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Identifying Biased Language in Performance Reviews


Josefina, VP, Talent Management, at a large county hospital, was perceived as a leader who was not strategic. She tended to hold on to work, which left her overwhelmed and denied development opportunities for her team. Josefina’s internal customers (i.e., hiring managers) complained that Josefina’s recruiters were not presenting diverse candidates – an issue for which they were accountable. Josefina often demonstrated behaviors described as defensive by this stakeholder group. The CHRO secured a coach for Josefina to help her delegate and to understand how she could meet the organization’s diversity recruitment goals. Some of Josefina’s development areas through coaching and results follow.

Personality Focus

  • Delegation – Take on tasks only as necessary; Utilize team members for the jobs they were hired to do
  • Team Management – Empower team members to take ownership of projects/meetings; Provide opportunities for team member growth/development
  • Communication – Be an ally to internal customers; demonstrate a partnership

Performance Focus

  • Diverse Candidates presented
  • Cycle Time
  • Quality of Hire
  • Time to Fill
  • Hiring Manager Satisfaction

Data Focus*

  • Contacted = Prospective candidates contacted about the role
  • Pool = Prospective candidates submitted for review
  • Slate = Candidates interviewing onsite
  • Hires = Candidates who are hired

*All data analyzed by subgroup (race/ethnicity and gender)

The Results

Josefina had never reviewed the Talent Management Cycle data by subgroup. With her coach, five years of historical data was analyzed from application to offer accepted. Josefina engaged her team in this effort and presented the strategic vision for this work. In addition, she was coached on securing their buy-in and delegating tasks to them. She and her coach uncovered a significant finding: a disproportionate number of African-American and Latino candidates were failing the pre-employment screening assessment. Thus, they were immediately removed from the application process. No one had looked at this data before. Josefina took ownership for engaging her stakeholders in reviewing this pre-employment policy. She ultimately decided to end pre-employment screening. This resulted in an increase of African-American and Latino applicants and eventual hires. Josefina also started to examine performance and retention data by subgroups to assess quality of hire by different sources.

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