Put on a rave performance review

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Put on a rave performance review

Nurse managers and staff members communicate effectively every shift about a number of topics, usually with little anxiety. But put staff performance up for discussion, and the tension rises.

Performance evaluations are significant to staff development; therefore, nurse managers need to know how to minimize tension and make the evaluations as productive as possible.

“It’s important that the staff knows where they are [with their performance], and the manager needs to stay on top of this,” says Dorothy R. Sweeney, a private medical management consultant in Glenside, PA.

If you simply go through the motions with this task, it might negatively affect your facility down the line. Be sure to provide a true assessment of where each staff member stands in his or her role.

To do this, use the following tips and make sure your evaluation program includes an ongoing process that is simple and organized.

Plan for successful performance

Your annual staff performance review shouldn’t be a surprise to employees, says Craig E. Samitt, MD, MBA, CEO of Dean Health System in Madison, WI.

Communicate and provide continuous recognition and constructive feedback to employees when it is appropriate.For example, if an employee has done well in the past few months, briefly pull him or her aside and praise his or her good work.

“At the end of the year, when you’ve collected these examples,” Samitt says, “this is an area you can discuss with the employee.”

Communicate expectations clearly

Present your facility in a way that encourages open dialogue between employees and management at all times, says MaryAnn Simmons, an administrator at Pulmonary Care of Central Florida in Winter Park.

“They have to feel important,” Simmons says. “They are at the front line. You need to listen to your staff and understand what is going to make their life easier and/or better.”

For example, if an employee presents an idea or if he or she feels uncomfortable about certain areas of the job, these topics should be discussed, she says.

Open with the goods

Always begin reviews with the positives. Many employees have a false perception of performance reviews, thinking their managers will spend the majority of the session analyzing every mistake they made during the past year. By presenting the positives first, you can assure them that the purpose of the review is not to tear them down, but to help them grow within your facility, which is only possible by identifying areas needing improvement. In doing so, you will also make it easier for them to accept the negatives later.

Remember to focus on specifics when discussing the positives. Don’t just congratulate the staff member for working well with patients; point out a particular incident you witnessed in your unit.

Also, take some time prior to the meeting and create a list of the employee’s positive traits, backing them up with specific examples.

Provide regular feedback

One of the most significant drivers of employee engagement and successful performance is positive recognition and instant feedback, Samitt says. “People want to know what is expected of them on the job,” he says. “If you set some clear expectations for the employee and then give them feedback along the way on where they are doing well and where they can improve, that is a definite satisfier.”

This feedback keeps staff members aware of the facility’s culture of excellence and reminds them what is expected. The employees will know you are watching out for their interests and that you are recognizing what they do correctly, Samitt says.

Give small perks to show appreciation

There are many ways to reward employees. One is to praise an employee in front of the entire staff. You might also consider giving employees a personal thank-you card after successfully completing a large project, along with movie tickets or a gift certificate to a local restaurant or spa to show your gratitude for their work. Another method of appreciation is setting up a Web-based online tool that allows employees to nominate a person in the office once per month who has demonstrated examples of excellent performance based on the mission of your facility.

“Keep your ear to the ground and observe interactions between employees that show positive performance,” Simmons says. “If employees are showing good feedback in the office, I may offer positive feedback in return by handing out candy bars to staff members on payday as an extra thank-you.”

Employees who receive the highest pay rates in your facility and have been with the facility long-term need to feel as rewarded as any other new employee. Consider giving the person one half-day off per week or an extended lunch break as a way to reward and recognize his or her performance through the years.

Record performance observations

Managers who conduct performance reviews should create a file to keep ongoing notes regarding any immediate praise or constructive feedback presented to the employee, Samitt says. For example, note the times you need to tell an employee that he or she is not interacting properly with a patient and provide suggestions on how to improve his or her method.

This information should be presented during the annual evaluation meeting. Discuss with the employee a summary of the instances you observed and noted in your file during the year.

Address problems as they happen

As you try to make your facility’s performance culture positively focused and reward-based, you cannot neglect the problems.

“If you only give the employee positive feedback, they may end up with lingering areas of poor performance that were not addressed. Instead, provide constructive feedback and tell employees what they need to change or develop,” Samitt says.

If you do not see any improvement from the employee after several months on the job, arrange a meeting to discuss this matter and be sure to also provide solutions, Sweeney says.

You might want to tell the staff member that he or she is on a probation period, and that you will watch his or her progress over time. Let him or her know that there will be recognition of significant improvement.

“The most important part of any performance review process is the positive,” Samitt says. “It’s really managing through carrots rather than managing through sticks. It’s coaching people to follow and come along and demonstrate positive behaviors. It’s thanking the employee for a job well done.”

Editor’s note: For more tips on conducting performance reviews, visit



Adapted from The Doctor’s Office, September 2008, HCPro, Inc.