October 1998 Bulletin

How to measure productivity

Position descriptions help practices evaluate staff effectiveness

Accurate and up-to-date position descriptions are the key to measuring the productivity and work quality of employees, according to human resource consultants and practice managers who have designed and implemented employee performance plans.

"Start out with job descriptions, put together an employee manual and then develop performance appraisals from the job description," said William G. Hyncik, Jr., executive director of Princeton Orthopaedic Associates.

Hyncik said his office is not suited to generic position descriptions so each employee's position description is tailor-made for the individual. Two medical assistants working side-by-side may have position descriptions that emphasize different features of the job.

John Ryan, senior consultant at Chicago-based William M. Mercer, Inc., a human resources consulting organization, recommends updating the position descriptions regularly to provide management with an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of its overall employee structure.

"In the day and age of managed care where the roles can be constantly evolving, position descriptions should be looked at every couple of years," said Ryan. "This also helps you make sure that your staffing resources are aligned correctly and can help the practice determine how they can look at promotion tracks for people. If someone's responsibilities change, maybe a new position needs to be created."

Once the position descriptions are set, performance goals and objectives that are tied to the position description are established. These goals and objectives are then used to measure employee performance at regular intervals.

Edward Bancroft, performance management consultant at William Mercer, Inc., suggested using very specific objectives that can be easily measured. Items like the length of time in which you expect filing to be completed, how long after a patient has been treated before documentation should be on its way to the insurer, maximum number of times the phone can ring before being answered and the tasks that need to be completed with each patient's visit.

Karen Sollar, administrator of the Orthopaedic Group of San Francisco, has designed a performance review that addresses several categories she sees as important to overall job performance. The categories are adherence to office policy, fulfillment of job responsibilities and duties, efficiency and accuracy and time management.

Ryan said a patient survey is another way to measure an employee's performance.

Both Sollar and Hyncik carry the review responsibilities in their practices, but that doesn't mean the orthopaedic surgeons have no role in the process. "I always ask the physicians at the board meeting before I do an employee evaluation to offer their input from a physician/employee perspective," said Sollar.

Bancroft said having a solid performance plan in place can benefit the practice as well as the employee. "Everyone needs to know what's expected of them, where they stand and what's the result of them achieving what's expected of them," he said. "The main reason for having a performance system is to align an individual with where the organization is going. By noticing and making note of good performance you get the benefit of a more positive work environment, the benefit of people working harder for you and you are much more likely to retain the people you want to retain."

He recommends that employees be evaluated every six months, but no matter how often a practice chooses to evaluate its employees, follow-through is imperative. "If you decide you want to talk to your employees quarterly, make sure that you are willing to support that," Bancroft said.

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