Performance evaluations are an important communication tool that can benefit both the employee and the employer by aligning expectations and future goals. The process does not have to be complicated. It is an opportunity for an employer to provide feedback in a fair, consistent and objective way regarding past performance and set expectations for future job performance.
A performance evaluation assesses and reviews an employee’s performance and reminds him or her of the practice’s work expectations. It can also remind the practice of the value of the employee’s contributions. An evaluation should represent a year-round dialogue with the employee regarding his or her performance.
As a dentist and small-business owner, you wear many hats in your practice. Because employees are necessary for the success of a practice, it is important to communicate how his or her performance supports the practice goals and success.
The steps below will guide you through the process.
Gather relevant documents that will support the evaluation (i.e. job descriptions, previous performance evaluations, performance improvement plans, attendance records, etc.). Some practices view themselves as a “family,” which may cause discomfort during an evaluation, especially one with areas of opportunity. Approach the evaluation from the leader perspective; it will be difficult for the employee to accept the feedback if the practice owner is viewed as a “buddy.” Be sure to schedule the evaluation in advance so the employee can come prepared to offer comments and feedback.
Verify that the job description accurately reflects the employee’s responsibilities and expected competencies and determine where he or she meets expectations or needs improvement. Review with the employee office policies that may require additional review. Review concerns related to punctuality, absenteeism or requests for time off, if needed.
Comments should be specific and objective. Select numerical ratings that support your documentation.
Develop a concise agenda that outlines desired talking points. Schedule a meeting that allows about 1-1 1/2 hours, avoiding squeezing an evaluation into a patient cancellation or at the end of the work day. Set an end time for the meeting to prevent excessive discussion, especially regarding areas of concern. If it is decided that more time is needed, schedule a follow-up meeting within a short period of time.
Review notes regarding employee performance during the review period, noting achievements or performance improvements needed. The evaluation should not be the first time an employee hears about concerns related to his/her performance or conduct. The evaluation is the time to develop plans for improvement and set goals for the upcoming year.
Begin the meeting with a friendly greeting and advise the employee of the topics that will be discussed, as well as the order in which they will be covered. Inform the employee that the evaluation is intended to be a two-way conversation and that questions are welcome.
Use objective information previously documented in the employee file. Focus on performance and conduct, not on the employee’s character. Provide a number of specific behavioral examples of times when the employee did not meet objectives. For example, if the employee is confrontational discuss how the employee’s behavior affects his/ her performance. Never compare one employee’s performance to that of another.
At the end of the day, employees want to do a good job and feel that he or she is making a valuable contribution to the success of the practice. To achieve this, an employee needs a clear understanding of how his or her individual goals and performance affect the success of the practice. An example of a goal may include continuing education to improve or acquire new skills that will benefit the employee and practice. A plan of action may be required to help the employee in areas of deficiency.
Encourage and allow the employee equal time to talk. Listen actively by rephrasing and summarizing what your employee says to make sure you truly understand him or her. Keep an open mind; no employer is perfect. Sometimes the employee has a valid point—or may provide clues as to why he or she is underperforming. This dialog may provide resolutions for improvement. Document all comments on the evaluation form.
End the meeting by summarizing the conversation, ask for final questions or concerns and end with positive expectations. Both the employee and doctor should sign the completed evaluation form. If the employee refuses to sign, notify him or her that the signature does not indicate agreement with the evaluation, it merely acknowledges the evaluation occurred. If the employee continues to refuse, write “Refused to sign” in front of a witness. The doctor will maintain the original form with signatures and provide the employee with a copy.
. Evaluations should occur for all employees on a regular schedule – at least annually. Schedule the evaluation on the employee’s anniversary or plan all employee evaluations during the same month each year (focal evaluation). Include specifics about salary review and performance evaluation policies in the employee handbook. If the practice cannot afford a merit increase, an employee should still receive an objective accurate evaluation for his or her performance. If he or she has areas of improvement, do not provide a glowing evaluation simply because a merit increase is not possible. At some point, conditions will improve and you may be able to provide the employee with the merit increase he or she deserves.
Upon completion of the evaluation, the practice should begin focusing on an employee’s current performance. The practice should regularly review goals or objectives for the upcoming year. If needed, modify or add goals. Regularly communicate with the staff about his or her performance and provide coaching and guidance as necessary. Document all conversations surrounding performance for use during the next evaluation.
Regular performance evaluations are a necessary element of employee management. The evaluation is a tool to motivate employees, as well as address any areas of opportunity. Share both positive and negative performance examples through- out the year. Because evaluations and other employee documents can be used in court in the event of a dispute, ensure that the performance evaluation is not biased, unfair, subjective or discriminatory and that documentation is available to support any rating.
The evaluation process offers an opportunity to speak with employees about how the employee and the practice can be successful. Effective performance evaluations are not a task done at employees but something done in collaboration with employees.
Following are components of an effective goal – one that describes performance standards that will “tell us what good behavior looks like.” The SMART acronym can help us remember these components.