06 27 nowlin maitre three best practices for evals header
Jen Rosio, University of Utah Health
How to Make Evaluations More Meaningful for You and Your Teams
As spring rolls around, leaders in our organization gear up for the annual performance evaluation process, an opportunity to strengthen team relationships and a chance for growth and accountability. Communication specialists Heather Nowlin and Bridgette Maitre sat down with U of U Health leaders who shared three essential strategies to make this one-on-one time truly impactful for leaders and their teams.

ach spring, leaders across our organization are tasked with conducting annual evaluations. While this time serves as an opportunity for leaders to build and foster relationships with their teams, it can also be daunting, especially in a 24/7 health care environment. Annual performance evaluations are directly related to system-wide annual goals-setting, however, it is also a regulatory requirement and DNV is there each year to hold us accountable.

We sat down with U of U Health leaders noted to have successfully completed annual evaluations year in and year out to discuss the overall process, potential barriers, and contributions they bring forward when conducting evaluations with their teams.

Based on their response, here are three things you can do to make this one-to-one time more meaningful for you and members of your team:

1. Individuation: Ask simple questions

Never underestimate the power of a simple how are you. This simple strategy is an important part of what scientists call “individuation,” which is just a fancy word for getting to know folks as individuals. Studies have found that talking about what’s going on personally with team members increases the feeling of psychological safety in the workplace - the feeling that a team can do what’s necessary to thrive without a fear of negative consequences.

 “I think insights come from just letting people share with me so I can see where they are and how they’re doing – it helps with burnout and gives them a minute to talk to me about what's going on.”

- Ryan Doering, Nurse Manager, HCH Infusion Center

Simply asking questions like “How’s your mental health?” or “I’d like to get an idea of how stressful work right now is for you,” opens the door to personal conversations and a greater perspective. Focusing on mental health and self-care is a strategy lauded by industry experts, and vital to a thriving workplace.

Sometimes, team members may be doing really well – they’re coping with their stressors, managing burnout and performing highly, but local issues like old computers or broken equipment hinder their work experience. Taking a moment to ask them to identify barriers in the workplace can lead to easy wins for you – the leader, and removing blockers allows teams to continue improving.

2. Connect to purpose and growth

We’re probably all aware that feeling like your work has purpose is linked to job satisfaction and performance, but how do we communicate purpose with our teams? Clinical Operations Director Lora Stratton suggests connecting an individual’s ability with their desire to do good work.

“I fully believe that everybody wants to come to work and do a great job. I think what I've learned as an employee is to ask myself how does my individual contribution – what I do daily – connect to the organization’s goals?”

- Lora Stratton, Clinical Operations Director

The evaluation process is a culminating event beginning by setting goals, then setting expectations at the organizational level. Together, each leader and team member can assess department needs, team needs, and personal needs to cultivate a strong purpose and connection to their area’s goals.

You can also help team members connect the work they do to their professional growth by providing mentorship and a space where employees can identify what their goals are professionally. They may not know how to get to where they’d like to go, but as their leader you can share and discuss opportunities available.

3. Set clear expectations – for your teams and yourself

Annual evaluations shouldn’t be the only time leaders are checking in with their team members. Setting clear expectations and communicating how team members are meeting or not meeting those expectations throughout the whole year provides additional opportunity to address concerns and provide meaningful and actionable feedback to help them get on the right track. In fact, leaders can utilize tools in Performance Manager to communicate goal progress and take notes throughout the whole year – not just during the goal setting and evaluation periods. Employees should enter the evaluation knowing generally what to expect, and they should never be blindsided.

“Start early, and don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

- Sunnie Hadley, Nurse Manager, D50 Internal Medicine

Meeting with staff takes a lot of time. Sometimes days are longer than they should be, especially when you factor in meeting with night shift team members, addressing immediate patient needs, and of course – all the emails that pile up in the meantime. When those long days happen, a little self-evaluation can help. Take a moment to ask yourself, “Am I overextended?” and “What can I do for myself in this moment?” Things like flexing time after working an extra-long shift and remembering the importance of work-life balance can provide you with the self-care you need, while setting an example for your team, too. 


Heather Nowlin

HR Communications Specialist, University of Utah Health

Bridgette Maitre

Strategic Communications Project Administrator, University of Utah Health

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