How to Improve and Create More Valuable Staff Evaluations at Your Senior Care Facility

Staff evaluations are a key element of measuring employee performance and ensuring staff receive the support they need. But some common issues negatively affect the value these evaluations offer. By revising and strategically approaching staff evaluations, senior care organizations can make the most of these valuable tools.

Common Issues Affecting Staff Evaluations

Gina Gilmore

Gina Gilmore, chief of people and culture at Transitions Care

Gina Gilmore, chief of people and culture at Transitions Care, explains that while staff evaluations can be highly beneficial tools, issues surrounding them are common, too. She notes that evaluations can lack objectivity, becoming more quantitative instead of qualitative. “There can be a lot of stereotyping, standard canned responses, and lack of differentiation in helping a team member to grow,” she says. Sometimes a “halo effect” occurs where a leader generalizes a team member’s traits, and then carries those traits over to every element of the review. It’s also important for leaders to be able to see each evaluation individually, rather than being tempted to compare and contrast team members with each other.

According to Heidi Royter, chief operating officer at Solterra Senior Living, the frequency at which evaluations are performed can decrease their value. She says that doing evaluations annually reduces their value, and team members want regular feedback. She encourages senior care organizations to perform evaluations more frequently, including 30 days after a hire, 90 days after the hire, and then quarterly. Organizations can also conduct annual reviews with discussions in-between, if needed.

Qualities of a Valuable Staff Evaluation

A quality staff evaluation should follow a clearly-defined process, says Gilmore. The evaluation should have objective standards that are then equally applied to team members across all roles. “The evaluation itself should be a tool to help team members grow,” she notes. “Focus on the opportunities that they have, what they’re doing well, and how they can continue to do well.” She notes that it’s also important to ask each employee for feedback, including details like how they feel about the evaluation, and any opportunities they’ve identified. The evaluation should conclude with the development of an action plan and next steps to take.

Strategies to Improve Staff Evaluations

When conducting an evaluation, Gilmore encourages organizations to base the evaluation not only on the role a team member holds, but also how the residents and families feel. The evaluation should also consider the employee’s attendance pattern, including whether they’re picking up extra shifts, coming in early and staying late, or going above and beyond in their jobs.

Heidi Royter, chief operating officer at Solterra Senior Living

Heidi Royter, chief operating officer at Solterra Senior Living

Royter encourages organizations to remove the word “weaknesses” from evaluations entirely. “Talk instead about what obstacles or limitations staff experienced and overcame, or needed support in overcoming,” she says.

She also encourages organizations to send “shout-outs” company-wide, recognizing stellar employees to boost morale. It’s also important to acknowledge staff company anniversaries and promotions. “If someone went the extra mile to train or help a coworker, these are all important things to acknowledge so employees know they’re valued,” she says. “Direct, open, and honest communication is important during evaluations, but it’s important to provide consistent and timely feedback throughout the year. Make it a regular occurrence to provide feedback and conduct evaluations regularly so they don’t seem so daunting at the end of the year.”

Maximizing the Value of Evaluation Results

Upon the completion of an evaluation, Royter notes that the employee and supervisor should review and look at the team as a whole. Identify the strengths and how the team is doing overall. This is the time to identify areas that need improvement, and to come up with a plan for making those changes. “Look at the areas that need to be worked on as a whole, and you will see patterns when you review all team members’ evaluations,” she says. “Look to see if there are standouts for individuals to see if maybe they are in the wrong department and would be a better fit in another department or maybe even at a different community.”

Gilmore explains that it’s important to work with any staff members who may be falling short. Show them what success looks like and give them the support they need to grow and develop to that point of success. She encourages the use of feedback throughout the year to reevaluate the staff member’s performance. “Use 360-degree feedback that includes peers, leaders, residents, and their family members,” she recommends. “Providing that feedback early and often tends to lead to better results.”

Rethinking Staff Evaluations

According to Gilmore, rethinking staff evaluations is an ongoing process. Commit to reevaluating your existing process annually at a minimum. Plan to incorporate changing metrics and success factors that relate to quality of care. It’s also important to consider the future development of your organization, including expansion and growth. Then, regularly go back and revisit job requirements, position descriptions, and responsibilities to ensure the evaluation is still accurate and appropriate.

Most importantly, remain transparent and open in your communications. “Make sure that team members know what it is you’re changing about the evaluations and why,” Gilmore says. “Staff need to have a clear picture of how this will help to continue to improve themselves, leadership, and the organization at large.”

She encourages organizations to try to have an open-door policy and to be available whenever staff need anything. “You want staff to understand that you’re invested in their current roles and their long-term success,” she says. “Let your team members bring their concerns and weigh in on that decision-making process that affects their daily work.” Doing so can give staff a sense of investment and demonstrates that their opinions are valued and welcomed.

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