Article Date: 1/1/2009

A New Way to Rate Employees
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A New Way to Rate Employees

Can peer-to-peer evaluations keep peace and productivity in the practice?


Whether your staff is comprised of two or 22 employees, staff management is the number one ongoing chronic bane to most practice owners. This isn't surprising, as most O.D.s have little or no training in human resource management. However, as your practice grows, so will the size of your staff and, therefore, the likely accompanying management migraines. One area that practitioners rarely address is how staff interacts and gets along (or doesn't) with each other.

A common staff scenario

Consider a scenario in which a reserved, yet capable, practice insurance biller resents the practice's outgoing optician. The biller feels that her efforts to support revenue are as just important as the optician's, but they are less obvious because of the time delay in payments. When the optician checks out a patient, money is in the drawer. Further, returning patients may ask for the optician by name and possibly establish more of a rapport with the optician as opposed to the biller, who toils away, buried in a morass of rejected claims and navigates through endless, frustrating phone trees.

The potential for conflict here is real, and it wouldn't be uncommon to either witness firsthand or hear from the staff that these two employees are at odds with one another. Usually, doctors either ignore the situation, hoping it will take care of itself, or they tell the employees, "You're both adults. Work it out." Neither approach works.

We're currently testing a solution to the scenario mentioned above in roughly 20 practices, and thus far the results have been positive.

A new kind of review

Most of us conduct some sort of yearly employee evaluation. Although it's not typically formalized or well thought out, this "system" assigns loose and not readily quantified metrics to employee behaviors. For instance, "Employee is cordial to patients" is a good characteristic but this is a very subjective statement and lacks quantification. Yet, that comment along with, "gets along well with others" might be enough to base the amount of your receptionist's next raise.

In addition to helping our clients quantify and systematize these reviews, we've asked employees to rate each other. The employer then takes these ratings along with his own into consideration when performing employee evaluations. So, if you ask the biller to evaluate the optician, and vice versa, the two may really try to work their differences out for both the betterment of the practice and their respective potential pay increases. Yes, they could secretly meet and agree to a temporary truce solely for the purpose of the upcoming evaluation. But, even that action has the potential to make them close. And what we're finding in our clients' offices, with examples that are less extreme than above, is that the criticisms and advice are actually helping to mold more productive employees and foster a better work environment than before. When employees know they'll be evaluating each other, their behavior toward each other seems to change in a more positive direction.

Consider this sports analogy: If the pitcher's slider isn't dropping like it usually does, you can bet a well-schooled catcher is going to let him know about it. When he does, the catcher protects the entire team, not just himself by his actions. Peer-to-peer evaluations can work same way. OM


Optometric Management, Issue: January 2009