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Biases are common to all humans. If you look back at your day, you’ll realize that most of the decisions you made were based on some belief, prejudice or bias. While being biased is inherently human, its manifestation in some situations can lead to results which are far from ideal. And, that’s a topic we are discussing with this article, Performance Review Biases.
Essentially, performance review biases and preconceptions, notions or beliefs that you may hold, which may consciously or unconsciously impact your judgment when you are evaluating the performance of your team members. Performance review biases, even if unconscious, can lead to serious implications for your team member whose performance is being evaluated. For instance, if you have a certain bias against someone, you might give them a poor rating, unconsciously, which might impact their promotion, increment and career trajectory. Thus, as a leader, it is very important for you to check if you have any performance review biases and introduce preventive strategies, wherever needed.
Let’s quickly look at the top 12 most common performance review biases that are observed in growing organizations, how they look like and how you can prevent them for your company.
The Halo effect, like the term suggests, is when you put a halo over a person which is reflected in every perception you have about them. From a performance review bias perspective, it translates to a situation, where if a person has performed well in one aspect, you will have a bias that all other aspects of their performance are equally good which may not be the case. This suggests that their one good trait tends to overshadow all others.
If an employee has shown attention to detail to a particular project, which resulted in positive outcomes for the organization, a manager may consider attention to detail as their primary trait and all other parameters of performance review will be negated. Chances are that even if the person is not punctual, misses deadlines, etc., the manager will still give them a higher rating, because their one trait that impressed the manager will overshadow the other performance incompetencies.
To prevent the Halo effect, it is important for managers to evaluate the performance of their team members on multiple parameters and score them on each individually. In addition to the positive trait, you must objectively evaluate other factors which ultimately contribute to organizational success and assess the employee on a holistic level. This will ensure that one quality does not overshadow others, which equally determine the level of performance.
A counterpart of the Halo effect is the Horns effect. Here, one negative trait or performance parameter tends to bring down the overall performance review for an employee. If you have had a poor experience with an employee on a particular aspect, you may believe that they are overall a poor performer, which may reflect in your rating, despite them performing well on other aspects.
If an employee missed a particular deadline due to some personal reason, a manager might build a perception that they are not serious about their work. The delay in delivery of work then becomes the only important trait and other positives are ignored or overlooked.
Like the Halo effect, the best way to prevent the Horns effect is by taking into account multiple performance parameters and to get a clear understanding of the reason behind rating for each individual parameter. This will encourage you or any manager to rationally review a performance rather than being susceptible to performance review biases.
Leniency bias in performance review biases refers to a situation where you are more lenient in your rating, giving employees a higher rating than what their performance truly would yield. Leniency bias generally leads to overestimating the performance of some, resulting in the inability to differentiate average performance from top performers. Invariably, you may end up promoting some who still have room for improvement, while leaving others dissatisfied who truly deserve recognition and incentives.
Mr X and Mr Y are at a similar level and perform the same role of running ads to drive online traffic. During the performance term, Mr X managed a traffic of 6000+ leads while Mr Y brought in only 1000+. Leniency effect kicks in when the manager rates both of them at a similar level, despite the difference in their outputs. Naturally, both of them will have similar increments and career paths, despite unequal efforts and results. This might lead to dissatisfaction, lower levels of engagement, and ultimately attrition.
To differentiate between above average and top performance and to prevent falling prey to leniency bias, it is ideal to have a rating scale which increases the number of rating options after average. Instead of simply saying if a performer was average or above average, add options like excellent, high potential, high performer etc, after above average.
Centrality bias occurs if you rate your employee’s performance just in the middle of the spectrum. This generally occurs when you find it difficult to make a decision and go with a safe option. However, like leniency bias, this is also one of the performance review biases which makes it difficult to differentiate between low and top performers.
Centrality bias is evident if for a particular manager most employees have received the middle rating or the average review. In the case of a 7 point rating scale 4 is the most common rating received by many.
One of the easiest ways to prevent this performance review bias is to eliminate the middle option from your rating scale. For instance, if you follow a 5 point rating scale, you should move to a 4 point scale and eliminate the middle option of average. This will push your managers to give a below or above average rating, and help differentiate between different performance levels.
Generally, performance reviews occur at the end of the year, and recency bias comes in if you take into account only the most recent performance of the employee as opposed to reviewing their performance through the year. Chances are if the performer delivered poorly in the end, their entire rating will be dependent on this performance if this bias is at play. This generally occurs because it is easiest to remember the things that happen most recently. However, they reduce the employees to a few weeks and overlook their contribution across the year.
