Improving performance reviews

March 1, 2000
A performance review doesn`t have to be a bad experience for you or your employees. Here are some ways to turn the review into a positive thing for your staff.

A performance review doesn`t have to be a bad experience for you or your employees. Here are some ways to turn the review into a positive thing for your staff.

Brenda Barbour

An employee performance review can actually be a pleasurable experience that positively impacts the employee being reviewed, the team as a whole, and the practice. For optimal practice productivity, all team members must have a clear understanding of what is specifically expected of them in all areas of the practice. Only through consistent, open communication can concise standards be maintained and improved. Several basic principles and guidelines should be adopted and followed for outstanding results.

1. Each team member should be reviewed at least once per year. New employees should be reviewed at the initial 90-day interval, and again at the six-month interval. Any employee that has specific areas requiring improvement must be reviewed at closer intervals than just once annually.

2. The review should be comprehensive and include an assessment of the em-ployees` skills in basic areas such as:

* Primary abilities

* Absenteeism and tardiness

* Attitude

* Learning ability

* General job skills

* Knowledge (quantity and quality of work, problem-solving, communication, professionalism, and marketing and patient rapport)

* Management traits

* Accomplishments (decision-making and leadership)

* Overall performance

* Rating (specific strengths, areas of improvement, specific suggestions of improvement, and action plans for improvement)

Each of the above areas should have multiple evaluations/questions that may be ranked as:

> Unsatisfactory/Needs major improvement

> Below average/Needs minor improvement

> Average

> Performs very well

> Excels in area

Involve everyone

The entire team should be involved in any review. Let`s say that Carla is due for a six-month performance review. Each team member is given a review form for Carla to anonymously complete. Team members must turn in their completed forms to the doctor or the office manager. Using the averages of the team`s answers, each area and question then would be translated into a specific ranking. If Carla receives a ranking of 1 (unsatisfactory) or 2 (below average), specific problem areas should be documented explaining why this ranking was given and what specifically would have to change for Carla to receive at least a 3 ranking (average). These standards are listed in the specific suggestions of improvement section. Carla should complete a form on herself and bring it to the review meeting.

Next, the doctor and/or office manager meets with the employee to discuss the averages of the evaluation. Practice standards must be clarified. In many instances, employees have merely been told to establish "a certain result." This is not enough. Based on the employee`s past experiences and knowledge of the practice`s standards or his or her own personal standards, the employee may reach the result by doing A, B, C, and D. But the doctor may have intended for the employee to reach the result by doing A, B, C, D, E, and F. Clarity is a key.

A sample review meeting

The review meeting should focus on open, empowering communication, seeking first to understand each other`s views, and then to reach mutual agreements for the future in any areas requiring improvement. Here`s a sample dialogue:

Doctor: "On the first question, how did you rate yourself?"

Carla: "I ranked myself as a 3 in that area."

Doctor: "OK. Why did you rank yourself as a 3?"

Carla: "Well, I have only missed one day because of illness over the last 90 days."

Doctor: "That`s correct. Have you considered that the team may have ranked you somewhat lower? Why do you think that might be?"

Carla: "Well, I know I am sometimes a little late to the morning huddles."

This format allows for an exchange of information and opinions without the employee being made to feel as if he or she has done something wrong. The behavior is discussed, practice standards are clarified, new requirements are mutually established, and follow-up intervals are set.


Practices that make the commitment to establishing standards, communicating and coaching those standards consistently, and focusing on continuous improvement develop outstanding teams. Individuals become less frustrated and more fulfilled by truly knowing how to achieve specific outcomes, not just how to provide clinical or business-system skills. What`s the ultimate outcome? A peak-performing practice!

For more information about this article, contact the author by phone by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (619) 535-1471.

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