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News - 11.02.2022

Posted by Aisling Teillard

News - 11.02.2022

When Diversity Meets Performance Management

Diversity in office
The evolution of diversity

There has been a striking evolution of diversity in the workplace – as it now (and rightly so) takes centre stage. As we see D&I now permeates our strategies, policies, thoughts and actions throughout almost every organisation. This includes our recruitment practices, succession planning, training, leadership effectiveness development and much more. And in the present day, the business case for diversity is stronger than ever. As McKinsey and many other studies have proven, taking a closer look at diversity winners reveals what can drive real progress (McKinsey 2019).


How can Performance Management encourage diversity?

The question remains, as to whether we, as HR professionals have considered how our performance management processes can influence the D&I agenda.

We often will reflect on the gender pay gap. However, we rarely discuss how this links to the performance management process and what we can modify to help. As many organisations continue to link pay to performance, the source of the issue lies firmly in the practice of not just how we compensate but how we manage performance.


The gender gap in self-promotion

When you consider one of the first steps in a performance management process, you often ask employees to self-assess. Most would consider this good practice, it is crucial for managers to understand the perspectives of their people. The tracking of this is paramount, as it often highlights gaps in self-promotion and how individuals communicate their performance and ability to others. Our Tandem’s data tells us that women are more likely to self-assess themselves harshly compared to their male counterparts.

Do women undersell themselves?

In a recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, issued in October 2019, Christine Exley and Judd Kessler, both business school professors, examine another issue that possibly contributes to these gender imbalances at work. They tested the hypothesis of whether women undersell themselves when it comes to their own self-assessments. Many workforces rely on their employees’ subjective assessments of their own skills and abilities. And most agree that a gender gap in self-promotion can seriously jeopardize a women’s career trajectories.

They put both women and men through a test that required an analytical task that answered 20 questions. To assess their confidence levels, the participants than had to indicate how many they thought they had answered correctly. Lastly, the subjects answered ‘subjective, quantitative self-assessment about their performance’. Women, despite doing better than men on average, rated themselves lower on the self-assessment questions. Alarmingly, the differences were rather striking. For example, when asked to agree with subjective statements such as “I did well on the test” on a scale of 0 to 100, men averaged a rating of 61 while women scored a mere 45.


Intriguingly, the authors assert that the gender gap was not a function of confidence. Even when participants were told how many questions they got right and how they fared relative to others, the gap in self-promotion persisted. Thus, despite being provided with “perfect information about their absolute and relative past performance”, women were more likely to belittle their achievement when asked to evaluate their own performance on the very same test. (Gender Equality at workplace: Promoting Self- Promotion in Women, Financial Express).


Don’t wait for the annual review

In reality, the problem persists long before you get to the annual review. We must consider the moments that form part of our performance conversations throughout the year. The real questions to consider through our continuous performance management:


  • Do our female counterparts receive feedback as often as their male counterparts? Is it likely to be growth oriented or constructive in nature?
  • Are men more likely to give constructive feedback to their male counterparts, based on a ‘man to man talk’ which doesn’t necessarily translate so easily to their female counterparts?
  • Do women have strong development conversations that facilitate them to consider interesting career moves, beyond their current role or location.


The source of your challenge may have started well before the gender pay gap took hold.

Personally, I know many women, including myself, where the assumption is made that because you have a family are reluctant to travel for bigger roles. The unconscious bias may be lurking beneath all your performance process, without being easily spotted. Next time you are discussing your diversity strategy and policies, take a look at your performance management practices.


On the upside there are answers, we can now measure these things in infinite detail. This helps us spot where the discrepancies may lie. While undoubtedly these moments that matter are never intended to segregate a woman’s experience from a man’s, the stark reality is that many of these measurable moments can tell us otherwise.


With Our Tandem’s rich data insights and details report giving to clients, we are able to provide actionable insights that enable HR understand and tell the narrative that matters. Understanding the differences types of diversity, to produce a performance management process that does more than just accelerate performance. It helps to create an inspiring employee experience that enables your people to unlock growth and accelerate their own potential. For more information, book a chat with a member of our team today.

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