If Ms Y brought in 3 new customers at the start of the year, resulting in 50 Lacs of business, however, she was unable to convert any clients in the last quarter. With recency bias, the manager will rate her performance below average or poorly, because of the most recent performance, despite having a worthwhile performance across the year. The manager will end up overlooking her performance in the initial months.
Preventing recency bias requires adopting a continuous performance review framework. Here, you can focus on capturing performance feedback at regular intervals, when an employee achieves a milestone, completes a project, etc. All the feedback can then be consolidated to create an annual performance report based on which the final rating should be allocated. This will help you get sufficient data points to get a holistic performance view.
First impressions last. That’s the best way to define the primacy bias. It stands on the flip side of recency bias. Here, the first or the first few instances of one’s performance tend to influence the final performance review. Whether the performance has been good or bad in the beginning is what defines the final appraisal call.
When Mr O joined work, he was a little under confident in a new territory and could only close 1 deal in the first two months. However, as he learnt more about the product, his performance improved and by the end of the year, he closed 5 deals in just 2 weeks. However, in the event of primacy bias, his performance review will evaluate his performance as poor because he was unable to make a lasting first impression.
Preventing primacy bias follows the same principles as recency effect. The idea is to make performance feedback a regular practice where it is taken at pre decided intervals and sometimes after completing some important milestones. This will help managers to get a snapshot of performance over the year with clear points to avoid being fixated on one or two incidents from the very beginning.
As the name suggests, this is one of those performance review biases in which you may unconsciously give a higher rating to an employee who shares similar beliefs, skills, perceptions, etc. The rationale is quite simple, we tend to like people who are like us and often believe that the skills we possess are most desirable. However, this often leads to the creation of a homogeneous culture where diversity and inclusion don’t exist, leading to poor innovation and creativity.
A manager Mr T has three employees reporting directly to him. Mr T is very process driven and appreciates the same quality to drive outcomes. While one of those employees, Ms S is also process driven, the others are not and all three have similar outcomes. With similar-to-me bias, Mr T is likely to give Ms S a higher rating because she works in the same way as him, despite equally good performance from the other two.
As a performance review bias, the similar-to-me bias can be prevented by making assessments more objective and evidence backed. Encourage your managers to bifurcate performance reviews based on different parameters along with a reasoning behind each parameter.
Contrast bias occurs when a manager is evaluating performance for more than one employee and the performance of one becomes the benchmark for evaluating the performance of others instead of the company standard. At times, despite performing extremely well, an employee might just get an average rating because of the goal or the standard being used, leading to low engagement and satisfaction.
If the sales target for a team is getting 5 new clients individually over a period of 6 months and one employee gets 10 new clients and others get 7, 8 and 9. Contrast bias occurs when the manager gives an average rating to the employee who brought in 7 clients because it is lower when compared to the performance of the employee who brought in 10. Despite performing better than the company standard and goal, the performance of this employee is not considered up to the mark, because of contrast bias.
To prevent this performance review bias, it is important that managers set clear performance expectations at the beginning of the performance period and evaluation is done strictly according to those parameters. It is even a good idea to define performance evaluation based on different levels of achievement and managers must be encouraged and trained to review each performance in silos, rather than comparing one with another.
You display attribution bias during a performance review when you attribute the reason behind a performance based on your beliefs and perceptions, rather than objective facts and logic. In attribution bias, we generally attribute our good performance to internal factors like hard work, dedication, etc. and poor performance to external factors like lack of support, collaboration. However, when it comes to evaluating the performance of others, we turn the tables.
A classic example of attribution bias as one of the performance review biases is if Mr L has not been able to perform up to the mark and his manager has to evaluate his performance. With attribution bias, the manager, who might think Mr L is not hardworking, might believe that the reason for poor performance has been the casual attitude of Mr L, even if clearly, he wasn’t provided with the right tools and software needed for the job.
To prevent attribution bias, it is important that managers clearly define the reasons they believe led to the good or bad performance and a similar exercise is undertaken by the employee as a part of self reflection. It is important to assess both internal and external factors and focus on continuous feedback from diverse sources to understand which factors have been behind the performance more than others.
This is one of those performance review biases which are clear by the name. It suggests that when it comes to performance reviews, women are often evaluated based on their personality and behavior, while the performance of men is evaluated on the basis of their work. This leads to a skewed understanding of the contribution made by both genders, resulting in unfair distribution of rewards and recognition.
