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Take the good with the bad: Staff reviews that enhance future performance

September 14, 2012

Once a year there comes a time that brings back childhood memories and uneasy feelings associated with getting a report card or attending a parent-teacher conference: the employee performance review.

Performance reviews should not only be about finding areas that need improvement but they should also focus on the performance goals the employee has successfully met.

According to an About.com article, “How to Do an Employee Appraisal,” the goal of the performance review should be to “increase communication, establish clear expectations, reinforce good performance, improve unsatisfactory performance, and foster a spirit of cooperation and teamwork.”

One key factor that should not be understated is for supervisors to provide positive feedback in the performance review that reinforces and rewards their employee’s hard work. It is important to realize that positive feedback is the sugar that helps the medicine of constructive criticism go down easier.

Back to the basics

Long before the performance review takes place, specific standards and goals should be set for the employee that are based on job responsibilities. These goals should be specific, measurable, written and clearly communicated.

By setting specific goals, the employee can be judged on performance and the results they have achieved in reaching their goals.

Communicating expectations and providing written goals may eliminate misunderstandings and quantify specifically what is expected of the employee. Written goals should be kept in a place visible throughout the year so the employee may refer to the goals on a regular basis. They will be out of sight and out of mind if tucked away in a folder somewhere in the office.

A well-managed review process provides time to discuss employee development that will enhance future performance, as well as time to develop a closer relationship between management and staff, and may provide protection from a wrongful discrimination lawsuit.

Setting the stage for a successful review experience

1. Provide continual coaching and feedback throughout the year concerning any performance problems or behavior issues so there are no “surprises” on the day of the review.

2. Meet in a neutral location rather than the supervisor’s office. This will help relieve stress and will put the employee at ease.

3. Make sure the review is conducted in a location that others will not interrupt or overhear the conversation. If there is not another option besides the supervisor’s office, it is recommended to at least come from behind the desk and sit next to the employee.

4. Schedule ample time for the discussion. Forward the phone to voice mail and focus all attention on the task at hand.

5. Begin the review with some positive feedback and encouragement.

6. Because most people internalize only one or two points after a conversation or meeting, think about the one or two points on which you want the employee to focus.

7. Give the employee a chance to talk and explain the challenges they are dealing with. It is much easier for the employee to accept criticism if they feel understood. Make sure the employee feels his or her challenges have been acknowledged and management hears them.

8. Appropriately document the review. If there are performance standards that are not being met, it is vital that those issues be documented in the review as a valuable tool to protect the practice from a wrongful discrimination lawsuit later.

Preparing for the review: employee

If the office requires employees to fill out self-assessments, submit the form at least two weeks prior to the review. Gather specific facts and figures about the goals achieved throughout the year. It can be hard to remember everything that has been accomplished over the last several months, so keeping a journal or file on a weekly basis may help when filling out the self-assessment at year’s end.

By inserting the dates, names, contributions, achievements and intangible factors in the weekly file, it will eliminate having to go back and find the information at a later date. Include in the file any documentation from the performance period, including patient comments, notes, and letters of commendation.

Ask questions regarding where improvements have been made, what were major achievements, and what areas need improvement.

Identify some of the personal and professional goals you would like to accomplish in the upcoming year. Make a list ahead of time so they may be discussed with the supervisor during the review.

While making the list of goals, write down any training or materials that may be needed in order to accomplish those goals. What are the tools that would help make the job more effective and staff time more productive?

Preparing for the review: employer

Management can build from the past by taking time to go over the employee’s job description. Take time to write down the areas of excellence and note specific examples to share with the employee. If there are areas for improvement, make sure to develop specific suggestions to discuss with the employee how to enhance their performance in the future.

The employee will be anxious during the review, so having a list of questions to engage the employee in the discussion will help put them at ease. Questions could include:

  • What is the most enjoyable aspect of the job? The least?
  • Are there any barriers that inhibit your performance of the job responsibilities?
  • What are the areas of need you have identified for future training or new responsibilities of interest?
  • What changes could be made to improve overall job satisfaction?

Building for the future

No matter if it is called a performance review, employee appraisal or performance evaluation, the overall function is to evaluate job performance. Reviews often determine raises, promotions, and sometimes whether a job is kept or termination is near.

Ultimately, regard the review as a learning opportunity. It is a time for the supervisor to talk with the employee about enhancing performance and development, not a session for just finding fault. If the performance review is done well, it provides a huge return on investment for the management team’s time.

Further information is available at http://careerplanning.about.com/od/performancereview/a/reviews.htm.

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