Unexpected feedback in employee reviews reflects poorly on you as a manager.
The content of an employee’s review should come as news to no one. A performance appraisal must be composed of clear objectives that employees are knowingly measured on over a designated time period. Unfortunately, this process often unfolds quite differently, and when a review comes as a surprise, a staff member’s disappointment is the result of your own design. So how do you make employee reviews more productive? Follow these simple guidelines.
1. Determine your standards
As the leader or manager within your practice, it’s up to you to determine the tenets by which each role will be judged. How should the front-office team member engage with patients? What are his or her primary job functions? What are your expectations for your X-ray technician’s performance? How do you plan to review your massage therapist?
These performance standards are partly derived from what you want your staff to do and partly from the desired quality of their work. Once these standards are outlined, you are ready for the next step.
2. Create or revise employee objectives
If conducting reviews for the first time, you’ll want to create objectives and share them with employees at the beginning of the review period. This allows them to have a fair chance of meeting or exceeding your expectations. Typically, employee reviews are tied to merit increases in pay. So without giving them a reasonable opportunity to succeed, you start messing with people’s money, and that just might make them mess with you.
The ideal number of objectives is between three and five. What those objectives entail is up to you (in addition to input from employees). This doesn’t imply you should hand staff members a blank form, ask them to fill in their own objectives, and then judge them on how well they read your mind.
Be fair. Determine the top objectives by which you plan to measure their performance and then record those in the form. These are the items you will keep an eye on, coach toward, and pay attention to during their performance period so that you have accurate detail and evidence of how well employees did against their stated objectives.
3. Rate performance of the objectives
The objectives should be evaluated by your determined rating system. Typical assessments follow the format of a 1–5 scale, to indicate that employee performance is:
- far below expectations (1)
- below expectations (2)
- meeting expectations (3)
- exceeding expectations (4)
- far exceeding expectations (5)
Note: Many HR managers advise that unless the employee walks on water, do not give a 5; but if yours are walking with ease, assign the 5s they’ve earned.
To use your scale, consider how you would rate your office assistant on his or her phone skills. If your standard is to answer every incoming call by the third ring, then your scale would apply to the number of rings by which they’ve answered.
If your standard is that every customer be greeted within 30 seconds, your rating scale of 1 to 5 will indicate the degree to which this was done. A 3 might indicate accomplishment of this objective. A 5 may mean that they not only greeted people within 30 seconds but they repeatedly used patient names, showed people to their waiting-room seat, and offered them a cup of coffee or bottle of water.
If your rating is below the standard 3, be prepared with documentation detailing why you feel they have failed to meet your expectations. This conversation will go much more smoothly if you have had the conversation at the beginning of the review period that outlines the objectives.
Ratings can be tricky if you include likability as an element. Liking an employee, working with someone since they were a 6-year-old patient in your practice, or being your staff member’s neighbor does not have much to do with their job performance.
Don’t mix your emotions with your rating system. There is a fine line between being coldhearted and professional, but stay professional and avoid the risk of playing in the gray area between people who are nice and employees who perform poorly. Giving staff members a higher rating than they have earned sets a precedent you will have to face if you ever decide to let them go. Be honest about the evaluation you provide.
4. Share your review with the employee
The performance review conversation will be the easy part of the process, but only if you have done the work to establish standards, create objectives, and complete the ratings. In writing a book, the manuscript comes naturally after the tedious research and thought process. In getting a doctorate, developing a sound thesis is more difficult than defending a solid body of work. Likewise, in owning a practice, writing the checks for rent and overhead is easy—it’s continuing to run a profitable business that is more complex.
Treat this no differently. Giving an employee review is like writing a check. You’re delivering the outcome of what has already been researched, documented, written down, and invested in over time.
If you have spent the time to coach and develop your employees and you’ve been clear on what you expect, then this conversation will be 15 minutes without any disagreements or surprises. If you’ve not done the work, you can experience animosity toward the review process and be tempted to put it off.
Investing in your employees is more than cutting a paycheck. It requires devoting time, energy, and thought into what you want them to do. If they are not performing the way you envisioned, you have a part in that equation. An employee review is your report that comes from all the work you’ve already accomplished.
Monica Wofford, CSP, is the CEO of Contagious Companies, an Orlando-based training and consulting firm. She works with chiropractic practices, healthcare, retail, hospitality, and government industry leaders to develop their leadership skills. For more information on her training, coaching, or consulting, she can be contacted at 866-382-0121 or through contagiouscompanies.com.