Are Performance Evaluations Broken?

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Is it Hispanic strategy? Training? Recruiting or workforce development?  What is the focus of this column? 

I wanted to be hyper-focused on one or two of the above but I continue to witness and experience validation that all are intimately intertwined.  For instance, we are contracted to penetrate the Hispanic market to increase revenues for clients; well, without the established operational systems (materials and/or website and 800# in Spanish) we won’t be successful over the long haul.  Also consider that at the center of this particular population segment, lies trust, family and relationships; all values at the core of their purchasing and decision making.  Leading to the next issue, where is the bilingual & bicultural staff to serve this client base?  

See, all of these issues are intertwined.  And most recently, training and coaching has been a priority for us- It seems, retention and career advancement are problematic, and not just for Hispanic employees.  But for minorities including women.  Issues stemming from lack of access and resources to difficulty navigating organizational culture and ineffective communication skills. 

These issues surface and get addressed during the performance evaluation process, right?  Not quite.  Assuming the organization actually has a performance evaluation process, research actually indicates that this process is biased. 

Sociologists Frank Dobbin, Daniel Schrage, and Alexandra Kalev analyzed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) data for 816 organizations over 30 years, from 1971 to 2002. Their findings indicate that minority men and women became less likely to hold management positions.  A separate study conducted by Kieran Snyder, tech guru and CEO at TEXTIO, reviewed 248 evaluations across 28 companies and found that 58.9% of men’s reviews contained critical feedback, while 87.9% of women’s reviews included similar feedback. Mostly tied to tone and presentation, with the predominant word used being “abrasive.” 

If the system to determine employee developmental needs and opportunities is broken- What do we do?  I believe we all awake with every intention to be excellent, not to suck or impede the success and happiness of others.  Yet we carry biases and opinions that influence our every move, particularly impactful if we happen to hold positions of leadership and influence.  By the way, every one of us is a leader and an influencer: in our home, house of prayer, soccer field, nonprofit or department.  Folks unconsciously look to you for guidance on how they should react to problematic issues, different people or awkward situations.   

Holding on to stereotypes or biases is often unintentional, unconscious.  Consider incorporating these steps to change the process and create a more inclusive environment where employees thrive and are fully engaged, keeping your clients/donors/students satisfied.  Win-Win. 

  • Onboard new employees- Discuss the organizational culture, attire, expectations and anything out of the norm.  Don’t blindside a new employee with the weekly “team interpretive dance” session every Friday. Not that there’s anything wrong with interpretative dancing!
  • Informal coaching- Create a routine where you meet with your employee, weekly (in the beginning) to monthly or bi-monthly, to address, in a conversational, non-threatening manner opportunities to improve.  The process should be informal and comfortable, all part of an inclusive environment of open and authentic communication.  Major corporations like Adobe, Microsoft, Deloitte and Accenture have all eliminated or dramatically altered their performance evaluation process adopting more frequent, informal coaching sessions instead. 
  • Access the performance evaluation process- Ensuring that it is effective; where communication is at the core of the development of the employee.  Do your leaders clearly understand that your employees are paramount to the success of the organization?  Is this value and commitment evident and transparent?
  • Training & Development-  Invest in the resources and time to effectively develop your team.  Do analyze and understand the actual needs of the employees- there’s nothing positive about wasting time and energy on wrong topics or concepts; or training the entire team when only a handful of folks require the training. Consider in-house training sessions, online courses, conferences or industry specific programs. 
  • Mentoring and Sponsorship Programs- “It’s not what you know, but WHO you know” The old adage holds true.   Understanding and successfully navigating corporate culture is similar to understanding rocket science to some folks.  Whether they lacked the roles models earlier in their professional or educational careers, the struggle to assimilate into an organization can become daunting and very lengthy without the guidance of a mentor.  To increase the participation of diverse personnel in the highest rungs of organizational leaderships, an organization must invest in supporting a Sponsorship Programs.  And these programs need to be fully supported by senior leaders and human resources to achieve success. 

Remember, it’s always about people. The right people; the right people in the right seat; the right people in the right seat doing the right thing.


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