The Dreaded Employee Review Process
By Ian Davies, OD December 11, 2020
We know that reviews are important. Every management course that you’ll ever go on will tell you how important they are, and every book ever published on people management will have chapters written on reviews. That said, ask most associates what they dread the most and the answer is: “My review”! Ask most managers what they enjoy doing the least and the answer is, you’ve guessed it, “Doing reviews”!
Why is that?
Well it probably stems from the billing of the review as “an event”. It’s also driven by past experience. All too often I hear associates say, “it was a waste of time, nothing changed”. For many optometrists, especially those in retail practice, it is a “tick box” exercise and, once completed, it can be put to one side for another year. At corporations and big companies, the review tends to be a much more significant event. Good reviews drive bonuses and promotions. For an independent practice with only a handful of staff, the review may at first seem less relevant, but in fact, one can easily argue it is actually more important to the small business than to the corporate practice.
We work in a “people to people” business, and we are only as strong as our weakest associate. One person has the power to undo all the good that is carried out in the exam lane. People’s performance management can neither be left to chance or ignored. So how can we implement effective reviews in optometric practice?
You can only review someone if you first set a standard to evaluate them against. Everyone in the office, yes including the optom! should have a job description with performance standards. The job description details the tasks that are required to be carried out, the “What”. The performance standards set the expectations for the quality with which the tasks are to be done, the “How”. So, for example, answering the phone is a “What”, answering the phone within 5 rings and using your name is a “How”. Writing good job descriptions is not easy and it is time consuming. Doing it in partnership with the person currently in the role makes a lot of sense and, with the current situation, now is a pretty good time to get these done. Once you have the descriptions written, it makes good sense to share them with all your office team members, including your own job description. This gives a collective sense of the roles and responsibilities of the team and the standards that everyone is signed up to.
So, onto the review process. Step one: stop using the expression “The Review”!
Reviews must not be annual events. After your clinical expertise, your staff are your most important asset. Move to frequent “reviews”. Establish a cadence of regular one-to-one meetings with your staff where the only agenda item is to mutually discuss how you are both contributing to the office. Throughout the time between the meetings make sure that you collect and note examples of the person's behavior, positive and negative, that you can bring out as examples of how they are performing. Ask other team members for feedback on each other, again positive and negative. You want to create an environment where talking about performance is the norm.
Don’t wait for the meeting to share particularly strong positive or negative feedback. If extremes of performance occur, then these should either be addressed or complemented as close to the event as possible. “Reviews” should be continuous and there should never be any surprises in them.
Try and establish the same time and day for the review meetings. Hold them in as neutral a territory as possible, if you have to meet in your exam room, try and avoid having your associate sit in the exam chair. Your objective is to create an open environment for discussion.
The key flow/points for the review should be:
1. How do you feel that your work/performance has been since we last met? This a critical open question in helping gauge self-awareness.
2. Is there anything that you feel has gone particularly well / not according to plan? This may not be necessary pending the answer to the 1st question.
3. Here are some observations that I have for you… provide specific examples from your own perspective as well as any input from other team members.
4. How do you feel about my feedback? What comments do you have?
5. How can we either make the positives happen more often / address the negatives – be specific in terms of developing an action plan. (this will be a core component of your next meeting).
6. What feedback do you have for me? What can I do to better support the office, or are there things that you feel I shouldn’t be doing?
7. Agree on timing for next meeting and next steps.
Once a cadence of review meetings has been established, they should be events that both parties look forward to …… not the “dreaded review”!
- Develop job descriptions for all staff members in your office, including yourself. These should include the jobs to be done (the WHAT) as well as the expected performance standards (the HOW).
- Make performance reviews a daily part of office life, rather than a specific event. Praise positive behavior and address issues as they happen rather than waiting for an event. Encourage peer to peer feedback.
- Establish a cadence of regular reviews with all members of staff centered around how they feel that they are performing in the context of the business, and seek feedback on your own performance.