People’s Personal Growth,” “Believe in Your Dreams,” and “Then Make It Happen.” With interactive art spaces and an open-minded culture of transparency and curiosity, employees are vigorously encouraged to dream, think big, support each other’s visions, and celebrate the successes in their personal lives.

When I visited their offices last month, I was enchanted by their culture and their workplace. Biz Group calls their people “Bizzers,” and the central open area and meeting rooms are colorful, inquisitive spaces that looks more like a kids’ playground than a corporate office. The atmosphere of play reflects The Biz Groups’ style of using game-based strategies to help businesses grow and thrive.

Their reputation speaks for itself – Biz Group has been named a Great Place to Work in the UAE 2 years in a row, the #1 SME Human Capital company in Dubai the last 4 years, and they’ve got an amazing 86% repeat / referral ratio. How do they get such incredible customer satisfaction, and what do they do to earn such accolades?

A Culture of Positive Change

It starts with living their values. At Biz Group, they have incorporated the company’s core values into everything they do. Their values reflect a belief that when people come first, business success will follow. Breaking from stoic business traditions, Biz Group works in a way that’s vibrant, whimsical and inspirational.

Their values speak to the importance they place on people:

  • Act with “Biz” Energy
  • Genuinely care about delivering results
  • Combining strengths
  • Supporting people’s personal growth
  • Tell what you need to hear
  • Believe anything is possible

With a culture that places such importance on the humanity of business, Biz Group takes a bold approach to Learning & Development. In a sense, they reverse-engineer from desired business outcomes. They believe that a company’s key focus should be to hire the right talent and support those employees to reach their goals and full potential. That means smart hires and a dedication to good training.

A people-focused business still needs to meet its objectives. Biz Group believes that L&D should have a measurable impact on business success and profitability. To that end, they’re very deliberate in how training is designed, making sure that learning can be directly linked to measurable business benefits. L&D should be seen as an investment with a measurable ROI.

CEO – Leading with Integrity

Biz Group CEO Hazel Jackson has her “Expectations from CEO” statement posted outside of her office. It’s a concise list of what her team can expect from her in her role as CEO. It’s also a powerful statement on accountability, and sets a tone throughout the organization that transparency and clarity help the company succeed.

The first bullet is “hold relevant ‘management team’ members accountable for the delivery of their expectations”. It’s her job to make sure her team delivers. It’s also her job to make sure everyone in the organization is clear on their own responsibilities and goals. Another one of her CEO expectations is to “deliver … billable hours to help maintain CEO salary as cost neutral to the business”. I love that Hazel is ultimately clear that even she is focused on the bottom line, and what it takes to make the company successful.

People Success Leads to Business Success

Biz Group inspired me. I think back on the huge erasable wall titled “Believe in Your Dreams.” Below the title, there are notes written by employees about their dreams. Their dreams range from “go on a safari in Africa” to “have kids” and “have my own company”.  And right next to the wall of dreams is the wall of “Then Make it Happen” – covered with photos of employees living their dreams.

Bizzers are reminded every day that they provide real value to the company. Together, they’ve created an environment where transparency is the norm – everyone knows what their roles are, how the work they do makes a difference to the bottom line, and how they can support each other to achieve even greater success. Biz Group is a model for how organizations can be profitable, thriving, and a great place to work.

If you have a great example of how your company or team is living out your values, please connect with me at Kirsti@Options4Growth.net.

 

 

ReBoot the 360

Managing people is a complex endeavor. Given the right combination of people, interpersonal skills, cultural dynamics and motivation, a company can create a happy, productive, engaged workforce. That kind of success doesn’t happen by accident. It takes the right executed approach. The “360” performance review concept, when first introduced, opened up a new, fresh approach to managing. By polling an employee’s direct reports, peers and even customers, gathering diverse opinions from different perspectives, a company could gain new insight into its people.

After years in practice, though, the 360 review has revealed its flaws. People providing feedback often don’t know enough about an employee’s day-to-day work, challenges and responsibilities. As a result, comments can tend to be personality-based, as opposed to a valuable additional perspective. This feedback can even be damaging and misguided.

Disrupting the 360 Model

The first step in steering the 360 back on course is to get clear on what matters. What’s germane in a 360 review? Here are some fundamentals:

Continue reading “ReBoot the 360”

Calling All CEO’s

Prominent CEOs are standing up against racism, and the country is taking notice. Reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. This support has reinforced a powerful idea: that a company’s values can influence communities and the nation.

I’d like to address my fellow CEOs, and issue a Call to Action: examine your core values and engage your workforce. This is important stuff. Your company values matter in a new and exciting way: they’ve become a key component of your company’s capital. It’s an opportunity to expand awareness of what your organization stands for. Especially now, core values are essential to who you are and what you do. Your identity in the marketplace takes on new meaning.

