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  • Performance & development

    Maintaining a happy, competent and confident work team will involve continued feedback and education as your practice grows and changes. Set up a system for feedback and review on a regular basis. Note, however, that performance assessment is an ongoing process and at the annual review the staff members should not get any surprises.

    Performance review meetings need to answer these important questions:

    • Is the person fulfilling the requirements of the position as set out in the job description?
    • Is the organisation providing the necessary time and resources to enable the employee to complete their job?
    • What areas of development can be addressed to improve the person's quality of work and job satisfaction?

    Managing performance issues

    Performance management may be required when staff are not performing as well as they should. This can be caused by personal issues such as relationship problems, difficulties with personal finances, issues with personalities at work, or other work-related issues. Performance problems need to be managed well to ensure that you don't lose a good employee and that your practice maintains its financial and commercial viability.

    Performance issues should be discussed as soon as they become apparent. Most problems can be resolved by having a quiet and confidential chat with the person in question. However, there may be times when a more formal approach is required. Where an employee fails to respond to one-on-one discussion, it may be necessary to counsel the employee. Maintaining documentation of any formal counselling is advisable as it will be of particular assistance if the situation deteriorates.

    Above all, talk to your staff on a regular basis about their work. This, more than anything, will stop issues coming to a head.

    Staff development

    All medical and administrative staff need ongoing access to education and training to allow them to do their job in a professional and efficient manner. Work demands are changing as technology grows in importance, and compliance and accreditation become integral parts of health care practice management.

    For medical and administrative staff alike, continuing development and training can make the difference between confident and competent staff members and an efficient practice, or something less desirable. Access to professional development courses can also be seen as a reward for effort and application.

    Remember, there are vicarious liability issues if staff are inadequately trained (see Induction and training section).

    Development can sometimes be completed on site under the guidance of an experienced staff member. At other times, you may find it preferable to use the services of an outside provider who is an expert in a particular field. You may also access seminars, conferences or formal education courses provided by others.

    There must be a clear audit trail of all education provided. For some positions such as practice managers who are fellows of the Australian Association of Practice Managers and nurses, there is a requirement to document professional development including annual mandatory training (e.g. first aid training). In legal proceedings, it is often vital to have documents which demonstrate the training and education undertaken by the staff member.

    Workplace assessments can be performed to identify gaps in staff competencies and the processes to meet these gaps must be documented.

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    Tools and Resources

    Download the Staff Performance & Development Checklist

    Improving your practice

    Performance management

    It is important to provide a formal performance management and review program for the practice based on the relevant position descriptions and competency standards, to ensure regular feedback is provided to all staff members on an ongoing basis.

    The process of performance appraisals should aim to identify, evaluate and develop each individual staff member's work performance and productivity to more effectively achieve organisational goals and objectives and to provide reward, recognition, feedback, support and career guidance to staff members, where necessary.

    There are a number of benefits for both the practice and staff members in the implementation of an effective performance appraisal system that may include:

    • Strengthening of the working relationship by allowing communication and discussion to take place concerning both work-related and personal issues
    • Differentiating between satisfactory and unsatisfactory staff members
    • Obtaining information and feedback from staff members that may improve productivity or identify potential problems or safety issues within the organisation
    • Identification of training and development needs, or the potential of staff members for future management positions, promotions or transfers
    • Maintaining performance standard levels that aid in the identification of poor performance so that corrective action can be taken immediately
    • Encouraging staff members to use their own initiative in developing and improving their job performance.

    Both the practice and staff members should be aware that when either good or bad issues arise, they should be addressed immediately, and not left to the scheduled performance appraisal to be discussed.

    Above all, performance management is an ongoing process. This means that there should be no major surprises at an annual performance review.

    Decide how frequently performance should be reviewed. It usually occurs on an annual basis.

    Design a performance management system to facilitate discussion of:

    • Individual performance
    • Impact of the individual on the rest of the organisation
    • Impact of the organisation on the individual's performance
    • Issues or concerns on the part of the staff member, management or other staff, where relevant.
    • Rewarding individuals for performance which is acceptable or exceeds expectation.

    Provide development opportunities for those who need new skills or knowledge, or who need help to reach the desired level of performance.

    Set new objectives for the following period at each performance review.

    Performance issues

    Be sure to follow a few simple rules:

    • Don't 'let matters lie'. If there is a performance issue, address it. Lack of follow-up gives the message that the matter is not important.
    • Make notes of all staff meetings regardless of their informality. Staff records are as important as patient clinical records. They enable you to keep track of staff matters.
    • If an employee is given a warning, ensure you clearly advise them that continued breaches may result in termination of employment.
    • Seek legal advice from an industrial relations adviser before terminating any employee's appointment or going down this path.
    • Beware of the risks of employing staff under a casual arrangement in an attempt to avoid unfair dismissal legislation.