Seven Recommendations for Strong Healthcare Performance Management Systems

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

Healthcare organizations benefit when their performance management systems align with organizational goals. In a recent webinar about the interaction between healthcare performance management and learning, HealthStream's Director of Performance and Talent Development, Brad Weeks, spoke with Heath Nodine, Performance Management Coordinator at AnMed Health in Anderson, South Carolina, who is responsible for the development and presentation of his organization’s performance evaluation process.

Since implementing the HealthStream Performance Center in 2015, Nodine has helped create a consistent and transparent evaluation process that cascades the organization's strategic goals and performance standards to all staff. Through this process, AnMed Health has created a goal-oriented culture that is aligned from the top down. As part of the webinar, Nodine identified the following seven recommendations for any healthcare organization interested in using performance management to strengthen culture and achieve strategic initiatives. They are:

(1) Establish a Consistent, Standardized Performance Review Process across the Entire Organization.

Inconsistency in performance evaluation across departments can be a strong driver of employee dissatisfaction. Nodine relates how his organization once used a variety of evaluation tools across departments, citing examples ranging from a 6 page, 51 line item form to a five or 6 line checklist. The truth to be found in comments like “The way I'm evaluated in this department is entirely different than how that department does theirs," led the executive team to support a complete redesign of the performance evaluation process.

(2) Use Performance Evaluation to Get All Staff Focused on Organizational Goals.

Initially, only managers and above were evaluated for their contribution towards the organization’s strategic objectives. Now, to strengthen accountability, the organization’s goals are cascaded down to the entire team in their evaluations. Nodine shares, “When a goal is ultimately cascaded down to an employee, they're able to look in the system and follow that trail back up to see how it really plays a part in the big picture.”

(3) Make Certain Performance Goals Are SMART Goals— specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.

If goals meet these criteria, they are realistically achievable rather than impossible. Nodine advises that in an ideal situation, achieving them fully also requires “a little bit of a stretch to exceed as well.”

(4) Start from the Executive Level Down to Ensure Strategic Goals Are Covered Correctly.

Avoid frustrating re-work by relying on leadership to establish direction first. Nodine recommends when it comes to setting goals, “It is really important to make sure you follow the chain of command and work your way down, so that you're not having lower levels trying to set their goals before you find out what the top level is ultimately working on.”

(5) Make Sure Goals Align With What Employees Actually Do Day to Day.

According to Nodine, the tasks that make up a goal are vitally important, “whether that's cost savings, trying to meet patient experience targets, or any team efforts. It is important for the staff to be engaged in that—you don't want to set them up with something that they play no part in, because this is their performance evaluation.”

(6) Performance Review Should Transition from Once a Year to a Continuous Operation.

Nodine shared that his organization is implementing midyear reviews as an additional effort to get staff more engaged in the system. A supplement to these review opportunities is staff rounding, where leaders can talk about the departmental goals, give updates, ask questions about their individual goals, and have the chance to further emphasize the organization’s performance standards.

(7) When Establishing a New Performance Management System, Be Sure That All Key Players in the Organization Are Involved.

Organizations should avoid creating the impression that a performance management system is the product of one group which only hopes for its adoption by everyone else. For Nodine, “It's really been helpful along the way to have our CEO, our VP of HR, and everybody who needs to be a part of the process in the room together so that we can talk about it as a team.”

Performance management, when done well, can be a tool that unites a healthcare organization and truly has an impact on care quality and outcomes. Successful change of this magnitude may involve a reshaping effort from the ground up and strong commitment at the highest levels of leadership. The payoff can be greater accountability, higher employee satisfaction, improved employee engagement, and better staff understanding of organizational goals and strategic direction.

Hear the full Webinar recording here.