Ask Questions and Listen

There’s power in what you stand for. CEOs, I urge you to do some soul-searching. Open up the conversation. Get people talking up and down your organization. Ask questions that can lead to growing your core values – and LISTEN to the feedback from your employees. Let your people know that you really want to hear from them. This simple exercise taps into the intellectual wealth of your workforce, and can provide you with guidance on your company’s identity.

Here are some basic questions to get the conversation started:

  • What are the core ethics that you want your employees and coworkers to embrace?
  • What do we want our company culture to look like? What would it feel like in the office, what would you see people doing and what would you hear them saying?
  • How do we want to be perceived by our communities? What roles might we play in community leadership?
  • What are some examples of outreach and service that we can provide?
  • What other questions should we be asking that might be relevant to our business, and to our place in the community?

The goal is to have these conversations throughout your organization. Small teams, large teams, departments and divisions, company-wide meetings: it’s all fair game.

Be Proactive. Every company is different, and the process of discovery will lead you in your own unique direction. Take the lead in finding out what that direction is. Start the conversations and keep them going.

Continue reading “Calling All CEO’s”

Part 2: Ignite your Culture – How to Create a People Centered Business

A happy workforce is good for business. That translates to an environment where employees are inspired – where people WANT to make a difference. In this people-centered paradigm, strategists are looking beyond questions like “how can we be profitable?” Instead, they’re asking questions like “how can we be a great place to work?”

Companies that embrace the great-place-to-work model are at a competitive advantage in the war for talent. The best candidates are seeking those companies out. That’s making it more imperative for other aggressive companies to adopt that model as a key business goal.

What steps can a company take to be a great place to work? It starts with understanding key components of workplace satisfaction.

Employee engagement – companies with top-to-bottom engagement are more productive and perform better financially.  Engagement means staff are passionate and positive about what they do, and feel aligned with the company mission and goals.

Transparency – this came up as the #1 factor in a 2013 survey by Tinypulse. Open communication is key. The more employees feel connected with management, coworkers and work teams, the happier and more engaged they are.

Appreciation – being recognized for their work came out #1 in a huge Boston Consulting Group survey of over 200,000 people from around the world.

Other factors like compensation and company stability ranked high also, but focusing on the 3 above guides us to a key understanding: that a culture with open, positive communication can lead directly to a better workplace.

Continue reading “Part 2: Ignite your Culture – How to Create a People Centered Business”

Part 1: Can you afford “not” to have a people centered approach to Business?

Are we looking at business backward? Success is driven and measured in financial terms, but people are the heart of business. People matter most, and paradigms are changing to reflect that. New business traditions are emerging that value human factors side-by-side with financial ones. Employee satisfaction is as important as profitability.

How can success be viewed in terms of human capital rather than financial capital? Harvard Business Review poses some intriguing questions, and offers illuminating insight, in a new article on talent management.

Continue reading “Part 1: Can you afford “not” to have a people centered approach to Business?”

Creating teams that can’t fail

remote working

After twenty consecutive quarters of revenue decline, IBM’s marketing lead, Michelle Peluso, recently decided that the solution lies in relocating her remote-working team to one of six regional centers. Abandoning IBM’s long-held support for telecommuting, IBM marketers must now move so they can stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ or leave. This is a policy which didn’t work out well for Yahoo! (or should we say Oath), and will likely fail for IBM marketing.

Continue reading “Creating teams that can’t fail”

Cloning your key staff

alignment

Every entrepreneur has at some point wished they could ‘clone’ their best team members. Faced with mounting challenges, they’ve muttered to themselves something along the lines of: “If only I could find someone else like Jane – she just gets it.”

Not literally clone Jane, but mirroring her performance and approach. The ‘chosen few’ are often just that – few. Owners prize employees who are fully engaged with the culture, committed to the mission, delivering against their goals and sharing the journey. Replicating that approach is key to scaling the business. Continue reading “Cloning your key staff”

A failure of culture and of courage

Failure of courage

Fresh on the heels of harassment claims at Uber, come revelations about widespread sharing and lewd discussion of photos of servicewomen in the US Marines. Different organizations, with similar institutional failings of respect and systemic bias. The Marines have a clear mission, established processes, discipline, levels of transparency unimaginable in the commercial sector, and yet tens of thousands of its staff appear to be engaged in illicit and destructive behavior.

But why?

Continue reading “A failure of culture and of courage”

Become an HR Rebel with a Cause at HR West 2017

HR rebel with a cause

Let’s be clear – the stories we read about institutionalized discrimination and harassment at high profile companies like Uber, are not just a failing of management, but of HR. Most of us don’t enter the HR field to protect institutions, post-rationalize actions, or build legal cases. We enter it to help people reach their potential. Sometimes we need to speak truth to power. When the time comes, how will you respond when careers, well-being, livelihoods and reputations are on the line?
Continue reading “Become an HR Rebel with a Cause at HR West 2017”