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Evaluating Employee Evals


Pretty much everyone who works is evaluated  against certain qualities we desire in employees in addition to the core competencies required for their individual positions.  Typically they include knowledge bank, dependability, problem solving skills, communication and teamwork. Scoring is pretty generic as well using a 1 – 5 scale where 1 is poor, 3 is average and 5 is superior.  Your agency may do things a little differently but this or something similar is what I see regularly in agencies.

Nobody likes to be average.  We like to think we are special and unique and we are.  Average simply means that most people are not better or worse in a certain quality or skillset than we are.  When talking about nurses, we are, as a group, extremely dependable.  Extremely dependable then becomes average.  It is the one who suits up and shows up during every crisis and never turns down an extra admit who should get the four or five score.


The example above s what I typically see in agencies.  Most employees get fours and fives in almost everything and they get their raise and everyone is happy. The scores of three and below are where attention and resources are devoted to improvement.  Realistically, it is difficult to make somebody a better team player or communicate better unless they have a passion to learn what you want to teach.

Here is the same chart with more realistic numbers.  Everyone is meeting performance standards except Mary who made too many withdrawals from the knowledge bank.  Every employee is above average in at least one area.


Why does this matter?  If your goal is to get every employee to score all fives, you will have a homogenous agency with nothing special about it.  In fact, if every employee scores a five, it could be said that your agency is average and every score below five is less than average.

You’re employees and their skills are what you sell.  Instead of always focusing on what they need to improve to the level of everyone else, would it be better to take the time to find out each individual’s special talents and exploit them?

If you insist on focusing on the weaknesses of an individual, two criteria must be met.  The weakness must be so great that it compromises their ability to function in their role and the weakness must be something that can be changed.  Asking a chronically shy person to be a better team player or someone who is a little short in the IQ department to perform like an academic is never going to be effective.  If the person cannot change and the quality is essential to their job, the person needs to be reassigned to a different position or let go.  Or, if the quality is not important to their position, why draw attention someone’s ‘flaw’ that cannot be corrected.

A good manager instead focuses on the individual talents.  Instead of getting the average people to perform as well as the top performing individual in an area, he or she will take the people scoring fours and fives and concentrate on talents making them even more valuable to the agency.  A great manager will take into consideration even talents that are not work related such as art, writing, calligraphy or music and look for opportunities to exploit them.

We must be standardized in so many areas.  There are lines all around us drawn by patient care standards, standardized data sets, billing standards, best practices, etc. that we absolutely must not ignore.  Every once in a while, its fun to color outside the lines, or better yet, redraw some lines to make the enclosed space even bigger than it was before.

Or you can work with a bunch of interchangeable drones who are all average in their ability because they do not perform any better or any worse than anyone else in any one area.

Please feel free to email this average nurse if you have any questions or comments but it won’t do any good to point out that my communication skills are sometimes lacking.

4 Comments Post a comment

  1. A wise manager sees that we all have strengths and weaknesses and learns to make the most of those unique traits. It is a weak manager who immediately jumps to “I have to let him/her go”. In reality firing should be a very rare event. Too many managers jump to firing because they do not know how to manage.

    January 17, 2012

    • I don’t know how it is possible but it seems some people fire more people than they hire. Fortunately for our industry, we have moved beyond the point where we must hire anyone with a license because nurses were in such demand. The problem is that along the way we didn’t pay attention to the skills of interviewing employees, involving potential co-workers in the process and really checking references. It is not unusual in other industries for new employees to have several interviews prior to being hired. I know a psychologist who specializes in assisting companies determine the suitability of people for jobs. Home Health just seems to get a few forms filled out and they’re in! Then we turn our focus to improving the employees we hired in haste and when that doesn’t work, we simply fire them and move on to the next. It takes a long time to build a solid staff using that method and we simply cannot afford it in 2012.

      January 17, 2012
  2. Susan #

    I’ve fired people in my time. I’ve never enjoyed it, save once, when I succeeded in getting rid of an RN so guilty of malpractice it made my integrity hurt, but one who HR had kept saying, well, try this or well try that.

    Yes, some places fire to easy. Others don’t fire enough. The latter scare me much more than the former. Not everyone is able and willing to be taught new tricks. Some old dogs need to be put out to pasture.

    January 17, 2012

    • I agree with you. Some nurses do not see the need, find the energy or desire change. They spend more energy resisting and complaining about change than it would take to make the change. But, how did those nurses get there to begin with? I know that because of the turnaround in home health many directors have inherited these troubled souls who bring down the whole agency but going forward, I think if we take the process of hiring as seriously as we do terminating an employee, the problem will wash out on its own.

      January 17, 2012

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