Performance management is one of the best ways to challenge and motivate health care teams. It’s also an essential tool for team leaders, who can use this system to assess team member performance and to take action towards improvement. There is a growing movement towards performance management strategies in health care practices, but sometimes things don’t go as planned.
To drive the greatest success from your team, learn first what is performance management, how it works in health care, and why it sometimes fails — and how to prevent that.
In This Article:
What Is Performance Management?
Performance management is a tool to work with individual team members for their personal advancement, goal setting, and clarification of expectations. The strategy throws out the traditional year-end review in favor of more regular one-on-one discussions with team members about their role. The idea is that working regularly with the team members to meet their personal goals will help them to find success in the position, and therefore, the practice as a whole will thrive. There are a number of aspects to performance management, from establishing goals, working towards achievement, and review.
Steps of HR Performance Management for Healthcare
Healthcare teams typically focus on patient care as the primary goal. But performance management is an excellent tool that has patient care, and practice success, as the end result. That’s because if each team member is supported in their personal achievement, the practice as a whole will do well. Here’s how to go about it.
1) Performance Planning
The first step is to identify what makes for good performance. There are a number of ways to do this. Once you have an idea of what you expect from your individual team members, you can set up performance measurements for them to meet. This is an important step, as it involves linking what the team member does from day to day with the overall success of the practice.
One such measurement might be to maintain timely submission of lab requisitions or to fill appointments left vacant by patients who cancel. Lab requisitions in a veterinary practice, for example, mean clients get news on their animal’s health as quickly as possible — which leads to better relationships with owners. Veterinary technicians and front office staff might prioritize these with specific performance measurements. Dental treatment coordinators should get patients access to treatments as soon as they become available. Filling appointments might therefore be another key metric to analyze for these positions.
Of course, measurements don’t appear from out of the sky — often a team leader will discuss goals with the team member, so they can collaborate on strong, achievable objectives. Once the team member is on board, they are more likely to try to beat or exceed those metrics.
2) Performance Coaching
Performance management is an ongoing process. That’s why regular check-ins, such as on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, help everyone to get a sense of how they are doing. But this, crucially, is also when leaders should ask team members if they have the support they need to achieve success. Perhaps the lab requisitions in a veterinary office are delayed because of old equipment, or competing priorities that mean handling walk-in clients, phone calls, as well as lab paperwork. Perhaps filling dental appointment vacancies isn’t possible because of an outdated booking system that makes it hard to contact clients who may be willing to take a last-minute time slot.
If that’s the case, it may be that the existing goals are not attainable. Perhaps it’s time for a new technology, or a new set of training, mentoring, or just plain old encouragement. That’s what the coaching phase is about.
This is the crux of what distinguishes performance management from the year-end review. While the review looks backward, management looks forward. Coaching is part of that process, to develop and train team members to find the greatest success possible in their positions.
3) Performance Review
It’s true that performance management does not look backwards, but there should be an assessment of how every team member is contributing to the practice. It could be that the training, mentoring, and coaching has resulted in success. But sometimes, it just isn’t working. That’s part of what the review is about. When you conduct a review, whether on a monthly or quarterly basis, it’s essential to have realistic conversations about the team member’s contributions to the practice and responsiveness to the coaching.
Practice leaders should document all stages of this process — planning, coaching, and review. That way, the team member has an objective record of how things have been going. It also gives managers the information they need to make decisions on advancement.
It’s important to note that while this article focuses on reviewing your team, you as the practice owner/leader can also benefit from performance management. Many practices utilize business coaches for this purpose.
What Should a Great Performance Management Tool Offer?
Performance management is a great process to support health care practices. But it doesn’t need to be overly onerous on office managers. In fact, a performance management tool like HR for Health can ensure you have the basics to run your program smoothly. Here are some of the essentials that inevitably lead to success.
