After spending several days in Las Vegas speaking to the American Academy of Medical Administrators, the bitter cold with snow and sleet in Dallas is more than a little jolting.  Reviewing some notes in my Journal, I ran across several entries that were equally unsettling. 

iStock_000018985179SmallTom was the manager of a blood bank within a large lab of a major medical referral center located in the Northeast U.S.  He told me that he was recruited there two years ago and while he enjoyed the complexity of the work and camaraderie of working with his capable team, he was frustrated.   It wasn’t the money – they paid him well and the benefits were the best he ever had.  Nor was it the urban lifestyle; he liked living close to the best restaurants, museums and concert venues. His life outside work was great.

At work, he felt stuck.  He was not getting any useful feedback on his performance or any support he sought to become a better manager.  His boss, the Director, seemed incapable of providing ongoing feedback much less meaningful, in-depth guidance during the annual performance review.  Every annual review session seemed rushed, always on the final day, or even a week late.

Unfortunately, Tom’s experience is not that far out of the ordinary.  It would seem that in addition to problems with quality of care and patient safety, hospitals have a problem providing their employees with meaningful feedback regarding their performance.   It is a recurring problem I hear from the northwest to the southeast, from California to New England.  This is a shame because improving employee evaluations is not that complicated or expensive.  It is sort of like the other broken part of most healthcare human resource departments – employee orientation that usually amounts to two days of listening to how you can get fired. 

For the life of me I cannot figure out why hospitals continue to rely on the old fashioned orientation session to “onboard” a new employee given the evidence of alarming turnover rates, but I do understand how the hit-or-miss employee evaluation programs continue: a combination of poor training and weak supervisors who lack the real depth of experience and/or critical thinking skills that are necessary to deliver an insightful performance evaluation.  No one taught them. 

The bad news is that this is the same reason hospital employee performance evaluations were so bad 38 years ago.