I am surprised at how many doctors do not conduct performance reviews. I am not surprised that these are the same doctors who struggle with low employee performance or poor behavior.
I understand that meeting with staff to discuss issues is not on the top of a doctor’s “to-do” list but avoiding it is a foolish option. Some think the time spent doing so is just wasted because nothing really gets accomplished as a result. Alternately, maybe doctors think, “Why should I make a big deal out of this? I will just avoid the drama and give my staff their raise. That is all they want from the review anyway.” There is so much wrong with that statement that I don’t even know where to begin.
Let’s start with some guidelines.
• Don’t stick your head in the sand. Communication is vital and your staff members not only want your verbal guidance and evaluation, they depend on it. Put your “management” hat on. You are expected to deliver. Keep in mind that if you are speaking more than 50 percent of the time, it is more a lecture than it is communication. Deliberate avoidance of employees’ good and bad behavior/activities only translates into feelings of apathy, confusion, dissatisfaction and low morale.
• Don’t go into the meeting dreading it or believing it is a “big deal,” or it will be. Approach it like the management tool it is and it will help you develop your staff and improve their performance.
• Conduct formal performance evaluations annually. However, remember that management is not a once-a-year activity. It is critical to monitor, observe and document staff performance all year round.
• Evaluate basic job skills (e.g., knowledge and technical abilities) but don’t overlook soft skills such as problem solving, organization, time management, disposition, attitude, dependability, adaptability, initiative, decision making, communication, attendance and professionalism.
• Don’t be accusatory. Support your assessment with facts and examples. For example, try rephrasing, “You don’t pay attention to detail” with “Mary, I don’t feel you pay much attention to detail because the last three patient entries you made in the log book were misspelled. Here, let me show you.” (Present a copy of the errors.)
Also, never leave a criticism hanging. In the above example, you might ask, “What can we do in the future, Mary, to prevent this from happening again?” By opening the dialogue and asking for the staff member’s valued input, he or she will be more receptive to changing the behavior and could eliminate future recurrences. Also, focus on future behavior and goals, not just on past errors.
• Staff should also do their homework by similarly documenting their contributions to the practice. Often, they succeed in developing new procedures or systems that go unnoticed. They should bring these to the doctor’s attention during the review.
• A review should never just be about the employer’s wants, needs and expectations, and neither should it be a “dumping ground” for wrongdoings. Offer an “open door policy” that makes it comfortable for staff to ask questions, voice concerns, speak of their achievements and self-evaluate. This will encourage an honest, positive dialogue/exchange between both parties. Don’t forget to praise good work and good behavior when employees deserve it.
• I believe most employers share the opinion that if staff put forth the effort and show progress from one year to the next, they should be rewarded accordingly. It is when staff just “expect” a reward (regardless of their performance) that causes employer resentment in issuing raises.
• The performance scale and goals for staff should be realistic and attainable. If you set employee standards too high, it makes it impossible for staff to come close to meeting your expectations and no one wins.