Goal Setting / Clear Measurements
In the discussion of the team member’s goals and the practice’s needs, it’s key to actually settle down on specific metrics. That way everyone knows when those goals are met. The measurements can take a number of different forms. If it is unworkable to insist that your dental hygienist schedule a certain number of appointments in a day, switch the measurement to be an increase in the number of filled appointment times over a week. The idea is that the team member knows what to do and how to go about it.
Engagement Tools / Communication and Collaboration
Health care teams are busy. Each team member should know their own importance. They should also know how to stay engaged with the performance management process. They need to know where to go for support, guidance, or clarification. The word “team” has real meaning when it comes to health care. That should apply not just when it comes to patients, but when it comes to supporting your fellow professionals as they grow in their practice roles.
Performance management is a regular part of every employee’s journey. But it does not have to be routine. It’s important to acknowledge exceptional performance, either as part of a practice-wide program or even on a private, individual basis. Exceptional performance is important, as is meeting stated goals. Make it part of your program to say well done — in whatever way feels right and appropriate for your practice.
Honest and Regular Feedback and Reviews
Part of coaching is a discussion — specifically, feedback on what’s going right and what’s going wrong. This is often a tricky balancing act for managers. There is always a way to get to the heart of how a team member is feeling about their role. Start by describing what’s going right, and then describe some potential challenges. Then offer support to help with both. This is another way that your team members will stay on track and keep their focus on contributing to the practice.
Performance management is just that — a way to manage performance. Sometimes, team members need access to supports that assist with development. This could be training to prepare them for a leadership role, or mentoring to help them with a new series of tasks. In busy health care offices, it takes time to learn how to prioritize some tasks while still making sure everything gets done. Dental hygienists and receptionists need to find a balance between appointments, filling out insurance information, and answering patient questions.
In a strong performance management system, honing those skills should lead to advancement within the practice. Employee development is making a commitment to your team members that you will give them what they need to thrive, and in so doing help your practice to serve patients and fellow professionals.
Why Some Performance Management Systems Fail
Performance management sounds quite straightforward — but sometimes, it does not meet expectations. This can leave a bad taste in the mouths of team members and managers. Thankfully, failure can be avoided, mostly by avoiding some of these common mistakes.
The System is Too Complicated
In the preceding paragraphs, there was a lot of information about team member development, coaching, metrics, goals — it can seem like there are many spokes on this wheel. In fact, the performance management system can be simplified, especially if you use a tool like HR for Health which is designed to track employee information and performance. It comes back to a few basic questions:.
From the team member: What do you want me to achieve?
From the manager: How can I help you to do it?
The System Does Not Rely on Documentation or Modern Technology
Despite the KISS — keep it simple, stupid — methodology, performance management still needs the support of technology. Goals are strongest when they are in permanent form somewhere. Documentation and software are essential for administrative expediency and for team members and practice leaders to remember how they got from point A to point B. Without record-keeping, team members might feel like their efforts don’t really matter — and managers might lose sight of what team members actually contribute.
The System Does Not Support Team Member Improvement
Remember performance management is about making things better. The system is bound to fail if there are no tools in place to help team members to excel in their roles. This isn’t just about meeting goals — it’s about the underlying objectives. Once team members know what those objectives are, they are more likely to meet them.
How HR for Health Can Simplify Your Performance Management
Performance management is a fundamental objective of healthcare practices. To implement it most effectively, it is best to choose a tool like HR for Health. This solution is designed specifically for health care teams. It includes performance and task management tools, time and attendance tracking, payroll, and other aspects that make your performance management strategy reliable and effective. Here’s what you can expect from HR for Health:
- Real-time notifications of tardiness
- Capacity to track lateness and implement into performance metrics
- Duty management to assign specific tasks to employees
- Capacity to track task completion and timeliness
- Performance management tools like violation management, development plans, and performance reviews, including templates
- Capacity to track employee performance with automatic timestamping and documentation
- Confidential employee notes section to document situations that don’t rise to the level of formal reprimand or meeting
- Performance analysis tool to track kudos, tardiness, timesheet edits, and other essential metrics
HR for Health is ready to work with your practice and your team members. To learn how our solution can help, contact HR for Health today.
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