For many of us, the annual evaluation period has ended, along with the stress and long days that accompany it. The process should be meaningful and gratifying for both the giver and the receiver—the blueprint for appreciation and development. It should reflect what was accomplished and how it was done (or not) without undue punishment, whether perceived or actual. Ideally, evaluation is less of a task and more of a management process with minimal monotonous agony. Is that what performance appraisal is like for you?
There's plenty of literature on evaluating nursing students, and not so much for nurse leaders who may be responsible for upwards of 100 or more evaluations. Although that's on the high end, 50 is certainly not unusual. There are books on helpful phrases to use, and you most likely have internal resources from your human resources colleagues. But it's unlikely that your orientation adequately prepared you.
Like it or not, performance appraisals (aka evaluations) are a key part of professional development for all staff, even ourselves. Without personal and organizational goals, clear behavioral expectations, feedback, and looking to the future, we don't have progression, at least not in alignment with organizational direction. Of course, performance feedback and goal-setting should occur frequently—once a year isn't enough—and be targeted to the individual with incorporation of self-evaluation. For professionals, the evaluation process should also have peer review and continuous learning components.
That could be a lot of tedium, which gets in the way of being thoughtful. Simplification of the required formal review is desirable. The essence of performance can certainly be captured in 10 or fewer categories with a comprehensive, individualized narrative that describes the employee's contributions, accomplishments, and growth opportunities. The most agonizing part of the process is often the ranking. We know the lowly “meets standard” feels like a failure to the enthusiastic and engaged employee. He or she may be A+ on the “how” but may not have hit the outcome points needed for the “exceeds standard” rating, even though it may have been bad luck and/or many other variables affecting empirical outcomes. Those grades can be demoralizing, which is the last thing we want to happen.
So how do we make the formal component easier and less cumbersome? Consider the benefits of an electronic process with interfaces and auto feeds from learning, recognition, and credentialing systems, as well as dashboards linked to outcome goals. We can dream, can't we? Maybe we could build in Skype abilities for per diem staff or other staff members we don't see in the allotted time frames. Can artificial intelligence help us in some way? Would staggered due dates be better than the big, stressful bolus?
Although there's no quick fix, the feedback process is how we grow and contribute to our organization's strategic goals. Make the best of the systems you have; develop and drive improvements; and use your leadership skills to focus on staff development every day, not only at the formal evaluation time, making it meaningful versus monotonous. That's legacy building and will be remembered for years to come.