10 Tips for Delivering Effective Year-End Employee Performance Reviews

It’s that time of year again—time to think about the future of your business, set key objectives for the upcoming year, and conduct your annual employee performance evaluations.

For many employees, performance reviews are one of the most nerve-wracking work conversations they’ll have all year. In fact, 22 percent of office workers say performance reviews have made them cry at least once. And they can be equally uncomfortable for managers who are tasked with having to stand in judgment of their direct reports.

But the benefits of performance appraisals outweigh the negatives. For businesses, those include: 

  • Increased employee engagement and job satisfaction
  • Identifying training needs
  • Uncover and resolve workplace issues/employee grievances
  • Improved performance and morale
  • Fair assessments of raises and/or bonuses
  • Identifying candidates for promotions

You see, annual reviews serve several important purposes. First and foremost, they’re an opportunity to build better, stronger relationships with the members of your team.

So here are several strategies to help make your year-end performance reviews less daunting and more productive:

1. Set expectations early.

Every member of your staff should know exactly what to expect walking into their annual review, especially how their performance is going to be evaluated. Have them complete a self-evaluation a few weeks ahead of your meeting or at least instruct them to make note of accomplishments they’re especially proud of from the past year. In addition, send employees a copy of their evaluation form at least an hour before your face-to-face meeting so that they have a chance to review and process your feedback in advance rather than reacting to it on the spot.

2. Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!

Before meeting with staff, take the time to go over any notes you’ve made about their performance over the past year—that time they missed a deadline, stayed late to help with paperwork, took the lead on a project, handled a difficult patient with aplomb, etc. Prepare questions and try to anticipate issues/concerns that could arise. Solicit feedback from colleagues they work closely with. Review their job descriptions to ensure it still accurately reflect their duties. Finally, make sure you set aside adequate and equal time to meet with each employee (at least an hour) and find a private space where you won’t be interrupted.

3. Provide positive feedback first.

It’s not a bad idea to ease anxieties and set a positive tone for the rest of the discussion by going over the employee’s accomplishments and strengths first. Emphasize what you value about him/her as a person—the wonderful traits and talents he/she brings to the table. Your staff can’t play to and hone their strengths if they don’t know what they are. The goal is to show your employees their hard work is noticed and that you’re grateful to have them on your team. Plus, positive affirmation tends to be very effective in motivating good performers.

4. Coach constructively.

Whether positive or negative, consider framing feedback following a “stop, start, continue” approach: What are they doing now that’s not working? What are they not doing that they should start? What are they currently doing that’s effective and thus, should continue? On the other hand, if there’s someone on your team who’s falling short of expectations, you’re not doing this person—or your company—any favors by sugarcoating it. Be direct with poor performers. Explain exactly what requirements are not being met, the steps necessary for improvement, and the repercussions if he/she does not improve.

5. Be specific and objective.

Whenever possible, use facts, data, and examples to support your assessment of an employee’s job performance. You also want to avoid making vague statements when offering praise and advice. For example, instead of saying “You should be more proactive” say, “You need to take more initiative in making follow-up calls to patients.” Or, instead of simply telling an employee that he/she is “resourceful,” provide a specific example when he/she was actually resourceful.

6. Focus on the future.

Dwelling too much on an employee’s past performance is unproductive. They can’t change the past, but they can control their future. In light of the pandemic, now more than ever, people want (and need) to see a path forward. So, help them connect the dots from where they are to where they want to go. Show that you care about their professional development by discussing available training opportunities and asking them about their career goals. Understanding your employees’ personal ambitions will help you accurately assess their work and how you can best support their advancement.

7. Set and realign goals.

Create SMART goals that build off their goals from the previous year. In other words, keep moving the goalpost. How else are they going to unlock their full potential? Encourage big-picture thinking and promote a growth mindset by tying what your employees do each day to your organization’s mission and values. The more they understand how they contribute to the company’s success, the more invested they’ll be. And don’t forget to mention the company’s priorities for the upcoming year as well as any major changes or projects that might affect staff.

8. Stop talking and listen.

Performance reviews should always be a two-way conversation. The last thing you want is for your employees to feel like they’re on trial. Give them a chance to discuss any challenges or conflicts they’re experiencing without becoming defensive. Your staff should feel comfortable speaking openly and honestly about issues affecting their performance. Be especially compassionate about issues that are beyond the employee’s control and those related to work-life balance.

