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.