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How to Get the Most Out of Employee Reviews: Best Practices and What's New with Employee Reviews

Posted on in Growth Strategies

By Dorothy de Souza Guedes, VGM Education

Employee reviews may or may not be your favorite task, but reviews done right can help the employee focus on setting and attaining goals that help them and your company be successful.

Employment law experts note that consistency and fairness are essential to avoiding discrimination claims. Sarah Hanna, president of ECS Billing & Consulting North, has found that as her company has grown to 75 employees, she has learned to reassess how she is hiring, training, managing and evaluating employee performance.

The biggest challenge for many HMEs is doing the evaluations on time due to most providers not having a human resources department whose main responsibility is employee relations, said Hanna.

How Often?

Most HME providers do employee evaluations regularly, usually three months after hiring and then annually based on the employee’s date of hire, Hanna said. But, frequency varies depending on the HME’s accrediting body.

“As part of the HQAA accreditation process, our standards state that companies at a minimum will conduct annual or biennial performance reviews for each staff member,” said Rhonda Pearce, executive director of Healthcare Quality Association on Accreditation (HQAA). “The reviews need to be documented and include the staff member and supervisor’s signature and date.”

The majority of providers try to stay compliant with their evaluations, but many times get behind due to the priority of daily activities. So, sometimes evaluations get missed or put on the back burner, Hanna said.

From an employee’s point of view, once a year also may be too long, particularly if an employee has taken on new duties due to staffing shortages or changes in their role, Hanna said.

How to Prepare?

Supervisors often complain that doing reviews is time-consuming, particularly when they are short-staffed or reviews are due during a busy time of year.

“Time to complete the evaluation depends,” said Hanna. “There is prep time for review of the work performance over the review period (annual/months). To be fair to the employee, you need to really look at the full performance and take into consideration any changes in role; staffing, which added new responsibilities; etc. to determine their true performance.”

What to Include?

Many employers tie a raise to annual reviews, but Hanna no longer does. Why? Focusing on performance rather than compensation changes the focus of the review from, "Okay, tell what is my raise?" to a discussion about successes and areas for improvement.

Hanna is in the billing industry, which means there is always new data available to assess how well employees and teams are performing. A good review goes beyond the numbers, however. Not only are scores important, but also the attitude of the team member, Hanna said.

“You can teach skills, but you can’t teach attitude,” Hanna said. “Attitude comes from within. People can be good at their job duties, but a bad attitude can hurt them personally and can become a cancer throughout the organization and hurt company morale by bringing others down.”

What’s New?

Tech Tools

Can’t seem to remember when you need to do evaluations? Are you tired of thick paper files of employee evaluations? VGM Education’s Employee Performance Module is a new, cloud-based tool to help health care employers manage and track staff reviews.

The streamlined system means managers spend less time on the administrative tasks related to appraisals, leaving more time to discuss goals and development. The consistent wording clearly communicates expectations. The system can be up when policies or job duties change that affect employee evaluation.

Ratingless Reviews

Are your employee performance appraisals based on a ratings system – letter or numeric grades assigned to performance? A new trend is ratingless reviews that use descriptive ratings such as “meets expectations” or “needs improvement.” This is something Hanna does at her company.

A study discussed on the Society for Human Resource Management website found that more than half of the 244 companies studied had adopted ratingless reviews, either combined with other practices or as the sole means of evaluating employees. In a separate study of U.S. companies, about 16 percent have eliminated the use of rating scales.

“We use the job description as the basis to evaluate specific job duties,” said Hanna, “and if their job changes, then a revised or new description is provided to the employee so they are aware of the expectations. After the job description is reviewed, then there are a series of company-wide responsibilities that are evaluated for all employees.”

Crowd-sourced Feedback

Some employers are changing the way they evaluate performance to include input from more than the supervisor. A study of 244 U.S. companies released in 2016 noted 27 percent used crowd-sourced feedback. This takes the perspective of peers into account, particularly in a team-based setting. The trick is to make sure comments are aimed at how teammates can improve rather than provide an opportunity just to sound off.

What You Need to Know

Sarah Hanna at Heartland 2017

Sarah Hanna is the president of ECS Billing & Consulting North, a revenue cycle management firm specializing in consulting, training and outsourced billing services. She can be reached at [email protected] and 419-448-5332, ext. 102.

Hanna will present on billing, leadership and workforce topics at Heartland Conference 2017. The conference is June 12-15 in Waterloo, Iowa. Register here.

VGM Education’s Employee Performance Module

Automate and customize your workforce review process with VGM Education’s Employee Performance Module. To learn more, contact Jena Jackson at [email protected] or call 877-575-6625.