Performance evaluations are a tool to communicate expectations and share feedback with employees. However, not every organization creates evaluations that fulfill these goals. When hospitals and practices fail to document specific successes and discuss precise development needs, it can have a far-reaching impact on the employee’s career.
The Harvard Business Review published a study in April 2016 that discussed how the current structure of performance reviews hold women back in the workplace. They identified that:
- Women receive less specific feedback on how to improve than men
- Women were not credited with team leadership when there was success
- Critical feedback for women focused heavily on communication styles; not outcomes
It is important to construct performance reviews that are fair to all employees and enhance an employer’s ability to deliver high quality healthcare services.
Expert Advice for Good Reviews
While the aforementioned study related to business outcomes, many of the findings apply to the healthcare field. This article identifies steps that supervisors and doctors can take to minimize bias and maximize the effectiveness of performance reviews. They include:
- Come prepared – This step seems obvious. However, healthcare professionals are often under enormous time constraints and are likely to put off preparation until the last minute. Any person conducting a performance review should make sure he or she has all documentation about the person’s performance since the last review. When a manager has this information in hand, it lessens the possibility of misunderstandings and disputes.
- Avoid “protective hesitation” – The Harvard study noted that managers sometimes avoid criticism because they are afraid of how a person will handle it. The authors discussed that some supervisors had difficulty expressing candid feedback to women. However, professionals can only improve when there is an honest discussion of their developmental needs.
- Be specific – As mentioned earlier in this article, reviewers gave men more specific feedback, both positive and negative, than women. It is tempting in a world where people are under many time constraints to use vague phrases such as, “You’re doing a great job.” Anyone conducting a performance review needs to make sure that all staff members receive specific feedback on where they excel and where they need improvement.
- Encourage employee participation – “Protective hesitation” and lack of specificity point to how hard it is to discuss problems with an employee. The University of California at Berkley recommends that a reviewer ask the employee how he/she would improve performance. An employee must agree with a solution in order to make a change.
- Define expectations going forward – Not only is it important to examine the past, leaders must let an employee know what is expected of him or her in the future. As with other parts of the review, it is important that anyone conducting an appraisal list detailed expectations for the future. Specificity is key to a successful performance review.
Help People Reach Their Potential
Hospitals and medical practices thrive when employees know what is expected of them and how to achieve their goals. When leaders shy away from pointing out specific strengths and weaknesses, employees get an incomplete picture of their performance. A lack of information stunts employees’ growth potential.
It is also good to provide detailed feedback to avoid bias. The Harvard Business Review found that precise feedback allowed men to address their weaknesses, cultivate their strengths, and advance more often at work. Employers want to make sure that all employees (men and women) achieve their full potential.