Overcoming Performance Bias in Employee Promotions

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Today, workplaces are more diverse than ever. With four generations in the workforce, all with differing backgrounds and life and job experiences, human resources and corporate management need to be aware of how performance bias creeps into their workday.

Biases, whether overt or implicit, can affect the hiring, work assignment, succession planning and promotion processes. Although these biases may not be obvious, they can negatively impact the success of both individual employees and the business overall, according to a report from Deloitte.

Because personal views, including unconscious assumptions, impact workplace decisions, employers should confirm that they’re fairly promoting employees without a decision-making bias.

Here are some best practices to consider when evaluating your internal promotion strategy to help you combat unintentional bias.

Keep merit-based promotions objective

For decades, tenure-based promotions have been the go-to, but these employees might not always be the most qualified. Along with tenure, employers should consider high-performing employees for promotions.

Although merit-based promotions are gaining more traction, employers should still exercise caution, as bias can still bear influence. For example, a manager may want to promote an employee based on a recent success, ignoring the employee’s inability to handle multiple tasks or communicate effectively with other team members.

To inject objectivity into merit-based advancements, employers should reference performance reviews during the promotion process. Create a consistent review structure with clear objectives and goals, suggested HR Technologist. For example, when creating a performance review structure, company leaders should identify goals and expectations—for both the business and its employees. Additionally, employers should communicate these goals and expectations to employees, so employees understand what’s expected of them. This way employers can easily and transparently track employee performance, reducing subjectivity.

Let data do the talking

By using human resources data to track merit, employers can improve fairness when promoting employees. By analyzing promotion decisions based on performance analytics, leaders encourage employees to perform well, as opposed to simply putting in their time for the next promotion.

Data analytics combats performance bias, empowering employers to promote based on objective facts and standards, not personal opinion. Data-based promotion also enables leaders to tap proven talent from unexpected quarters, leading to better business outcomes over time. Deloitte reported that companies that invest in people analytics “outperform their peers in quality of hire, retention and leadership capabilities, and are generally higher ranked in their employment brand.”

Promote learning & training initiatives

To promote fairness in the promotion process, employers can implement learning and training initiatives as objective criteria. For example, by implementing a learning management system tool into your workplace, you can arm employers with additional objective data on employees’ skills, qualifications, certifications and potential for promotion.

Awareness is critical. An LMS program can raise awareness of implicit bias in the workplace, according to Forbes. By understanding how and when unconscious performance bias seeps into the workplace, employers can create standardized systems and policies to lessen the impact of performance bias while measuring progress toward internal goals.

Understanding how to objectively measure an employee’s readiness for promotion can alleviate the existence of performance bias. Through awareness, measurement and objective criteria, employers can promote high performers based on quantifiable data.