Any conscientious healthcare business practitioner for various reasons can easily overlook evaluating office staff. Two basic reasons are: one, it is extra work; and second, many doctors simply believe that all is working well in their offices and do not want to “rock the boat”. Yet, it is very important for you to know that your office is operating as efficiently as it can, and with a well-planned, routinely conducted staff evaluation program, you can achieve several advantages.
First, you will be able to uncover staff problems and have the chance to solve them before they get out of control.
Second, the channels of communication between you and your staff will be improved, and staff members will feel more able to approach you in the future.
Third, you can readily determine your staff’s efficiency level so that you are positive your staff members are doing what they were hired to do.
Fourth, you can find out if each staff member has the skills and motivation needed for his or her present job (which may easily have changed since he/she was hired). You can also set up the basis for future raises, promotions, new hires, and dismissals.
Fifth, eventually you will find a marked decrease in staff turnover, because job duties will have been clarified and evaluation made a regular part of your office routine.
The Tools You Need First
In order to get the best results from any staff performance analysis, you need four basic kinds of information on each employee. (If you don’t have the data in complete, up-to-date condition now, you should make sure you do by the time the next evaluation comes up.) The following are the five key evaluation tools.
- Personnel File: A complete file will contain the staff member’s original job application, resume, record of salary increases, and attendance record, as well as day-to-day notes or reminders you’ve made about positive or negative performance. Any letters from patients, or even comments from your accountant and management consultant, should be in this file. Your own comments during the year, say on punctuality or efficiency, are vital at evaluation time. Even though they may be no more than hastily scratched notations, they’ll help you recall, in detail, that individual’s activities during the past several months.
- Confidential File: These records should be kept separate from the basic personnel file: reference/background checks, drug test results, immigration (I-9) forms, medical/insurance records, doctor notes, accommodation requests, workers compensation claims, child support/garnishments, and leave of absence records.
- Policy Manual: This gives you a reliable benchmark against which to measure each staff member at review time and helps you get more consistent results. A good policy manual, for example, spells out general office limitations, the codes of practice, attendance rules, and standard professional conduct.
- Job Description: From the job description, you’ll quickly see what specific requirements each employee should be fulfilling. Job descriptions should be reviewed on an annual basis, preferably midpoint between performance reviews, which will keep the job descriptions reasonably current, a necessity in case an employee should unexpectedly leave. Frequent job description rewriting also lets you know if an employee’s job has grown measurably without your knowledge, causing undue stress for that staff member.
- Performance Evaluation Form: A standard form can be used for evaluating all employees, since the areas of accomplishment listed on it apply basically to nurses, medical assistants, hygienists, and others in similar positions who work in medical or dental offices.
In general, performance evaluation forms measure the larger factors, from goal achievement to major tasks and accomplishments. On a different level, the Performance Form furnishes both a qualitative and quantitative means for measuring a staffer’s work output, skill level and initiative, as well as dependability, and overall attitude.
It’s wise to have your policy manual specify that staff members can have access to a sample copy of your performance evaluation. That way each employee has a clear idea of what she is going to be rated on and what goals and accomplishments are generally expected in your office.
The Best Time for Performance Evaluations
The first evaluation should come three months after the employee’s hiring date or at the end of your stated probationary period. After that, it’s best done on an annual basis, preferably on the anniversary date of hiring the employee.
It is better, in the long run, to do performance evaluations independent of salary reviews. When an employee anticipates a salary review at the conclusion of the performance evaluation, he/she tends to listen less carefully to the evaluation. For that reason alone, you’ll get better response to your evaluation if you let the employee know at the outset that you’ll discuss salary in, say, two weeks.Employee feedback is the fuel that drives excellence in a business - Michael L. DeVries, CFP®, CHBC, EA Click To Tweet
How to Prepare Employees for Evaluations
One to two weeks before any evaluation, you should provide the employee with a blank copy of the performance evaluation and have them fill it out. Next, the employee should review both the job description and the office policy manual; set goals for themselves for the following year and put together an overall job rating. (NOTE: In many cases you can expect the performance rating an employee gives themselves will be substantially lower than the one you give.)
At the same time, the staff member’s immediate supervisor should be filling out a separate performance evaluation form. In a clinic with several partners, the supervisor needs to ask the doctors for their informal comments on the employee’s general performance; that makes the supervisor’s analysis much more valuable during the final evaluation.
Though it occurs only infrequently today, using any input from a staff member’s office peers will only interfere with evaluations by supervisors and yourself.
The Evaluation Itself
The evaluation conference should be confidential. Before it begins, you should look over the self-evaluation rating done by the staff member who’s being rated, since it sometimes offers unexpected insight into the employee’s the employee’s goals and problems; you should also check over any comments made by your partners. You should be prepared to spend as much time as possible on the positive aspects of the person’s performance; this means praising an employee’s accomplishments and letting her know that you are well aware that she has successfully completed a number of useful projects.
At the same time, you should be clear about things that still need to be worked on and goals that need to be set. Be sure to put deadlines on most of the goals—from one month to three months, according to the effort involved. In order to best present these goals, construct them and write them up before the evaluation session.
Remember, too, that staff members—especially those in managerial or upper administrative positions—like to have the feeling that they are making progress. They look for a change to break their daily routines. So, attempt to add some new or different job responsibilities, which will encourage a new approach to the job. It’s important, too, that you give the employee enough time for the new responsibility
In your evaluation, stress that the staff member’s dependability. If you know that a new member has learned certain lab or office techniques so well that they don’t need to be supervised, be sure to let them know. You actually do have to give most people independence, rather than just letting them go on with their job duties not knowing if you approve of their efforts wholeheartedly.
Mike DeVries is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ™, Enrolled Agent, and a Certified Healthcare Business Consultant focusing on helping healthcare professionals. If you would like to learn more about becoming a client, contact Mike at www.vmde.com.