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Preventive maintenance on employees.

Any supervisor worht his or her salt knows the importance of preventive maintenance in the laboratory. A few minor periodic adjustments can go a long way toward preventing instrument malfunctions and insuring that the lab runs continually at peak efficiency. But I am often amazed at how little attention we pay to the costliest and most complex analyzer in the lab--the technologist.

some supervisors perform and document elaborate instrument PM practices, while neglecting the very basis of employee preventive maintenance: the performance appraisal. It is an all-important checkup, but it doesn't have to be terribly difficult or complext in order to be effective. Basically, the appraisal is just two people getting together to discuss an individual's strengths and areas for improvement.

This discussion should focus on two broad elements of the employee's performance: characteristics centered on work and on personality. Items in the first category, such as quality and quantity of work, are usually easy to quantify. The toughest part is evaluating more personal traits, such as cooperation, initiative, and communication skills. Few appraisers find it easy to tell an employee about personality deficiencies that affect job performance.

Supervisors need to strike a balance between these two elements--and, of course, rate them only as they relate to job performance. We must overcome any residual prejudices about certain personality quirks if those characteristics don't affect how well an employee carries out the duties outlined in the position description.

Appraisals also run into trouble when supervisors use them inappropriately. When evaluations serve as the sole criterion for salary increases, or example, appraisers may turn lenient as they consider the employee's pressing need to keep up with the cost of living. Conversely, when appraisals are used only to iprove performance, it may be tempting to overemphasize shortcomings. And when appraisal results are used to compare different sections of the laboratory, the results can really become skewed. Supervisors anxious for their group to shine may give every member glowing ratings.

In fact, the most common pitfall is a tendency to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. We all need appreciation, encouragement, and the occasional pat on the back, and I wouldn't want to understate how important this component is to a successful evaluation program. But we also need an honest, objective picture of areas that need improvement. An employee who leaves an appraisal session without a developmental plan for the coming year should feel cheated. Without a clear understanding of our definciences, we can't start developing the skills required for growth.

The supervisor's role in staff preventive maintenance doesn't stop when the appraisal session is over. Unlike a birthday, the appraisal is not an annual event but an ongoing process. We must follow up, encourage, and monitor employees' progress toward goals throughout the entire year.

It's up to the supervisor to set the tone for this collaborative effort. Our employees will take the process only as seriously as we do. If we make it clear that appraisals are bothersome, "do-it-when-I-get-time" exercises, employees will share our attitude. If we impress them with the importance of appraisals, we also convey a sense of their own importance to the organization.

Set the stage by scheduling the session well in advance, giving both parties time to consider the performance in question. The meeting itself should be upbeat and fee from distractions. Remember that this is the one chance a eyar many employees have to sit undisturbed with their supervisor and talk about their career and concerns.

Any analysis of performance appraisals inevitably drifts to the form itself. With its maze of check boxes, scores, and definitions, this form can be an obstacle instead of an aid. It can take more time to complete a complicated form than to perform the evaluation. My ideal appraisal form would be a blank sheet of paper with a line down the middle. On one side, the supervisor would note the employee's strengths as a step toward reinforcing them. The other side would list areas where the employee needs development and suggest ways to bring it about. The purpose is that simple.

In a way, it's kind of a shame that we must structure the performance appraisal process at all. In an ideal world, supervisors and employees would take frequent breaks from their busy days to review performance informally. But our world is a complex one, in human as well as technological terms. And both facets of the laboratory need a little preventive maintenance to keep them operating smoothly.
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Title Annotation:employee evaluations
Author:Maratea, James M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Jul 1, 1985
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