Suppose there are two colleagues who are being evaluated, Mr G and Ms K and both of them have had similar achievements, milestones and areas of improvement. A performance review which says Mr G has great coding skills and is able to write perfect codes in a short time, while Ms K has a pleasant demeanor and is able to collaborate with everyone well. While both the reviews are positive, the former one for the male employee is based on functional competencies, which yields better rewards and promotions for him, leading to gender inequality at the workplace.
To prevent gender bias, it is important to make performance reviews structured and objective. You may want to steer away from open feedback and give your managers a pre populated template with a few blocks. Furthermore, encourage your managers to quantify how each performer’s contribution led to organizational impact, focusing on behavior and outcome rather than performance itself.
All of us have preconceived notions about others and their performance. Confirmation bias occurs when you pay more heed to actions and information that confirm your bias about a particular performance than others which challenge your beliefs. Put simply, you are more likely to agree with opinions and facts which align with your evaluation of an individual’s performance, while negating those that give an alternate view. This gives a partial picture of an employee.
If a manager believes that Ms B has performed well due to her high functional skills, punctuality and attention to details, you will give her a higher rating. If the manager received feedback from external resources reinforcing the same belief, they will add that to their narrative. However, if a contrary comment comes to the picture, a manager with confirmation bias might discount or completely ignore it.
To prevent confirmation bias, managers need to think of their perceptions as potential truths and not the ultimate truths. An initial perception should be made, which should be confirmed or negated based on proofs and behaviors that come along the way, rather than the other way round. It is important to pay attention to and accept feedback that goes against one’s belief to get a complete picture of the employee’s performance.
As a manager, you may have some functional competencies which you are great at. However, there might be others where you have limited experience and expertise. One of the performance review biases in this case is the idiosyncratic bias. Here, you may end up being more lenient towards those who possess skills that you may have limited expertise with, while being more strict with those who share common skills like you. Often the reason behind is that, when someone evaluates performance based on skills that one has limited knowledge of, even small achievements make an impression, however, when it comes to evaluating skills one possesses, the standard for evaluation goes up. In either case, the performance review is not holistic.
There is a manager Ms H who is great at sales, but has limited expertise in building proposals and attention to detail. She has two team members working with her Mr T & Ms L, where the former has sales experience and the latter has experience in creating proposals with utmost accuracy. Idiosyncratic bias creeps in when unconsciously, Ms H gives Ms L a higher rating than Mr T, because the standards set for what constitutes good performance are based on her level of expertise.
To confront and prevent this performance review bias, managers must be encouraged to go beyond rating them based on their performance and what they believe has been the impact they have created. It is best for managers to consider whether or not their performance left an impression where the manager would want to work with the employee again.
As humans, we are inherently biased and unconscious bias training can go a long way into helping us keep our biases in check. However, to ensure that biases don’t impact performance reviews for any employees, it is best to implement a performance management tool to reduce their incidence. A performance management tool, like SuperBeings, will help you:
Prevent performance review biases like primacy effect and recency effect, etc. which rely on one a year bias prone 9 box grid assessment, by replacing it with a system generated grid based on performance snapshots collected throughout the year. Not only will you get a holistic view of the performance, your managers will also get a clear understanding of which employees need help more than others.
Equip your managers with a pre-built customizable template to answer simple questions about employee performance and potential at regular intervals to get a true snapshot of the performance and improvement from time to time. This will help managers objectively review performance at the end of the year.
Get inputs from diverse team members with automation to get a holistic view of an employee’s performance. This will help reduce the rater biases towards or against any employee and ensure that the reviews are genuine and authentic.
While performance review biases are common, if you are able to prevent them, you will unlock a high performance culture which greatly recognizes and incentivizes good performance. Using a performance management tool can help you achieve the same.
“Every employee can affect your company’s brand”- Tony Hseih, Former CEO, Zappos
Employee NPS is a key component for your organization if you wish to create a culture which engages, motivates and inspires employees and encourages them to recommend it to their friends. Here are a few quick points that you should not forget:
Now let’s get into the nitty-gritties of employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) and how you can use them effectively.
eNPS is or employee NPS is a measure of employee loyalty and how they feel about your organization. It is a scoring mechanism that employees can use to share their satisfaction/ dissatisfaction with the company culture, which in turn helps leaders to gauge the impact it will have on the organization.
The advent of eNPS came as a result of realizing that employees have an equal impact on an organization as the customers
For instance, if any employee leaves a bad review or reports a bad experience about your organization, it might act as a deterrent for other high performing candidates from applying to your organization.
