Correcting Employee Performance in Your Eye Care Practice: Here's How!
By Practice Growth September 14, 2021
Your eye care practice depends on your employees and just one staff member's performance issues can impact operations. Such issues may range from poor people skills when interacting with patients to chronic tardiness that results in longer wait times for clients. While rigorous recruiting and hiring policies weed out many potential bad apples, employee performance problems may still arise. This is why it’s important to develop procedures to handle poor performance utilizing these tips:
Any performance-related issues and discussions should be documented in the employee’s file. This not only helps to identify poor performance but also helps to determine what steps have or will be taken to correct issues. Keep such records to the facts, as interpretations can vary; this may be helpful should corrective actions fail and termination is necessary. Wrongful termination suits are not unusual, and your eye care practice will have the facts on its side as a defense if it becomes necessary.
When discussions regarding employee performance occur, consider preparing two documents prior to the meeting. The first can list talking points for yourself or the supervisor in charge of facilitating the meeting; this ensures you cover all pertinent points and also keeps the conversation on track. The second document should outline these points for the employee, and it is also advisable to have the employee sign that document to verify the topic of the discussion and acknowledgment of the misconduct or poor performance.
Diagnose the Problem
In discussing poor performance with an employee, it’s important to diagnose the problem or identify the root cause. Using specific examples of where performance falls short clarifies issues for the employee and fosters productive conversation. Here, it is just as important to actively listen to your eye care practice employee as it is to define the problem. If the underlying cause seems to be a deficiency inability or resources, rather than motivation, the issues may be correctable with an employee corrective action plan. With better understanding of why performance fails to meet expectations, it is possible to develop a template for improvement.
Performance Improvement Plan
Once the problem is initially diagnosed, work together with the employee to create a performance improvement plan. While you should add a copy of this employee-signed plan to the staff member’s file, remember that documentation is a secondary goal and enabling employee improvement is the primary objective. We highly recommend using a SMARTER goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based, Evaluated, and Revised) framework to help bring performance up to par with the employee. This collaborative approach encourages employee buy-in and provides an opportunity to voice any concerns before the performance improvement plan is finalized.
Steps within the performance improvement plan may include additional training, such as continuing education credits or workshops through the American Optometric Association. Or, it may involve some tweaks in job responsibilities to allow greater focus on reaching employee performance expectations. Regardless of the plan of action for improvement, be sure to include when and how performance will be re-evaluated, as well as consequences if improvement does not occur.
Addressing employee performance in your eye care practice does not just occur after problems arise. While troubleshooting is often necessary, place greater emphasis on preventing employee performance issues in the first place. This means making performance expectations clear in job descriptions and regularly having employer performance reviews to address issues as they arise and before they grow. Be sure to adhere to the standards you set and apply them uniformly throughout your practice. It is not enough to set a performance bar if employees are not consistently held to it, as it sends mixed messages about expectations.
Remember that employee performance reviews and employee corrective action don’t always have to be formal, although documentation is still advisable. When small slip-ups occur, be sure to address them and offer solutions. Whether ophthalmologists, optometrists, managers, techs, and assistants, giving regular feedback, both positive and negative, helps staff become aware of and invested in their actions that affect the success of the business. It is far easier to correct employee performance as issues arise than it is to wait until problems affect your eye care practice operations.