Article Date: 6/1/2004

staffing solutions
Let There Be Light
The second in a two-part series on job performance reviews.
By Bob Levoy, O.D.

As indicated in part one, a high percentage of employees are totally in the dark about how they are doing on the job because their employers have never told them. Performance reviews are the solution. Here are additional "action steps" to take.

You'll need a plan

Use these guidelines when reviewing your staff members:

Keep criticism impersonal by discussing job performance only. For example, you can call a person "irresponsible" or you can say, "the deadline for this job was the 15th, but it wasn't done until the 18th." The first statement is opinion and open to question. The second is fact.

Determine the cause of poor performance. Encourage employees to analyze problems by asking, "That's an unusual number of billing errors. What happened?" or, "How can we prevent this from happening in the future?" Then wait for an answer.

Don't get bogged down in finding fault. The problem with evaluations is dwelling on what's wrong and how to fix it rather than what's right and how to make it better. Conclude by discussing a strength and how to build on it.

Agree on a plan of action. The improvement you want in an employee's work habits or performance can occur only when you both see the problem in the same way and agree on both the means and a timetable for solving it.

Start with your recommendations. Better yet, invite employees to tell you how they'd like to develop themselves and what help, if any, they'd like from you. Be specific and set deadlines. Then put this "action plan" on paper and make a copy for you and your employee. Such commitment will get better results than vague promises. The action plan will also serve as a benchmark against which you can measure future progress (or, if necessary, grounds for dismissal).

Hard-learned lessons

Here's what numerous practitioners I've interviewed have learned about performance reviews:

► Performance reviews are often stressful for optometrists and office managers, as well as employees. Avoiding reviews, however, creates even more stress.

► Evaluate new employees shortly after they're hired, typically after three months. If a problem does exist, it's least painful (for them) and least expensive (for you) to discover it early. Don't waste time trying to rehabilitate someone who's a poor fit.

► Don't discuss money in performance reviews. Tell employees that you'll conduct compensation reviews later, but the issue today is improving performance.

► The goal of the performance review is improved performance in the future. Don't make the common mistake of putting undue focus on past performance.

► "Sometimes, by interviewing employees, a doctor can discover the potential burnout or boredom that results from doing the same thing over and over," says author/consultant Cathy Jameson. "Often, you can defuse burnout by changing the job responsibility or switching people around. This switch may be temporary or you may discover that an employee blossoms in the new role, and you may encourage her to stay in the new position. Switching roles or adding responsibilities can uncover tremendous potential within team members."

► Says consultant Jeffrey J. Denning, "Performance reviews can help buttress your defense in the event an employee (or a former employee) sues you. On the other hand, the absence of an evaluation or adequate review can sometimes be used against you with devastating results. Juries tend to come down hard on employers who don't appear to have given an employee a chance to improve."

Get grounded

Reality check: On-the-job performance and productivity tends to improve when a person knows what's expected of him and receives periodic feedback about his work.



Optometric Management, Issue: June 2004