In a nutshell, eNPS is one of the top tools you can use to gauge how satisfied your employees are with your company culture and measure whether or not your employee engagement and other efforts are actually bearing fruits.
You can calculate the eNPS for your organization by subtracting the percentage of promoters from the percentage of detractors. Let’s quickly understand what this means.
You will start by asking your employees to rate their experience on a rating scale of 0-10. You can have questions like ‘How likely are you to recommend the organization to your peers or friends, on a scale of 0-10’. We will talk more about potential questions in subsequent sections. Depending on their experience, your employees will share their rating. Based on the rating, you can segment your employees into three categories:
eNPS= %of promoters - %of detractors
For instance, if your organization has a total of 100 employees and 61 are promoters, 18 are detractors and 21 are passives, then your eNPS= 61%-18% = 43
The higher the eNPS, the more advocates you have. This suggests you will have an ecosystem of high percentage of employees that are loyal, inspired, motivated and committed.
For growing organizations like yours there are several reasons why eNPS matters to create a sustainable workplace. Such as —
Research shows that the majority of candidates read six reviews before forming an opinion about a company and 70% of people look to reviews before they make career decisions
With employee NPS, you will know how likely your employees are to recommend your organization to others outside. This ensures employer branding which determines the quality of talent you will be able to attract.
By ensuring a good Net Promoter Score from employees, you will be able to manage the reviews effectively.
Employee NPS is very easy to execute, fast and cost-effective. At the same time, it gives you a clear picture of who are the advocates for your organization vs those who are disengaged and are unlikely to make recommendations. This information has two-fold benefits:
It is very rare that an employee will one day decide to leave your organization out of nowhere. Often, the decision to quit starts in advance and can be attributed to several factors including disengagement and dissatisfaction. eNPS, conducted regularly, can help you anticipate potential turnover in advance, when the employee rates low on the eNPS survey. You can use this data to fine tune your engagement plan and identify and address specific challenges.
🚀 Predict and prevent turnover with employee experience surveys by SuperBeings. Learn more
As stated above, eNPS directly impacts the quality of the talent you attract. Similarly, it also impacts how fast you are able to close an open position. If you have a high eNPS, you will receive a higher inflow of applications because your organization will be branded as a preferred place to work. This higher number of applications will translate to faster interviews and closures. Invariably, this will prevent the loss of work hours between transitions.
Finally, eNPS can help you track employee loyalty and engagement over time. If individual and overall employee NPS increases, it reflects that your interventions are moving the needle. However, if the score drops, you may need to relook at your practices and understand the root cause.
As mentioned before, employee NPS is generally measured with eNPS surveys. Therefore, like any other feedback cycle, your eNPS surveys should also follow a structured and cyclical approach. Here are to create an effective eNPS survey process —
Make your eNPS ratings confidential and anonymous. Do not force your employees to give names along with ratings or do not disclose ratings of one to another even if you know who it is from. One of the easiest ways is to use a platform that doesn’t capture respondent data, except the rating. Anonymity will help build employee trust and ensure honesty in the rating received
Refrain from adding too many questions in your eNPS rating. A maximum of 2-3 questions is more than enough. While most organizations use 1 central or core question, you can supplement it with another one to augment impact. For instance, one question can be about probability to recommend, while the other could be on motivation, inspiration.
Having an eNPS rating at regular intervals is important. Ideally, as a growing organization, you should have a monthly cadence. However, if that seems overwhelming, you can start with a quarterly rating, and gradually increase the frequency.
While a 2 or 5 point rating scale can also capture data, a 10 point scale and open ended questions enable employees to be more specific about their answer by giving them more options to choose from. The deeper your eNPS survey insights are, the more accurate actions you can take to improve your score.
Just because responding to an eNPS question requires one click, you cannot assume that you’ll receive 100% participation. You must follow up a couple of times. Using employee survey tools to increase survey participation rate can be useful here. For example, SuperBeings sends reminders and follow up nudges at preset intervals via existing chat tools (Slack, Teams, Gchat etc) directly in the flow of work to maximize response rate.
Finally, you must encourage your employees to be honest in their rating. Anonymity will help you achieve this. Additionally, explain to your employees that the answers will not have an impact on their appraisal and their negative rating will not land them in a backlash.
As a best practice, you can start your employee NPS survey with a core question and then you could follow it up with a few open ended questions. Your first question must follow a rating pattern to get your employee Net Promoter Score. Some of the questions can be:
Here are a few best practices you can use while preparing your follow up questions:
While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact score which can be considered good, there are a few ways to measure how well your performance has been on eNPS.
