Fire the Performance Reviews
These days it seems to be popular for the management pundits and business commentators to proclaim that performance reviews are bad and they should be abandoned. I have to say - when I read the articles, I tend to agree. I certainly wouldn’t want to be part of the employee reviews that they describe. And if they’ve personally experienced the disastrous exchanges they detail in these articles, well, no wonder they’ve got an axe to grind.
I’ll be the first to tell you that old school reviews in which you sit down with your employees individually once a year and tell them what they’ve done right or wrong over the past 12 months don’t work, and frankly I doubt they ever did. Effective performance reviews, or coaching encounters or whatever you want to call them, should be structured to be positive interactions that are part of an ongoing system of performance measurement, employer/employee feedback, and system monitoring.
The boss doesn’t pull out a list of all the things the employee has done wrong during the past 12 months and slap it on the desk before them. Nor is this the only time the doctor praises the team members’ performance. If that’s how employee reviews work in your practice, then there’s certainly cause for you and your staff to despise the ritual. And let me be the first to recommend that you fire it.
But let’s be clear, while poor performance review systems should be shelved, it’s not an excuse to abandon them entirely, which is too often the case. Dentists commonly profess that they don’t need “a system” for performance measurement/review among their employees. They believe that they would be aware if there were a problem. They will say, “I think Erin is doing a great job.” But they don’t really know. They confidently assert, “If there were a serious problem I would see it.”
They also cling to this belief. “Everyone knows that they are expected to do a good job.” And when I ask them what exactly do the words “good job” mean? They squirm and their eyes go to the ceiling, searching for an answer in the crown molding, and they say, “Well … you know. Do what they’re supposed to do. Take care of the patients and stuff.” Nice try, but it won’t fly.
What many doctors don’t realize is that employees want a system as well. They see details slip through the cracks. They are uncertain about who is responsible for what. When there is a problem or issue, staff members commonly respond with comments such as, “Is that my job? I thought it was hers. When was I supposed to have time to take care of that? Oh, is that important?”
It is the disconnect that occurs between the performance/results that the doctor desires and the performance/results the employees deliver. Dentists know what they want, but they don’t know how to guide employees down the path to achieve it. Consequently, both become frustrated and discontented with the other. The doctor sees a team of non-performers who can’t do their jobs. The team sees a doctor who can’t lead and doesn’t know how to communicate what s/he wants. Both are wrong. But both are lacking the fundamental ingredient necessary for success: clearly established performance measurements.
Performance measurement begins with performance management. If you’ve wanted to improve patient retention or scheduling or treatment financing/collections, etc. you’ve touched on performance management. These are all systems in your practice, and properly managing the performance of each means appropriately measuring the performance of the individuals who oversee those systems.
But where do you begin? Certainly, many dedicated practitioners have given up in frustration when trying to implement performance measurement systems. They neither knew where or how to execute such a program. This isn’t the type of change that can be implemented overnight. Give yourself time, a period of months, to implement a working performance measurement system. Don’t reinvent the wheel. There are some excellent models out there that are designed specifically for dental practices.
And don’t put it off any longer. Invest some time and resources to shape a highly functioning team. You’ll be the first to enjoy the payoff of better performance and higher productivity. I guarantee it.
Next week, performance measurements step-by-step.
For more information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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