9. Ask for feedback and suggestions.

Your employees see things that you don’t. They might even understand certain aspects of their job better than you. So why not show that you value their opinions and welcome their suggestions on operational improvements? While you’re at it, ask for feedback on your performance as a manager (i.e., “What can I do as a manager to help you be more successful?”). Allowing staff members to have a voice and letting them feel heard fosters trust, ultimately leading to greater engagement.

10. Keep the conversation going.

Hopefully, you’re having regular conversations with your staff about job performance. If not during weekly or monthly one-on-ones, then at least quarterly or bi-annually. No employee should have to wait an entire year to find out how they’re doing and what they can do to be better. Before concluding the meeting, outline next steps, and set a date to regroup to discuss the employee’s progress towards his/her goals.

When properly planned and executed, annual performance reviews can be extremely rewarding for employees and employers alike. If you have any questions about how to handle year-end reviews or low-performing staff members, Consult can help.

Take advantage of our industry-leading human resources support!

About the Author

Jason DiOttavio joined Consult as a Corporate Recruiter in 2011. Previously, he worked as an agency recruiter for a staffing firm specializing in IT/Administrative roles including such large companies as Dietz & Watson. When not working, Jason enjoys spending time with his wife and two young daughters. He’s also obsessed with cooking shows and finding new ice cream and donut shops.

Three Questions to Ask Your New Hire After Three Months

The first few months of a new hire’s employment are crucial in determining whether or not they are going to succeed. In fact, up to 20 percent of all new hires resign within the first 45 days. This is an enormous loss for the business given the time and money spent to recruit that person in the first place.

Making sure new employees have all the necessary tools and training they need to be effective in their roles is imperative. If you don’t already have a formal 30-60-90 day onboarding plan in place, it’s time to fix that. Not only are properly onboarded employees 50 percent more productive, but they’re also 58 percent more likely to be with the organization after three years. Because the first few months on the job are usually very hectic for new hires, the 90-day mark is a great time for managers to check in to see how they’re acclimating. You might be surprised how much you can learn about new employees, your managerial style, and your company just by asking a few simple questions. Below are three questions that are guaranteed to provide a lot of valuable feedback on how happy, comfortable, and engaged your new hire is:

“Tell me about your best day and your worst day.”

This is a great icebreaker question that can reveal a lot about the type of work a new hire enjoys doing, how much passion he/she has for the job, and how he/she might deal with change or adversity. It also gives you greater insight into what a typical day is like for this person, as well as the impact of his/her responsibilities on customers and driving opportunities for the practice. New hires may have trouble articulating specific likes and dislikes since, as previously noted, the first three months can be a bit of a blur.

Challenge them to provide at least one example of something that has and hasn’t gone well. There could be instances where they remember feeling elated about a specific task and/or deflated about a decision they made. Chances are your new hire has already faced at least a few challenges. It could be anything from not knowing where to find a particular item to not seeing eye-to-eye with a strong personality in the office. However big or small, this is your chance to uncover and address any concerns or issues that could negatively affect your new hire’s performance and contentment. The sooner, the better.

“What would you do differently?”

Three months is just enough time for a new employee to get a firm grasp on how the business operates and what’s expected of them but not long enough for them to get stuck in a rut. That’s why it’s the perfect time to solicit their honest opinions and suggestions. They may point out inefficiencies you weren’t aware of. They may have an eye-opening recommendation that could improve your current processes while also cutting costs. Keep an open mind and remember that you hired this person for a reason. Really listen to what they have to say, take notes, and make sure they feel heard. Empowering your new employees to speak up and openly contribute ideas helps you build trust with them. You’re also planting the seeds of their professional development by encouraging them to think like a leader and continuously seek out possible areas for improvement.

“How can I help you succeed?”

This is an excellent question to ask new hires for several different reasons. First, it’s a less daunting way to essentially ask “How can I be a better manager for you?” It’s important to let your staff know that you are open to discussing your own performance to ensure you’re creating the best possible work environment for them. Second, you’ll likely find out if the employee has everything he/she needs to be productive and if there’s anything he/she is still unclear on. Perhaps this person would benefit from having access to a particular program or there’s an inexpensive tool that would help him/her get work done faster. It could be an easy fix but the only way to know is to ask. Lastly, asking this question will give you an idea of where some additional training might be needed for your new employees to strengthen their skills and become the best versions of themselves.

