12 Essential Questions to Improve Your Appraisal Discussions

Apr 11, 2013

The first step in improving your 'performance appraisals' in your veterinary practice? 

Easy – just don't do them!

Now before you throw your hands in the air and yell "Yippee – we all hate them anyway!" I should clarify.  You should definitely have regular, scheduled discussions with each of your team members about their current job satisfaction, development plans and goals for the future BUT just don't call them 'Performance Appraisals'.

Performance Appraisal vs Coffee & Donut Chat

Call them 'discussions' or 'coffee & donut chats' – anything really apart from 'Performance Appraisals'.  Seriously, who would be unhappy to be told "Hey next Tuesday at 10am can we schedule in a 'Coffee & Donut chat'?  By the way, just to give you time for a bit of a think – here are the questions we'll be chatting about."

Regular discussions with each and every employee is absolutely essential to develop a great team in your veterinary practice and should be seen as a necessary part of the manager/employee relationship. They don't have to be formal and scary.  There's nothing wrong with having a more informal discussion or chat as long as you have thought about the questions beforehand and given your staff member the opportunity to think about and prepare their thoughts about the questions as well. 

The best questions to ask in your Performance Discussion or Chats?

A Smart Company blog post 'Improving your appraisals' suggests some important questions you could consider adding to your discussions.  I've modified a few of them so see what you think of the list. Of course you won't want to ask them all at once, instead maybe choose 4 questions and have 3 or 4 'coffee & donut' chats scheduled throughout the year. 

  1. Over the past year, how have you found it working here? Be specific.
  2. What do you consider to be your most important achievements over the past year?
  3. Are there parts of your job you find difficult?
  4. What was your greatest challenge and how did you deal with it?
  5. What kind of job do you want to be doing in two or three years' time?
  6. Where do you want to be heading from a career-path perspective? Do you have a personal interest or goal to develop? How can I help you get there?
  7. Which knowledge or skills would you like to develop to be better at your role?
  8. Do you have skills that you're not currently using that would make a difference in our team?
  9. What would you change about your role if you could?
  10. Is there a particular project or area that you would like to be involved in over the next year?
  11. Are there areas you can see that we could be doing better in our business?  Is there a service that you think our clients might be interested in?
  12. What can I do to be a better manager?

You should also add in time to discuss salary and bonuses.  There may not be a pay rise on offer but there does need to be some discussion at least once a year so your team members are aware of where they stand financially.  If they're keen on a pay rise (and who isn't?) then it's a great way to start off further discussions on what the business can do to become more profitable. 

Don't Forget the Donuts!

One last thing….. most importantly –  don't forget the donuts and make sure the coffee isn't instant coffee but a nice one from the local coffee shop.  Why bother?  Well it shows your team member that you think they are important enough for you to have made an effort – and who doesn't like to feel  important?

I think I'll follow this blog post up with some 'Do's and don't's for successful performance discussions'.  What do you think?

Now it's your turn – share your views and opinions on performance appraisals in the comments section below. Do they work?  What's wrong with them?  How can they be improved?