scorecardGoDaddy overhauled its performance review process in an effort to become 'the most inclusive company in tech'
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GoDaddy overhauled its performance review process in an effort to become 'the most inclusive company in tech'

GoDaddy overhauled its performance review process in an effort to become 'the most inclusive company in tech'
StrategyStrategy3 min read

Go Daddy CEO Blake Irving and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick enjoy web hosting company GoDaddy's initial public offering at the New York Stock Exchange April 1, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Thomson Reuters

When Blake Irving took over the helm at GoDaddy, he set about fixing the company's toxic culture.

Everyone is biased, whether they know it or not. The not-knowing-it part is called unconscious bias, and if left unchecked, it can wreak havoc on an organization.

In an interview with the New York Times, GoDaddy's leadership says that is has come to terms with this reality.

"We needed to become the most inclusive company in tech," Blake Irving, chief executive of GoDaddy, told the New York Times.

As part of its turnaround from a brand known for its sexist advertising with a workplace that reflected this toxic culture, GoDaddy overhauled its employee review process to stamp out unconscious bias against its female employees.

"The most important thing we did was normalize acknowledging that everyone has biases, whether they recognize them or not," Debra Weissman, a senior vice president at the company, told the New York Times. "We had to make it OK for people to say, 'I think I'm being unintentionally unfair.'"

Various studies have found that subjective performance reviews open the door to unconscious bias, particularly against women. This can lead to bigger issues down the line, like a smaller proportion of first promotions for women, which compounds to less female executives at the top.

After analyzing more than 248 performance reviews of tech employees, Kieran Snyder wrote in Fortune that negative personality criticism like 'Watch your tone!' 'Step back!' and 'Stop being so judgmental!' showed up in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women. These same comments only showed up in two of the 83 critical reviews received by men.

Behavioral economist Paola Cecchi-Dimeglio writes about in another study in HBR that found women were 1.4 times more likely than men to receive critical subjective feedback, as opposed to either positive feedback or critical objective feedback.

Cecchi-Dimeglio also found that "women's performance was more likely to be attributed to characteristics such as luck or their ability to spend long hours in the office, perceived as real commitment to the firm, rather than their abilities and skills. As such, they often did not receive due credit for their work."

Executives at GoDaddy tell the New York Times that, when they scrutinized their employee review process, they found a similar trend.

GoDaddy's performance review previously evaluated workers using questions like, 'Does this person reply to emails promptly?' 'Have they sought leadership roles?' and 'Have they shown initiative?'

"We realized a lot of those are invitations for subjectivity," Van Horn told the New York Times.

The company said that its female employees tend to log off more than their male counterparts during family time in the early evenings. As a result, when managers questioned whether people responded promptly to email, women systematically scored lower than men on communication.

"We shouldn't be judging people based on how fast they communicate. We should be looking at whether they achieved the goals set for them," Van Horn told the New York Times.

So GoDaddy replaced these questions aimed at evaluating an employee's character with specific criteria to evaluate an employee's impact, the New York Times reports. Now, when evaluating communication, managers must document specific instances when an employee communicated well.

"We know this is a process," Irving told the New York Times. "We know we're not going to fix it in a day, or a year, or five years."

Read the full New York Times article »

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