The ultimate goal of the 90-day review/check-in with your new employees is to set them up for long-term success. So, soliciting their feedback isn’t enough—you need to follow up! Acknowledging then acting on some of the discussion points will show the employee that you truly care about his/her feelings, well-being, input, and professional development. As a leader, you need to build a foundation of trust and respect before your business and employees can grow together.

For help with hiring and onboarding new employees, turn to our experienced team of human resources and recruiting professionals. Learn more about our industry-leading HR & Recruiting Solutions!

Get Industry-Leading HR & Recruiting Support

About the Author

Jason DiOttavio joined ConsultYHN as a Corporate Recruiter in 2011. Previously, he worked as an agency recruiter for a staffing firm specializing in IT/Administrative roles including such large companies as Dietz & Watson. When not working, Jason enjoys spending time with his wife and two young daughters. He’s also obsessed with cooking shows and finding new ice cream and donut shops.

How to Avoid and Solve Conflicts in the Workplace

Workplace conflicts are inevitable. A group of people with diverse cultural and intellectual backgrounds, experiences, opinions, and beliefs, aren’t always going to see eye-to-eye. And that’s a good thing!

As the practice leader, it’s your responsibility to maintain a cohesive work environment. Left unresolved, even minor disagreements between employees can hurt staff productivity, engagement, and morale. Developing effective conflict resolution skills is essential to building a desirable workplace culture and thus, a successful business.

Since its easier to prevent fires than it is to extinguish them, here are several tips and techniques managers can use to avoid conflicts in the workplace:

1. Define acceptable behavior and lead by example.

Every member of your staff should know what types of behaviors will and won’t be tolerated, ideally from their first day on the job. And be ready to take action if an employee crosses the line. Remember: it only takes one bad egg to ruin the bunch. Clearly defined job descriptions and chain of command as well as encouraging collaboration and professional development will help to prevent conflicts. Additionally, you should set the right example. You can do this by:

  • Being honest, reliable, and direct in your communication with staff and patients.
  • Not participating in office politics or drama.
  • Checking in with employees regularly to show that you care about them as people.
  • Never publicly criticize or reprimand employees.
  • Displaying a professional demeanor while also showing interest in your team’s overall well-being
  • Showing that you value other people’s input and respect unique points of view.

2. Be proactive and tackle conflicts head-on.

Conflicts rarely resolve themselves. By actively seeking out possible tension in the office and proactively intervening, you’ll not only minimize the severity of conflicts but even prevent some from ever arising. Encourage employees to work out disagreements with coworkers while they’re still small and make sure they know they can come to you with any challenges that are negatively affecting their work.

3. Champion positivity and respect.

It’s amazing the impact one person’s cheerful disposition can have. Your positivity will rub off on your staff, keeping aggressions and squabbles at bay. To build and maintain positive relationships with your employees, ask for their cooperation instead of barking commands, thank them when they take initiative or go above and beyond, and acknowledge their good work. When they make mistakes, miss deadlines, or get into arguments, meet with them in private, explain what they did wrong and what they can/should do differently in the future. If you find yourself lecturing a staff member more than you’re praising him/her, then it’s time to make some personnel changes.

4. Get to know your team.

Taking the time to get to know your employees—their likes and dislikes, their strengthens and weakness—will help you identify personality clashes that can spark conflict. Also, be on the lookout for cliques (one of the most common contributors to a toxic work environment). Keep your ear to the ground. While you shouldn’t contribute to the office chatter, you should have a general idea of what employees are whispering about.

5. Communicate often and carefully.

Most often, conflicts stem from a lack of information, poor information, misinformation, or no information. Communicating information to your staff clearly, accurately, and in a timely manner is guaranteed to reduce the number and severity of conflicts in the practice. Be particularly mindful of your words and tone when communicating with employees via text or email—what may seem like a perfectly innocent emoji or turn of phrase to you may be interpreted very differently by the person/people on the other end. It’s much easier to offend people when they can’t see your body language and you can’t see their reactions.

6. Embrace conflicts as learning opportunities.

Hidden within every conflict is the potential for growth and development. Differing opinions can often lead to innovation and even bring teams closer together. Having to resolve a workplace dispute with poise and diplomacy is good training for an employee looking to move into a managerial role one day.

