How can a nurse manager use performance appraisals to motivate staff?

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Performance appraisals are a critical tool in the retention, motivation and well-being of staff. In a hospital environment, it is crucial to be alert and focused which places extra emphasis on the need to be motivated.

There is a lot of debate over the usefulness, purpose and sincerity of performance appraisals as they have been used to manipulate employees in which case being counter-productive.

Used correctly, they identify strengths, weaknesses or areas for improvement, task completion standards, expectations, responsibilities, best practice and they promote pride in one's achievements. Performance appraisals serve the purpose of evaluating and developing an employee and as such, having covered all the bases, the focus can be geared towards the development aspect. It is important to remember though that performance appraisals are a tool to reinforce an existing situation and reward good performance. It should not be the only time that the employee gets to hear about his or her best efforts.  

Unfortunately, performance appraisals also bring an element of mistrust with them as staff wonder whether they will be judged fairly or harshly; whether others are more "popular" and so will naturally score better ratings and whether the person performing the appraisal really understands the staff member sufficiently. To ensure that performance appraisals serve their purpose and indeed do motivate and encourage staff, it is essential that they

consistently produce reliable and valid results

Although they are private, it is usually apparent to others how well the performance appraisal went. Nurses (in this case) who see others that they know are not performing coming from an apparently successful appraisal, need to feel confident that the appraisal has served its purpose and the poor-performing nurse is motivated by future developmental areas and not by subjective and poorly managed appraisals.

The appraiser is as important as the appraisee in these circumstances. To ensure that he or she can successfully use the appraisal system to motivate staff, he or she must be

  • fair
  • consistent
  • objective
  • transparent
  • identify measurable goals
  • praise accordingly
  • offer advice for problem areas
  • focus on relevant aspects
  • not place too much emphasis on isolated incidents
  •  be trusted and respected and if not take steps to show commitment to fairness and that trust is warranted
  • follow through on promises(do not offer courses if in the past the same thing was done and staff are still waiting)
  • be honest
  • understand the individual for whom you wil perform the appraisal interview
  • take time to listen. Do not rush the nurse or minimize aspects that are important to him or her.
  • do not dictate
  • establish a good reputation
  • applaud team and individual effort
  • do not wait until the appraisal to motivate staff!
  • Ensure staff do not feel taken advantage of

Always remember that communication is the key. Nurses who enter the interview room expecting to hear excuses and be appraised poorly for any number of reasons, will often leave with their expectations met.

Communicate and ensure that there are NO misunderstandings. Listening is as important as speaking in a performance appraisal.