There are key “moments that matter” throughout an employee’s tenure with their employer, ranging from onboarding and orientation to career development opportunities and more. Coaching and performance feedback are among the most important of these moments. According to a Gartner Performance Feedback Survey, one in three employees say they rely more on feedback today than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic and 81% of employees feel feedback is critical to performance. Gartner also reported having a high feedback utility — which means having a high degree of employees finding feedback given as useful in developing the skills they need to help them navigate relationships and feel accountable — increases performance by 20%.
When given correctly, performance feedback can drive equity within your credit union. At the same time, performance management is one of the top three talent management processes most susceptible to bias. In fact, per the same Gartner study, employees see limited equity in feedback, with only 49% agreeing the feedback they receive at work accurately reflects their performance.
Defining equity in feedback
Equity in feedback can be broken into the cadence or quantity of feedback (i.e., how often an employee receives feedback) and the quality of the feedback received. Organizations often address the cadence by instituting quarterly reviews, but this does not solve for the issue of quality. Consider sleep as an illustration: A person may not feel rested when he or she wakes up, so to “fix” it, they get more sleep. But, if the quality of sleep is an issue, the person will continue to wake up not feeling rested.
In looking at the quality of feedback, there are two types of poor-quality assessments: unactionable, which is when the feedback received is not something that can be used to improve performance, and relationship eroding, which is when feedback focuses on personalities. Both can be demoralizing and/or harm working relationships. When looking at inequities in quality of feedback, three types of bias tend to exist: gender bias, racial bias and age bias, all of which can be compounded through intersectionality.
Research shows a disparity in the quality of feedback received among men, women and people of color. Textio’s latest Language Bias in Performance Feedback report revealed the following inequities:
- Women receive 22% more feedback about their personalities than men. Women also receive 30% more exaggerated feedback than men.
- Asian people get more feedback than people of any other race – 25% more than white people – and Black men get the least feedback of all.
- Black employees get 26% more unactionable feedback than non-Black employees, despite only receiving 79% as much feedback overall.
- People ages 39 years and younger report being described as “ambitious” 2.5 times more often than people who are 40 and older.
Why it matters
When a demographic is more likely than another to hear poor-quality feedback, the impact on performance and future achievements can be substantial. Systematically receiving lower-quality feedback manifests into disparate career opportunities and outcomes. People receiving the lowest and most infrequent quality feedback are also consistently the least represented in corporate C-suites and on boards.
On the other hand, high-quality feedback about someone’s performance offers them more opportunities to grow. People with access to actionable feedback grow faster, advance quicker, earn more and have more opportunities for leadership.
How should credit unions approach and adjust performance feedback to advance equity, while also making inclusive talent decisions and offering equitable opportunities?
As a first step, embed bias-mitigation efforts into existing talent management processes. Enlist diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) champions as a part of your talent review and performance calibration sessions. This person does not need to be a new hire; you can train someone who is already part of the process on how to spot potential unconscious bias and equip them on how to have effective consultative conversations to challenge bias.
Make an effort to uncover biased language and criteria used to describe success in any given role. This includes training managers how to provide unbiased, actionable and high-quality feedback. Make a point to gain a better understanding of your feedback culture as well. Conduct an “after action review” following your performance cycle and evaluate both ratings and merit for any disparate treatment or adverse impact.
Finally, do not feel as if you must go it alone. There are many resources and partners available to help ensure your credit union is taking the right steps to provide high-quality, consistent feedback to better your workforce and credit union as a whole.
PSCU – the nation’s premier payments credit union service organization (CUSO) and an integrated financial technology solutions provider – has already seen positive results by implementing the above steps. To further advance its mission, PSCU is utilizing tools that enable its managers to write more equitable, meaningful feedback in every performance review scenario. Real-time coaching teaches managers to be direct, specific, offer suggestions for growth, and stick to discussing someone’s work, not their personality. It also allows PSCU to track where inequities in performance feedback show up within the organization and address it with specific teams.
Coaching and performance feedback are critical for any credit union that wants to ensure its employees feel their work is valued and appreciated – and that there is a path forward for them with the organization. If we address the differences in the kinds of feedback different people receive, we can also begin addressing even more significant inequities such as access to career growth, earning power, advancement and leadership.