Now that you know what you can do to try to prevent conflicts, let’s discuss how to effectively resolve the ones that do inevitably pop up.

1. Take immediate action to identify the cause of the conflict.

The root of a problem is the key to solving it. But to get to the root, you need the individuals involved to sit down and engage in a constructive conversation with the goal of finding common ground. Find a safe and private place to meet (i.e., somewhere they won’t be overheard by patients and/or noisy colleagues) then give each party equal time to air out their thoughts, feelings, and concerns regarding the issue at hand. Take a positive but assertive approach to guide the discussion and set ground rules if necessary. Encourage employees to avoid making personal attacks and playing the “blame game.”

2. Listen actively and make sure both sides feel heard.

Let each party speak without interruption. Afterward, summarize and repeat back to them what you heard in your own words. Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions that encourage the parties to articulate their thoughts in an open and honest manner, then try to read between the lines. Validating their feelings can also help deescalate tensions. It’s best to go into these discussions with an open mind. Don’t pick a side or make a final verdict until you’re confident you understand the full story. Also, be sure to take notes and save them in case you need to refer back to them at some point.

3. Agree on the best solution and the role each party plays in its execution.

You need to have a common objective, which is resolving the issue and ensuring it doesn’t resurface. After clarifying the source of conflict and talking to both parties, it’s time to brainstorm possible solutions. Once one has been decided on, outline the responsibilities each party has in resolving the conflict. The involved parties may never be friends, but as long as they can treat each other with respect, they can maintain a viable working relationship.

4. Monitor the situation and consider preventative strategies for the future.

Continue to keep an eye on the issue to assess if the solution is working and both parties are following through on what they agreed to. Decide what your steps will be if the issue resurfaces as well as what processes you could institute to avoid this type of conflict in the future. Reflecting on how you handled the situation and what you learned from it, will help you hone your conflict management skills.

Consult helps practice owners mitigate risk, navigate complex issues, and manage their teams more effectively through comprehensive HR support.

About the Author

Dawn Bauer is a Senior Recruiter who has been with Consult YHN since 2003. Previously, she spent 15 years working in banking and accounting, including 2 years in Consult YHN’s billing department. When she’s not at work, you can find Dawn either on the beach, in a shoe store, or at a concert.

How to Build Your Company Brand by Hiring for Culture and Engagement

It’s estimated that there will be 20,000 job openings for audiologists in the U.S. by 2028. Unfortunately, there are not enough licensed professionals in the field, audiology programs in the U.S., or students in those programs to keep up with accelerating demand. In fact, there may be more audiologists retiring from the profession over the next decade than entering it.

When you take this dearth of providers and factor in the cost of hiring new employees (an average of $4,000+ per hire), the cost of employee churn (fees paid, human capital involved with the onboarding process, downtime to train), and the damage done to your staff morale and patients’ perception of your practice, the price of failure becomes quite clear.

Ultimately, for your business to be successful, you need to be competitive in identifying, attracting, and hiring top talent. If you don’t hire the best people, your competitors will—it’s a zero-sum game. The upside is that when you get it right and hire the best, you’ll be in a great position to develop the culture you need to take your practice to the next level and become an “Employer of Choice” in the hearing healthcare field.

Hiring for Attitude & Culture

Your “brand” is who you are. It’s reflected to the outside world through the prism of your practice culture. It’s how your community, patients, employees, and competitors perceive you. For better or worse, it’s best reflected by the team you’ve assembled. The good news is that this is all within your control. Should you desire a different culture, a better brand, you can create it. And you do that by hiring the right people.

To define “the right people” in the context of hiring, we should start by reviewing the difference between skills and traits: skills are relatively easy to teach or develop while traits are very difficult to teach or develop. Now consider how you vet and weigh skills and traits when making hiring decisions. Why are skills so important to you and could traits be even more important? Remember: the traits of your employees will rarely change, the collection of traits across your entire staff is your culture, and your culture is what defines your brand.

Researcher Mark Murphy’s three-year “Hiring for Attitude” study of 20,000 new hires at over 300 organizations showed that most “misses” (bad hires) are not due to issues of technical competence (lacking skills), but rather issues around attitude, attributes, and emotional intelligence (traits). Of the 9,200 new hires that failed, the vast majority—81 percent—failed because they didn’t have the right traits for the job, resulting in poor cultural alignment to the organization.

