Studies show that a high percentage of employees are in the dark about how well they're doing on the job or how they can do better — simply because they've never been told. This lack of feedback can cause several problems:
• Exceptional employees are unaware of their strengths and may not be consistent in what they do.
• Those who feel their efforts are unnoticed and unappreciated often become demotivated or worse, start looking for another job.
• Marginal employees tend to become complacent and may assume that silence means approval — i.e., "If the doctor/office manager didn't like the way I do things, she would tell me."
One solution to this communication gap is the performance review. It's been defined as a two-way dialogue between employer and employee about the latter's past, present, and future job performance. It includes a discussion of such matters as:
• Recognition of good work
• Agreement on job descriptions
• An employee’s strengths
• An employee's weaknesses (of which he may be unaware)
• Practice goals and priorities
• Personal growth issues
You should schedule periodic performance reviews in advance and give employees a list of the topics and/or questions that are most appropriate for their situation. That will give them time to think about the issues that concern them. Explain that, “The purpose of this meeting is to review how you’ve been doing and to help you succeed in the future.”
A good place to start is with the employee’s job description. If more than two years have elapsed or if more than two people have held the same position since a job description was written, it’s probably obsolete. In addition, practices expand, merge, downsize, affiliate, specialize, and change over time. As a result, the tasks necessary for success may also change.
To determine if you have different ideas than your employees about the exact nature of each job, ask such questions as:
• Do we agree on what your job entails?
• Do we agree on how various tasks are to be accomplished — and in what order?
• Which do you think are the most important elements of your job? Do we agree on these?
• Do we agree on the standards of performance by which your work will be evaluated?
When performance changes are requested of an employee, there are three questions you can ask to get an insight into whether or not the employee will be successful.
• Is this a change you want to make?
• Is this a change you think you can make?
• What kind of help if any, do you need to make this change?
Taking the time to develop accurate and current job descriptions, schedule annual performance reviews, and make yourself available to employees to discuss issues of concern as they arise, will reap rewards for both you as a manager and your practice.
Some of the benefits of conducting performance reviews include:
• Keeping everyone focused on doing the right things, in the right way, to achieve practice goals.
• Allowing performance problems to be addressed and resolved early, thus reducing employee turnover.
• Offering important legal protection should a disgruntled employee file a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Bob Levoy is the author of seven books on human resource and practice management topics. His newest book is “222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices” published by Jones & Bartlett. He can be reached at [email protected].