Conducting Year-End Reviews at Your Medical Practice

November 25, 2014
Ike Devji, JD

The end of the year is a good time to a handle performance reviews. They are a key part of the process to encourage continued success and stellar performance.

I've covered a variety of employment related issues ranging from the basic steps all practice owners and managers must take to prevent employee lawsuits to why you need professionally drafted employment manuals to how to safely fire an employee when required. The best managers minimize conflict by being proactive, setting clear goals for both the organization and the employees, and communicating both praise and constrictive criticism in a timely, consistent, and firm way.

Why this is so important?

• Reviews identify good performance that you want to encourage. This is good for your business and your employees.

• Reviews set the stage for a variety of issues including compensation and advancement discussions, and allow you to document why one person may have been given a raise or promotion when another wasn't.

• Reviews help document any negative behavior or performance issues that may require corrective action, up to and including dismissal; an important part of your employment-related risk management in the age of prevalent employee lawsuits.

Get the right person on the job - hint, it may not be you.

We've seen certain behavioral patterns in businesses of all types that consistently lead to trouble; one of those is the "nice guy boss" or NGB. I mention this here because the way in which employee reviews are conducted, and by whom, plays a major part in how effective they are in protecting both your practice and the staff members who make it successful.

The problem with the NGB is that he wants to be liked, he wants to be everyone's friend, and avoids conflict and tough conversations (that often are all that's required to help a staff member understand what you need from her). There are many sources of authority on this issue. I found a really simple and well-written one that I've shared with clients for years, that addresses the psychology of leadership required to do this right, something even the best-written forms and checklists can't communicate.

Beyond the forms, what should effective reviews include?

1. They are specific and limited in scope. You can't cover everything, so make sure you are starting with an organized and consistent process that identifies the core areas of concern you feel are most important - issues related to the employee's specific job, and any issues, good or bad, that are specific to the employee's performance and behavior.

2. They provide both positive reinforcement and specific instructions and goals in areas that need improvement, and communicate a specific timeframe in which the changes need to be made.

3. They are private and professional. Doing a review in the break room is a bad idea. This is very important for all parties and should be treated with respect. This means the employees are provided notice and informed of the evaluations and that they start on time as scheduled.

4. They are a dialogue. Allowing employees to provide you with feedback is as important to good managers as giving to others. It may help identify issues, allow you to update or improve procedures that are costing you money or efficiency and head off liabilities if you listen and provide an opportunity to be heard. In some cases this is done by providing employees a pre-evaluation form where they can list any comments or areas of concern, in other cases it may be through a series of questions the evaluator walks the employee through. Either way, document it and their responses.