Staff Performance Booster Shots: Continuously Evaluate Progress and Review Annually

September 6, 2012
By Dr. Larry Golson

Boost employment performance to greatness–with the help of employee reviews. Performance improves when you appreciate staff–and also let them know where improvement is needed.

I believe in the importance of good communication with my employees, or “team members,” as we call staff in my practice. It is essential to ensure that team members have the same understanding of their roles and the practice goals as I have. Further, they must be able to each carry out our mission: to provide the best vision and maintain the best eye health for our patients.. Conducting regular staff evaluations helps to make that happen.

Evaluate a Minimum of Once a Year

Each team member receives their first review at 90 days after they are hired. The purpose is to make sure they are on track. In addition, they have at least one comprehensive review each year going forward, but often, team members will meet with me a few additional times a year. I call for this when I notice something about their work performance that I want to praise or point out for improvement. If I’m doing my job, I’m telling people along the way where they are doing a good job and where they are just doing a sufficient job.

I offer interim mini-reviews so team members know what they should keep doing and what they need to alter. The annual performance review then just becomes about setting a plan for further growth and development. For example, if I notice that a team member took patient service to the next level by spending extra time explaining a form or office process that the patient found confusing, I want to encourage a repeat performance of that behavior. On the other hand, if a patient complains to me that he waited unrecognized in our reception area for 10 minutes or that no one seemed to care when he had questions about pre-testing, I want to make a correction right away.

Performance Appraisal Form (downloadable)

We utilize a Performance Appraisal form that rates an employee on a 1-5 scale in a dozen areas. These include: achievements, initiative, conceptual ability, planning, organization, communication, professional skills, leadership skills, patient satisfaction, interpersonal skills, job knowledge/performance. and overall performance. We look for areas of strength, areas for improvement, and ways to motivate the team member to improve their performance.

Identifying New Opportunities

A key to conducting effective evaluations of team members is remaining flexible about their role in your office. As you observe their performance strengths as well as weaknesses, you can meet with them periodically throughout the year to help them craft the job that will best suit them and your patients. Sometimes I will conduct a mini-review with employees to point out a new opportunity for a team member.

For example, I met with one of my opticians to ask, “Would you be interested in becoming our office manager?” I saw this person taking my practice vision and mission statement and living by it on a daily basis. She would anticipate patients needs without being asked, use easy-to-understand language so patients could understand what we were communicating and innovating to come up with new solutions to make the office run more efficiently. After commending her for her superior performance, I asked her; “If you could craft your perfect job in this office, what would it look like?” The role she explained to me in response to my question fit the role of office manager, so I had no hesitation letting her move into that role.

Job Descriptions Play a Role

As we’ve grown, we’ve found it necessary to develop job descriptions. We’ve moved from a small number of team members, all of whom were cross-trained, to a team of eight, including myself and an associate, where specific assigned task are a necessity. Job descriptions will become part of an evaluation. During an evaluation, employees may cite tasks they’ve done done that go above and beyond their initial job description. We, as employers, are challenged to explain that jobs are always in the process of changing. The key is to manage expectations: Be clear on the front end that a job will grow over time; just the same, let the team member know that exceptional performance will be rewarded financially.

Ask Employees How You Can Help Them

When I conduct mini-reviews throughout the year to assess high and low points of performance, the idea isn’t merely to point out the good and bad. My ultimate goal is finding out from team members how I, as a leader, can help them achieve the goals we have agreed on. Sometimes that means adjusting time tables we’ve already agreed upon.

For example, one of my employees agreed with me in an annual performance review that it would be beneficial if he could attain para-optometric assistant certification. We originally agreed that he would attain this certification in six months. The deadline we set passed and he still had not attained certification. Rather than harshly assessing him, I asked if there was a reason he had missed the deadline. It turned out that he had some personal matters that had gotten in the way of achieving the certification. I then worked with him to set a new, more realistic timeline so that he could achieve his goal. By finding out this team member’s unanticipated challenges and then making adjustments to our plan, I was able to help him achieve his goal.

This article by Dr. Golson was featured in Review of Optometric Business.