Improving Employee Performance

By Reece Tomlinson / 15 Mar 2017

In the first of a three-part series on ‘How to Maximise Clinic Performance’, global business executive Reece Tomlinson outlines four core principles to increasing employee performance

It goes without saying that when a company hires a new employee, they are always looking for the hardest workers, the most intelligent and the most talented people; those with a wealth of industry knowledge and experience. 

We aim to hire those who we believe are the best people for the role, who should, in theory, provide the best results for the business. Unfortunately, for some managers and companies, the employee who was thought to be that highly sought after great performer (and hired accordingly) can end up performing at an average level. So why does this happen and how can we prevent it in the future? The answer, in my opinion, is that some companies fail to provide the basic foundation that any employee (regardless of performance level), would require to do their job to the best of their abilities. Whether or not a clinic has two employees, or hundreds, the notion of increasing individual employee performance will always have a large-scale positive effect. 

An employee who is, for example, generating more sales, making fewer mistakes, and focusing on things that will positively impact the strategy of the clinic; is much more valuable from a financial perspective than employees who aren’t. It’s simple mathematics and even marginal gains in employee performance can tremendously benefit the clinic, or any business. 

From my experience of leading employees in a variety of businesses and industries, I have found that at its most basic level, increasing employee performance is based on four simple core principles that must exist in the business, or area, that the employee works within.

1. The right tools

Providing the right tools is essential to maximising employee performance. This means making sure the employee can operate efficiently, is comfortable, understands the requirements to do their job and is otherwise set up for success. Whether it is making sure that an employee has a computer that can keep up to the demands of their work pace, a customer relationship management (CRM) system that can speed up calling customers, extra training when required or better treatment chairs and procedure room lighting; there will be things that can be provided for every employee which will help make them more efficient and effective. 

I strongly suggest that the clinic reviews this from a cost/benefit perspective and analyses the cost of providing and, equally as importantly, not providing a ‘tool’ in order to ensure the potential expected benefit is fully understood. When combining this very simple premise with the concept of performance measurement, it equates to a situation where employees can be held to a higher performance standard.

Figure 1: Core principles of increasing employee performance

2. Performance measurement and incentives

Increasing employee performance must be closely tied to what the clinic is measuring. The quote, ‘What you measure is what you get’, by H. Thomas Johnson, the creator of Six Sigma1 – a data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects in any process – is from my experience, very true and highly relevant in business. 

What the clinic measures employee performance upon and then what it carefully communicates to its employees, will largely correlate to gains in those specific, measured areas. Simply put, when it comes to employee performance, you will get more of what is measured and less of what is not. As Simon Sinek, the author of Leaders Eat Last states, ‘Give us something specific to set our sights on, something we can measure our progress toward, and we are more likely to achieve it’.

For example, if the clinic’s objective is to grow sales, then employees should have their individual performance in this area measured, as well as the growth of the team that they belong to. Employees need to know exactly what they are working towards, where they currently stand, how they can improve their performance, and how they will be rewarded and recognised if/when they do this. 

KPI

Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are generally referred to as the critical qualitative or quantitative information that is being measured by the company, needed to explain a company’s progress towards its stated goals and strategy.3

Every clinic has a number of KPIs that could be routinely measured to gauge individual, team and overall clinic performance. Some examples of KPIs to which employee performance can be measured against can be seen in Figure 2.

Although there is not a set of rules regarding how often a clinic should calculate KPI data I would suggest utilising monthly or bi-weekly KPI reports. Similar to checking the gauges in your car to determine how fast you are going and how much longer you can go before you need to fill up with petrol, KPIs are crucial to determining whether or not you are on track to perform as a company and whether your employees are meeting, exceeding or falling short of expectations. The more regular and consistent the KPI reports; the quicker the clinic can alter individual and company performance to ensure objectives are being met.

KPIExample of employee who may be measured against KPIExample of how to measure KPI
Sales growth
Anyone impacting sales / entire company

Desired % of Sales Growth Over Prior Period (month, quarter, year) expressed in percentages.

Profit

Depends on the clinic, however certainly managers should be measured against the degree the clinic can generate profits.

A desired profit margin for the period (month, quarter or year) expressed in GBP or percentages

Cash generated from operations
Sales Manager, General Manager, Operations Manager etc.

Desired cash flow generated from operations for the period (month, quarteror year).

Customer retention rate
Anyone impacting sales / entire company

Desired percentage of customers that are returning for repeat treatments in a given period.

Add-on sales as a percentage of sales
Practitioners, customer services, receptionists

Desired additional sales in addition to the booked treatment in a given period.

