Dont drag your paws with employee reviews

January 5, 2018
Rebecca Rowe, CVPM

Do employee reviews fill you with dread due to anxiety over difficult conversations, losing valuable work time and having to rely on your struggling memory? Dont dig in your heels. Proper preparation can make the task easier and your feedback more valuable.

( are one way to show our employees that we're paying attention to their good work and aware of what they do for the hospital. (In some cases, of course, they're a chance to see if progress has been made on improvement plans.) Because they're so important, you need to give them time to breathe and the attention and planning they deserve.

Formulate a better process

Though they require an upfront time investment to develop, standardized forms can help you streamline the employee review process and save you time in the long run. At my practice, we use job descriptions as a basis for developing forms for each job type (e.g. technician, kennel assistant, receptionist). The job description sets the expectations, and the review reflects on how well a team member is meeting those expectations.

A minimum of three forms is needed for each employee at my practice:

> One job-specific form in which each item from the job description is listed with a performance rating and an area for comments.

> Two forms that relate to all jobs. One for things like attitude, appearance, timeliness and anything else your hospital holds as important for all employees. The other form covers employee strengths, weaknesses and areas in need of improvement. You may also want to provide an area for employee comments and signatures.

How would you rate your rating system?

The rating system should show how well an employee is meeting expectations. At my hospital, we use the following:

> Exceeds expectations    

> Meets expectations       

> Needs improvement

> Cannot be improved

The second rating (“Meets expectations”) is the one most often used. It simply means the employee is doing his or her job as expected. The “Exceeds expectations” rating is used when someone goes above and beyond what we expect. “Needs Improvement” is used when an employee needs to work on something-not a problem, just a need to improve. “Cannot be improved” is rarely used, as we can usually find a way to bring about positive change.

These ratings are ultimately meant as a directive for next year's goals.

360-degree employee reviews

What's a 360-degree review? We're so glad you asked.

In short, it's an approach to employee reviews that offers a more comprehensive view of each individual employee's impact on their coworkers and supervisors. Check out the starting guide at

Take note of the good (and the bad)

One of the most important things to do is collect information as you go. If you don't, your review will really just cover the most recent history or only the major events that you somehow manage to remember. Because my memory is imperfect, we've developed a system for collecting good and bad information about employees that allows us to discuss the entire year and not just the past month or so. We stick notes in employee files whenever something good or bad happens, so when it comes time for reviews, I can look over the file and find all the information I need for a truly comprehensive review.

Eliminate emotions

Give your emotions the ol' heave-ho when reviewing employees. Managers are not immune to favoritism, and if we aren't mindful of this, we can unintentionally overlook strengths and weaknesses in our employees. Take the time to mindfully provide an honest evaluation. Be fair and consistent. Keep in mind that your forms could be used as legal documents in the future.

Set the stage

Pick a time of year that works best for your hospital. Set specific dates so your employees know what to expect. Because we pair employee reviews with raises, we do ours in June as it's a busy time of year (making raises easier to afford).

At my practice, we have managers over technicians, receptionists and kennel attendants, so these managers join me in giving the reviews when appropriate. Sometimes one of the doctors sits in as well. This lends an air of professionalism and shows employees that they're important. Go through the forms and discuss your comments. Make sure your employees understand every form and how they were evaluated. Provide space for employees to add comments too (e.g. what they want to learn and what they think they need to work on).

Reviews are vitally important to the growth and satisfaction of your employees and to the health of your practice, so if your process needs work, start making improvements now.


Rebecca Rowe is practice manager at Seven Hills Pet Clinic in Loveland, Ohio, and the 2017 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year.