Can performance review bias be fixed?
By exposing patterns of bias and redesigning performance reviews, one law firm is making employee evaluations fairer and more effective
The last year has seen an explosion of articles and advice about diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DEI”) and how to promote them in the workplace. Unfortunately, too many articles on this topic present generic advice, lack supporting data, and offer no concrete steps leaders can take to improve DEI initiative performance. A new article by Joan C. Williams, Denise Lewin Loyd, Mikayla Boginsky, and Frances Armas-Edwards, however, suffers none of those ills. The authors present a solid, data-backed, case study that is well worth analyzing.
The story begins two years ago when the authors were contacted by a U.S. law firm and asked for help understanding how bias was affecting their performance review process. The head of DEI at the firm had noticed some “red flags” and wanted to address them with data and not just anecdotes.
The authors looked closely at the firm’s review process. Its results presented some startling discrepancies. The most troubling statistic was that only 9.5% of the performance evaluations given to people of color ever mentioned leadership — 70% less than white women. These were important numbers because leadership mentions “typically predicted higher competency ratings the next year.”
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