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Using Rubrics For Diversity

Handling Promotion
Diversity
Hiring
Team Processes

10 May, 2018

Seth Sakamoto
Seth Sakamoto

VP Engineering at TeamSnap

Seth Sakamoto explains how he uses rubrics to engender inclusivity, belonging, and diversity in his teams.

Problem

I've had success in the past leading very diverse teams, along every line - gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and race. One of the things I have found is creating an environment of fairness is key. Without this, bias will take over and people will instead make things up because they don't have enough information.

Actions taken

One of the most important things for establishing fairness is creating rubrics, particularly for behavioral attributes, job expectations, and compensation. Making these items more formulaic dissuades The job expectations and behavioral attributes can be informed by company values, or more specific expectations that you have for your engineering team and individual engineers. I like to start by describing the behaviors you most value in your best folks. For example, "we value people who collaborate well". By defining what your team's behaviors and the content of their character should be, you can then drive more precision and less ambiguity to activities like hiring and performance management. Be careful. The less specific your rubrics are, the more likely it is that biases creep into the picture. You don't want to stop short, like "we don't hire assholes" (duh). Wherever there is ambiguity, bias can creep in. Be as specific as you can about the attributes and traits that make your best people the best people. If you consistently use these rubrics, your team will have a bias towards diversity, fairness, and inclusion. (And conversely, you'll be able to more explicitly call out the wrong forms of bias.)

Lessons learned

The more you can come up with rubrics, the fairer your team can be. People tend to be overly short-handish about the attributes that define their companies' and teams' cultures. The problem with this is that you are left with far too much ambiguity, and that's where bias creeps in. The less you have to make things up about what you're looking for, the less likely it is that your bias will creep in.

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