How to review the performance of your office staff

Your staff members are your most important (and costliest) resource. Have you invested in them? Do they know what is expected of them? Have you asked them if they have what they need to do their jobs?

Optimizing staff performance is a process. It starts with a plan, not the formal performance review.

You can’t do a successful performance evaluation without establishing accurate standards against which the employee’s performance can be evaluated.

The good news is you can start the process afresh even with long-established employees.

First comes the job description. Does each employee have one? The description needn’t be complicated; a simple document that describes the responsibilities of the person in the job is all that’s needed.

Have performance standards or benchmarks been established for daily tasks?

For instance, does the phone operator know how many incoming phone calls can reasonably be processed accurately with excellent customer service skills? Does the medical assistant know all the components of effectively rooming each patient including gathering the intake information that will assist the provider? Does the office manager know the practice’s key performance indicators?

If your employees do not have job descriptions you can develop them by first asking each employee to describe his or her position citing the main function of the job and detailing their responsibilities and daily tasks.

You can check what they come up with using resources on the Web that provide standard job descriptions for a variety of positions in a medical practice or checking with trade associations. But you’ll most likely need to tweak those plain vanilla descriptions to accommodate the nuances of your practice.

If more than one employee holds the same job title, have them collaborate on a job description or look at what each submits and combine it yourself, tailoring as you see appropriate.

With the job description in hand, ask each employee to set their own performance benchmark standards. Again, collaboration is necessary if more than one person holds the same position.

The cynic in each of us may suspect that employees will sandbag or lowball benchmarks so that their subsequent performance is above the standard, but the cynic will be surprised! Individuals tend to be very fair and reasonable in developing work benchmarks for themselves and their peers.

Typically, each individual wants everyone to pull their fair share and they will establish performance standards to achieve equity among the workforce.

With the employee-developed performance standards in hand, you and the employee can negotiate a common ground if some of the benchmarks need to be adjusted.

The next important component is the reward system associated with superior performance. Merit increases resonate with employees if everyone feels they have been evaluated fairly.

Your annual performance review, on which you’ll base merit raises and other activities going forward, should start with an employee self-evaluation.

Open-ended questions will help initiate a dialogue and provide you with the opportunity to appreciate the work being done and encourage the employee to engage in the process.

Ask the employee to address the following questions:

  • What have been my most important performance accomplishments since my last review?
  • Who are my customers? What do I do to provide them with quality service? How can I/we improve customer service?
  • What am I doing to contribute to the success of my team? What are my suggestions for improving teamwork on my team?
  • What do I need to do a better job? What are the obstacles that keep me from performing at my maximum capability?
  • What are my goals? My ideas for my personal work goals?

There are other things to discuss, such as future education needs or wants, competency development, specific assignments or projects, and relationships with physicians and other employees, but at the very least those basic questions need to be covered.

The goal of every manager is to develop their people. By helping individuals be the best they can be, you’ll reduce the burden on yourself and give the individual employee something to be proud of.

In medical practices, as in every service business, your most important resources walk out your door every day. Are you doing everything you can to get them to come back?

Rosemarie Nelson is a principal with the MGMA Health Care Consulting Group.

Originally published in MedPage Today. Visit MedPageToday.com for more practice management news.

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