Put on your best performance review

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A performance review gives a nurse manager and an employee a chance to take a step back and assess how the employee's performance is measuring up to the requirements of his or her position. It is a time to communicate, a time to set goals, and a time to strengthen the manager-employee relationship. But they are often challenging for both parties.

Regardless of how challenging the task may be, it is necessary. And luckily, there are steps nurse managers can take to ease the process and make it as effective as possible.

To conduct the most productive and painless performance reviews, follow these tips:

Remove the shock. The feedback given in a performance review shouldn't be a surprise. Make sure you communicate and provide staff members with constructive criticism throughout the year, instead of springing it on them all at once. Also, never miss an opportunity to let staff know when they set a positive example for your facility. For example, if you notice a staff member has done well during the past few months, pull him or her aside and tell them how much their good work is appreciated. In doing so, you will minimize the chance of the employee getting defensive when you discuss areas that need improvement and they will know their hard work is not going unnoticed.

Give them time. Performance reviews are most effective when both the nurse manager and the staff member prepare for them. Inform employees of their performance evaluation at least two weeks ahead of time so they can organize their own materials, such as an informal evaluation of their performance or a list of goals they wish to achieve in the future. Employees will arrive for their review collected and more open to discussion.

Run a performance observation tab. Keeping track of the work performance of each staff member—whether it is good or bad—is nearly impossible without making written record of it. As events happen, make note of them. Consider creating a file where you store notes regarding any immediate recognition or constructive feedback you gave to staff so at the end of year you have specific examples to discuss with each employee. For instance, you may want to record the number of times you had to confront a staff member for acting unprofessionally around a patient and the advice you gave to help them improve this behavior.

Open with the goods. Start off with the positives. Many employees fear performance reviews because they think their managers will spend the session nitpicking every mistake they made during the past year. Presenting the positives first is a good way to calm this fear, while making it easier for them to accept the negatives later. Remember to be specific when discussing the positives; don't just congratulate the staff member for working well with patients, point out a particular incident. Also, take some time prior to the meeting and make a list of the employee's positive traits, backing them up with specific examples.

Look into the future. If you want to retain your staff, you need to give them the chance to grow within your facility. Goals should be set during every performance review, but many managers overlook this step in exchange for a simple "thank you" and a pat on the back before sending them back onto the floor. Make it a priority before the review to outline goals you wish staff to accomplish during the next 6-12 months and bring them up with the employee.