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What performance appraisal methods should managers use to avoid bias?

Written By

Jill Bromund

President and Senior Consultant of Coachability

Briefly Speaking

Concerned about how impartial your performance appraisal methods are? Find out how to keep bias out.
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Fair performance appraisal methods use metrics only to judge performance at regular, short intervals. Give each employee a set of deliverables and measure those deliverables by graphing them on a daily or weekly basis to show changes. In this way, he or she knows exactly what is expected and can become stable in his role. In addition, the employee’s performance can be easily judged. Of course, other qualities in an employee matter besides his or her ability to deliver, but this comes first and foremost where fairness is concerned.

As a role becomes more complicated or you head toward the top of the org chart, certain complexities make the evaluation of performance more difficult. In this case, the best idea is to make a list of the deliverables as well as the “soft skills” or intangibles that the position needs. Do this without regard to the person currently in the role. Imagine what an ideal person would do and be in the role and write that into the job description as a standard to judge the person against.

As soon as you enter “soft skills” into the equation, the ability to keep bias out of your performance appraisal methods becomes compromised to a degree. Therefore, the job description should include these skills at the outset, not added after a problem arises. Be thoughtful about the skills, tasks and deliverables of the role as early as possible so that the standard is fairly set.

If you do not currently have a job description for each role in your organization that includes the main tasks, the deliverables and the soft skills for that role, then this is the first task you must take on to get your house in order. From there, develop regular performance reviews based only on metrics that occur weekly.

Then, at longer intervals, such as every six months or one year, look at the whole list of tasks, deliverables and soft skills and write a short comparison of the person to this list. Remember as you go over the comparison of the person to this list that the person is receiving a picture of himself which may or may not be flattering. Think of how you feel when you view an unflattering picture of yourself, and take this into account as you share the information. Be firm but kind in your appraisal and after reviewing any negative information, quickly give the person a list of ways to improve his or her performance. Allow him to improve the picture.

To recap how to keep bias out of your performance appraisal methods, start off with a clear-cut set of tasks, deliverables and soft skills for each position. Review the deliverables on a weekly basis with the person to judge performance regularly. This allows for no surprises at the formal performance reviews which take place yearly and contain a comparison of the person to all the tasks, deliverables and soft skills. If any negative information surfaces, give the person a development plan to help him improve the picture.

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