Combating Implicit Biases Through Competency Insights

You have looked over your team’s latest performance metrics, which reveals your top and lowest performers. What makes your top performers so successful? We often receive responses like: they are a hard worker, they are easy to work with, or they come from a strong background. Are these observations accurate depictions of their behavior? In contrast, why are your lowest performers underperforming? We often receive responses like: they are not very motivated, they just don’t care, or they have a rough personality.

Can these responses be backed by data or are they purely observational?  More importantly, are these factors truly leading contributors to success or failure in the role? Often, our implicit biases keep us from accurately analyzing employee performance.

Beware of Implicit Biases

Implicit biases are associations learned through past experiences. Biases are like thought habits. Once they are learned, you begin to use them unconsciously, whether they are accurate or not. Because our brains see them as efficient, they are hard to break, and therefore, are abundantly used in the workplace.

These are two of the most common biases that affect the accurate evaluation of employee performance:

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is our tendency to pick information that confirms our preconceived ideas and beliefs. The opposite also is true; we tend to reject information that rejects our existing belief. For example, imagine that as a manager, you have worked with a certain individual on various projects. You have experienced them to be very enjoyable and easy to work with. You receive feedback that this individual might need additional soft skills training, but you decide to disregard the advice since you believe that the individual already has the soft skills needed to succeed.

Halo and Horn Effect

The Halo/Horn Effect occurs when your impression of another is overly positive or overly negative. For example, imagine that as a manager, you assume that your all-star performer is competent in all skills deemed as necessary for success in the role. Same goes for their lowest performers. You may believe that they need to improve in all competencies.

What Can Managers Do to Combat Implicit Biases During the Performance Review Process?

It is important for managers to balance perception and data when reviewing performance. Recall our last article on competencies and content gaps. We discussed how managers should define what competencies are essential to succeed in a role. Since you have now outlined the competencies essential for success and supported each of these competencies with comprehensive learning materials, it is essential that you begin gathering insights specifically on each competency.

This hard data will help minimize implicit biases when reviewing performance, making the review process more accurate. Once you understand which employees need to improve which competencies, you will be able to efficiently improve your training and development programs. Stay tuned for more on individualized learning programs in the next blog!

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