If you look closely, by formula, your score can range from -100 to +100, depending on the ratio of your promoters and detractors. Generally, any positive score, that is, a score above 0 is considered to be a good starting point. This indicates that there are more promoters in your organization than detractors. This translates to the fact that more employees are likely to recommend your organization than those who will not.
However, only a positive score is not the end of the story. While a positive score represents retention and recommendation, the higher the score, the greater will be propensity and impact.
Furthermore, you must also align your eNPS with other organizations in your industry. For instance, while 60 might be a great score, if all organizations in your industry have an eNPS of 70+, then you may need to relook at your numbers.
Here, studying industry benchmarks can help. However, eNPS is not a data point that is publicly available that you can consume.
At the same time, your own eNPS can also be a benchmark for you over time with an aim to increase every time. The idea is to track your own company’s fluctuation, positive or negative, to identify the reasons or interventions behind the same.
eNPS surveys can disillusion even the most people friendly organizations. It is not rare to have a survey score below expectations. But improving eNPS is easier than you think:
You must have heard that what gets measured, gets improved. The same is true for eNPS. When you capture employee NPS on a regular basis, you can track fluctuations and gauge whether or not the needle is moving. You can get a real time picture of whether the promoters or the detractors are increasing. Furthermore, the fluctuations can help you identify how specific interventions or regular organizational activities impact eNPS.
No matter what the results say, share it with your team members. Even if you have a negative score, share it with the team to facilitate collaborative thinking on what is going wrong. This will help you create an image that you are truly listening to your employees and are taking action. After sharing results, follow up and communicate the next action steps so your employees know that their voices are being heard and impact is being created.
To improve eNPS, you need to understand the rationale or the reason behind each rating. Here, you should ask follow up questions to your employees on what contributed to this particular rating. On one hand, it will help you understand the motivation or the inspiration for promoters as well as you will be able to identify what is stopping detractors from recommending the organization to others.
Put simply, the factors mentioned by promoters can be augmented and focused on, while those from detractors must be addressed or resolved
Once you share the results and engage in collective brainstorming, you must take action.
If you think that you only need to focus on detractors to improve your eNPS, you are mistaken. While you definitely need to pay attention to them, the other two segments, i.e. promoters and passives must not be left attended.
When it comes to improving your eNPS, there is no stopping point. Just because you improve your eNPS by 20 points, doesn’t mean you have reached the pinnacle, even if you are above the industry average.
Employee Net Promoter Score must be a part of a more comprehensive employee feedback framework. The idea is to get more qualitative feedback and insights to compliment the score. You can use open-ended survey comments for this purpose. Such feedback will help you understand where the score came from and how you can take steps to move in the right direction.
Finally, to improve your eNPS, you need to focus on the passives. Based on the formula, you might think that passives have no role to play in eNPS. However, you must understand that they are just one point away from falling in the detractor or the promoter category. Here, your focus should be on moving them up the spectrum. Getting qualitative inputs from them is very important as they have some level of commitment and positive regard towards the organization already.
With eNPS, you can turn employee feedback into a growth strategy both as a business and as an employer. Here’s how:
First, employee NPS boosts the morale of employees who believe that their voice has value and is being heard. It makes employees feel included in the process of building the right culture. Employees who participate in eNPS come with a sense of pride as being a contributor to building the overall experience in the organization. It also comes with a sense of respect when an organization asks the employees for their perception.
Low or negative eNPS is a clear indicator of the level of disengagement. It shares an inverse relationship.
Lower the eNPS, higher will be the disengagement
Obviously, only when employees feel disengaged at work, will they not recommend it to others in their network. This can act as initial information for your organization to create strategic plans to reverse the trend. Furthermore, fluctuations in eNPS can be useful when it comes to sudden disengagement which may not be very apparent, but can lead to mass turnover.
A deep dive into the qualitative aspects of eNPS can help you understand the factors contributing to engagement or disengagement. For instance, if a promoter claims that they gave a high score because of the focus on wellness, it becomes clear that wellness programs can augment engagement. Similarly, if the reason for a detractor is high workload, effective distribution can help improve engagement levels.
Creating, communicating and analyzing employee surveys can be intimidating and time taking. To conduct eNPS in a comprehensive and hassle free manner, you can partner with SuperBeings. Here’s what you get with our employee engagement survey feature —
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do with our engagement survey tool. At SuperBeings, we are constantly trying to improve the engagement processes and make it easier for the people leaders.
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