Customer or treatment quality related complaints

Practitioners, customer services, receptionists

Allowable number of complaints in a given period expressed in individual complaints.

Average number of patient treatments

Anyone impacting sales / entire company / customer service

Desired number of average patient treatments per year. 

Number of new customers

Anyone impacting sales / customer service / entire company

Desired number of new customers in a given period

Number of inbound and outbound sales calls per day

Customer service

Desired number of inbound and outbound calls made per day.

Measuring performance

When reading this, you may ask yourself, why does an employee need specific performance criteria in order to improve their own performance? This question is even more relevant in larger clinics where the correlation between the employee and the performance of the clinic is less direct and perhaps less obvious. Fortunately, the answer is simple. 

Let’s consider the situation expressed above where increasing clinic sales are the main objective of the clinic. Therefore, if the clinic manager believes that a clinic’s employee(s) can directly impact the clinic’s ability to generate sales (which one could argue that almost every employee of the clinic can), then the degree to which sales grow versus expectations can become a performance indicator to which the employee’s own individual performance can be measured against.

Realistically one performance indicator may not be enough to accurately measure performance. This becomes more apparent when one considers the various roles within the clinic. Although each employee may have a direct or indirect correlation to the sales growth of the clinic itself, they may also have additional performance measures which are critical to individual or functional performance. 

Maximising employee performance requires consistent and effective communication from management

For example, if the clinic has a customer service team (such as front desk staff), performance measurement may not only be limited to sales but also to their ability to generate ‘add-on’ sales in addition to the original – such as consumable products, new treatments and booking return appointments.

Another example could be measuring complaints from patients. For many reasons, measuring the number of complaints within the clinic, and subsequent complaints against each individual employee or set of employees is very important data against which employee performance can be measured. 

Patients who have complaints, whether legitimate or not, have the ability to decrease your profits, hurt your reputation and create potential costly legal issues. Minimising complaints is of best interest to the clinic, and could be something to be considered a KPI used to assist in measuring employee performance.

Performance-based incentives

Using KPIs and measuring performance is very useful in assessing employee performance, but how you choose this data can be even more important. Providing performance-based incentives such as bonuses based, cash and non-cash rewards as well incentives such as trips, days off and etc; can help to ensure that employees have additional motivation to achieve specified results that correlate to the clinic’s strategy and by doing so, increases relative employee performance.

3. Transparent and regular communication

Maximising employee performance requires consistent and effective communication from management. A recent survey of 1,562 US workers by the American Psychological Association indicates that 25% of employees don’t trust their employer.4 Transparency is essential in building a relationship of trust between the clinic and its employees. This is particularly important when it comes to individual employee and team performance. 

Using KPIs, along with other management tools such as one-on-one meetings, quarterly or semi-annual performance reviews, regular candid discussions regarding how the employee is doing, asking them what they are having challenges with and what they need from management to excel; are all paramount for maximising employee performance. 

At the company I lead, we have a mandate for monthly one-to-one meetings between managers and their direct reports – regardless of position, for every employee in the company. These one-to-one meetings help the manager and the employee openly communicate how to address issues impacting performance, where challenges may lay, any questions the employee may have, issues of concern for both the employee and the manager, as well as potential personal issues that may be impacting performance. Regular and transparent communication combined with performance measurement metrics such as KPIs, create an environment where employees can generate, and be held to, higher levels of performance.

4. Sincere appreciation

I cannot stress this enough, if the intent is for employees to push themselves to higher levels of performance and by doing so improve the performance of the clinic; appreciation is critical. In fact, a recent study by Bersin and Associates indicates that companies that excel at employee recognition, are on average 12 times more likely to generate strong results.5 It is an incredibly simple premise with major implications, and it can cost nothing. Appreciation can come in many forms. Be sincere, be honest and make it known how the employee’s performance is noted and is impacting the clinic. Send thank you notes, publicly praise employees, surprise your team with a treat for a job well done and go out of your way to acknowledge that what they do and the hard work they put into the clinic matters. 

From experience, the outcome of sincere appreciation is that employees are even more willing to step up, which translates to individual as well as company performance increases.

Conclusion

To summarise, increasing employee performance should be a priority for all clinics and clinic managers. Each and every employee has the potential to be a higher performer, and can be more engaged and more present at work. Even marginal gains in employee performance can have a large impact on the clinic from a financial, efficiency and cultural perspective. The principles contained within this article are only one of many requirements to truly create an environment conducive to increasing employee performance, however they can be implemented easily and quickly, which will translate into results. 

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