Physician Lifestyle

Performance reviews important, even in small practices

October 19, 2014

Performance reviews are often seen as bothersome, especially in small practices. After all, don't employees already know where they stand?

Not necessarily, experts say. Periodic, formal staff evaluations are worth the time for even the smallest practice.

For one, evaluations produce documentation that can prevent a lawsuit if an employee needs to be fired. But on a more positive note, well-done reviews, ones that talk about strengths as well as weaknesses, can improve staff retention. Reviews can help identify staff members who have the potential for a promotion or the ability to fill other positions within the practice. Reviews will also help identify any staff member who needs additional training.

What should you review? 
In setting up a review process, first identify what a staffer is supposed to accomplish. Goals should be measured objectively, and some practices find it useful to tie individual goals to the ones for the business.

Progress on the goals should be written out, with copies kept in the personnel files as well as given to the employee. A meeting should be set to allow both parties to discuss results. There are some commercially available performance forms that practices can buy or download from the Internet, although many practices prefer to develop their own.

"State the goals and objectives. Then ask: What did you do to accomplish what you set out to do?" said Marty Rosenberg, senior vice president and one of the founding members of the health care management group EthosPartners in Suwanee, Georgia.

How often should you review? 
Reviews typically are done at the start of a calendar year, on the employee's hiring anniversary date, or in the same designated month for everyone.

Reviewing on anniversary dates means that employees are always evaluated on a full year's work. Managers can then spread the workload of writing reviews through the year.

Experts say it's important to give informal feedback throughout the year. Periodic notes should be kept on significant incidents to ensure that the final performance review covers more than the past month.

Nothing in a performance review should be a surprise.

Writing descriptive reviews is better than numeric grades, although these can be used in combination, experts say.

Many medical practices rate their employees' performance on a scale of one (unacceptable) to five (outstanding). The highest scores should not be unachievable, but they also should not be handed out too often. A practice should have a very clear definition of how the employee can achieve a five.

Many performance reviews are connected to salary, although these discussions should take place at different times. This allows both parties to focus on performance improvement at the given time, experts say.

Based on: Used with permission.

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