This shouldn’t be a surprise since skills are relatively easy to vet. Did you ever hire an audiologist who didn’t work out? Did they have the skills for the job? Or was it something else that led to their failure—attitude, work ethic, emotional intelligence (EQ)? You need to identify which traits are most important to your organization’s culture and then vet for them during the interview process.

This is my own personal list (feel free to make it yours!):

  • Work ethic
  • Coachability
  • Empathy (EQ)
  • Respect
  • Self-awareness (EQ)
  • Positivity
  • Passion
  • Energy

It’s not always easy to resist the urge to overvalue skills due to cognitive biases at play. Those same biases can also cause us to minimize the importance of traits when we make hiring decisions. Have you ever described your ideal candidate to a recruiter as someone who can “hit the ground running” because they “have all the required skills” or, one of my favorites, “requires little supervision because I don’t have time to manage them?

I’ve heard these kinds of statements a lot in my 20+ years as a professional recruiter. And when I do, I know that it says far more about the hiring manager and the organization’s culture than about the candidate they’re seeking. If you have a sound grasp of what’s teachable and are willing to teach it, you’ll stand a much greater chance of hiring the right people and building your best culture. While it may seem like an arduous task to build skills in an employee, remember that it’s almost impossible to build or change traits, attributes, or attitudes.

Building & Maintaining Your Culture

As an owner or practice manager, don’t forget that you play a very important role in building and maintaining your desired workplace culture—you’re required to lead! Be mindful of how you carry yourself and how you interact with your staff and patients. All of your actions and behaviors matter. These are the behaviors that effective leaders exhibit:

  • Exude unerring positivity
  • Communicate with utmost clarity
  • Possess a clear vision and work tirelessly to gain alignment to that vision
  • Listen with compassion and empathy
  • Build trusting relationships with words and actions
  • Express gratitude

You should intentionally engage in these actions, behaviors, and attitudes every day. Great leadership is not accidental!

Becoming and ‘Employer of Choice’

You’ve hired all the right people, they’re all highly engaged, and finally, you have the culture you’ve always wanted and known you deserved. Congratulations! All that’s left to do is maintain the culture you’ve worked so hard to build and solidify yourself as an “Employer of Choice.”

The best way to do this is to first, identify your “brand champions” (i.e., the best of the best, the most engaged of all the engaged). They’re easy to find. Simply look for employees who:

  1. genuinely enjoy their job/don’t just do it for the money,
  2. look for opportunities to mentor, and
  3. demonstrate the behaviors of leaders (see above)

Second, give them additional responsibilities! Any good leader loves a good challenge. When you give these employees opportunities to mentor, encourage them to evangelize your practice through social media, community groups, and professional associations, and hold them accountable, they will value themselves even more, and then they will thrive.

Conclusion

Creating a great culture, one that emphasizes growth and development, will demonstrate your organization’s value to candidates. When you offer opportunities to learn and grow, when you can site real-life examples of employee development, and when you can identify an evangelist within your organization who can speak to your culture of growth, you will then be in a great position to attract additional, like-minded employees.

Practices that utilize Consult’s industry-leading human resources consulting and staffing solutions see incremental increases in revenue and the highest levels of measurable engagement. That’s because our experienced recruiters vet candidates for the highest skill level as well as aligned cultural fit.

About the Author

Ernie Paolini is responsible for Human Resources and Recruiting Services at Consult YHN. He has more than 20 years of experience in building and managing technology-driven HR and recruitment organizations. His areas of expertise include behavioral interviewing, employee relations, compliance, and onboarding.

2020 Year-in-Review

As we embark on a new year, let’s take a moment to appreciate the past one—2020 was a wild ride!

Together, we succeeded. We led our members through the pandemic. We leaned on and learned from one another – navigating all roadblocks while preparing to thrive in 2021 and beyond! Join us in celebrating our best moments.

Your success is our success. Here’s to even more in 2021!

About the Author

Nicole Finkbiner joined Consult YHN as the Marketing Communications Specialist in 2018 with nearly a decade of communications experience. Over the course of her career, Nicole has created a wide array of different content for various mediums and outlets—news articles, press releases, arts features, product descriptions, small business websites, e-blasts, social media posts, promotional materials, and more. In her free time, the Philadelphia native enjoys soaking up the city’s culture and binge-watching TV shows.