Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Employee Review Conundrum

The blessing and curse of my group practice setting is having to relay/discuss/vote on decisions amongst my partners. At times, it’s a godsend — aka, those times when I have few if any ideas and I thusly appreciate the variety and breadth of opinions amongst my counterparts. Other times, though, it leads to disagreements and some heated discussions when opinions differ. 

One of the more recent discussions I can recall was around the idea of employee reviews. We’re a growing, multi-location practice with more than just a handful of employees now. Multiple doctors rotate locations on a daily basis. Although I’ve grown into having the confidence to be able to discuss a situation with a staff member in the moment, there are plenty of times in the midst of one of those days when I barely have time to check my email — not to mention discuss with my assistant the proper protocol for room restocking or CAD/CAM mill maintenance. It’s tough, and I’ll be the first to admit it.

I clearly recall a conversation with one of my assistants years ago about their previous boss who kept a Post-it® Note stack in his pocket on which he’d write down his employee’s issues, as well as potential teaching moments and growth opportunities. Although doing this would be tempting, I don’t care to be known as that boss. So sometimes, while it’s fresh in my brain, I calmly (err … not all the time) present growth opportunities to teammates. But often, instead, I’m on to the next thing — a DOL onlay prep, for example — and poof, there goes the idea to seize a teaching moment.

So what’s the solution? I’ve spent the past few weeks working on our operations manual, an organizational flowchart, etc. — the things any midsize or large corporation has to have in order to function effectively and efficiently. In section four of my ops manual is the page that covers employee reviews. We’ve never had ’em. Well, we did, and two team members quit.

So lies our conundrum. As owners, practitioners, Type Aers or simply just plain humans, we tend to focus our energy on the negative. Why?! This is just common nature, but it also is a poor quality to have, at best. Even when it comes to my best assistants, patient care coordinators or associates, I could list 20 things I wish they did better without any prep time. I’d honestly have to give thought to come up with the 20 things they do great — which is so unfortunate, because in piecing together the ops manual, they each did 200 things well! But for some reason, the growth opportunities that cross my mind on occasion are the ones that stick, the ones that I remember come review time.

So I am hesitant to begin the practice of scheduling such reviews, for fear of having the negatives outweigh the positives. I’m worried that scheduled reviews would simply turn into counseling sessions during which my teammates would “lay it all out there” — their disdain for another employee, for example. I would be careful not to anger the good/great employees with the little tweaks that would make sense in my head to outline at the time, but inevitably, I probably would just come off as nitpicky. The objective would be to be completely honest, so that my employees would actually grow and improve from them. Worst-case scenario, we would track legitimate data/records for the rare times when we would need to consult the human resources company to formulate a notice of unemployment form.

So, yes, there is clearly valuable information to be gained from reviews, but also hesitation and unease surrounding them. So how do you all handle reviews? Are they a regular (annual, biannual, quarterly) part of your practice? Do you have a magic method for focusing your energy on the positives? I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

I’d like to keep the reviews topic in my ops manual, and I’d like to eventually use scheduled review time as growth opportunities for my staff, but maybe more so for myself. I have to be a good leader, too, just as much as my employees must meet expectations, and part of that is actually leading: teaching, consulting, convening, instructing and communicating. It’s part of my job description.

Donald Murry III, DMD


Ed said...

I have a very small office with few employees so it's pretty easy to make corrections on the fly. However with a large operation like you describe, you need policies and procedures or sooner or later you'll be hit with an employment discrimination suit or you'll have resentment for keeping someone who seems to be taking everyone down. You're their boss, not their friend.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe how much a like you and I are.

I always felt that, "we are all adults here, everyone should know what their job is and how to do it".
I have employees that are 39,21,18,10,9, 6 and 3. Everyone has been here long enough to know what they are suppose to do.
But there are things that I think can improve but I am too much of a wuss to sit someone down and tell them.

Here is another thing, some people are not approachable.
They don't want to improve and they don't want you to tell them to improve.
That is a hard one, because you are "the boss" but you also don't want to upset the apple cart because you want the room cleaned a different way.

I don't do it. I want to do it.
I am a wuss.

At least I know my limitations as a person.
Thats a good start.

Unknown said...

Greetings Donald! I always enjoy your blogs and comments.

Evaluations are a time for praise and skill development (a better way of saying "beatings"). Hopefully you have monthly staff meetings during which you have an "in-service" and/or policy reinforcement. Staff should fully understand your expectations.

When it comes to evaluation, I give my staff the evaluation form and ask them to evaluate themselves! I then compare their evaluation of themselves to the way I evaluated them. Nine times out of ten they are harder on themselves than I am!!!

This is always a good time to agree with their appraisal, applaud them for doing better than they thought and offering suggestions for improvement.

My staff is my other family...in fact, I spend more time with them than I do my "real" family. Treat them as you would your child with consistency and nurturing and you'll have a winning and loyal team!!!

Andy Alas, D.D.S. said...

I do not do employee reviews. The reason is simple Looking at it from the employee's perspective, if I consistently get good reviews I should expect to get a nice big fat raise and a promotion.

Maybe your group practice can afford to give quarterly raises (or whatever period you decide to do a review). But if you don't give some financial incentive for great reviews why bother doing them.

Plus how do you promote anyone within a small dental office?


cpc said...

I do not recommend reviews per se. Instead correction and/or reprimands should occur as needed on an ongoing basis. In doing so it is important to document bad behavior, policy violations, etc. for all employees. Doing so will hopefully get them corrected as well as providing documentation to fight unemployment claims if you decide to dismiss them. The flip side of correction/reprimands is some kind of bonus or reward system even if it's minimal.


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