Improving Performance Reviews In Your Dental Practice

Many dentists conduct staff performance reviews during the summer or fall – although many dentists don’t conduct formal reviews at all. A regular employee evaluation program is critical to ongoing practice management and performance and can avoid potential liability issues if you must terminate an employee. Keep these best practices in mind for your own practice’s performance review program.

First, get in the habit of providing regular feedback if you don’t already. Nothing you discuss with a staff member during the appraisal process should be new. Always share positive feedback and constructive criticism when it’s appropriate. In general, give praise in public and negative feedback in private.

Aside from regular, ongoing communication, here are two general guidelines to follow:

  • Existing employees should receive a formal evaluation once per year
  • New employees should receive at least one formal appraisal within the first 90 days. If you can, offer two reviews: one after 4 weeks and another at 11 weeks. If it makes sense to part with the new employee, it’s easier to do so within the orientation and training period.


Maintain notes throughout the year on the employee’s performance in a confidential folder; this will help you prepare an accurate review when it’s time to conduct the formal appraisal. When you conduct the formal review, there are many suggestions on what forms you should use and how detailed they become. There’s rarely a wrong answer; ultimately since you’re the one filling out the forms, the process should be easy and straightforward for you.

At a minimum, we suggest covering performance factors and key duties (this means you have to maintain a separate log of production numbers to reference). You should be prepared to address quality and quantity of work, backed up by clear documentation, and rated on a scale that makes sense to you. A simple scale is 1 to 5, with 1 being poor performance and 5 being exemplary performance.

You could also ask the employee to fill out a similar form rating him or herself, then compare your forms during the review.

Mistakes to Avoid

Other than not documenting performance throughout the year, there are some important mistakes to avoid during the evaluation process.

  • Letting bias or opinion influence your review
  • Basing your review off one recent event, not the entire year
  • Rating everyone average or rating everyone superior  
  • Avoiding conflict or difficult conversations
  • Considering only one aspect of the employee’s job performance or character, rather than the whole (remember, everyone has good and bad aspects, even the dentist!)
  • Judging employees against one another instead of an objective rating system

The Follow-Up

Perhaps just as important as the review itself is the follow-up. Both you and your employee should have a plan to address gaps in performance or skills, and a timeline by which to complete certain steps. Don’t let the conversation go stagnant. Be invested in your team’s performance and help them improve. On the same hand, your employee should be invested in her own performance, too – if she’s not, that’s a sign that perhaps she’s not the right fit for your team.

Finally, you should always hold your performance review in person and allow plenty of time for discussion. If your employee disagrees with your assessment, be prepared to back up your comments with, you guessed it, documentation. Don’t shy away from giving negative feedback. Often, it’s the best way we’re able to grow.

An effective employee performance review program can improve the overall dental practice. Dental CPAs can help you design a performance review process that works for you and coach you on how to handle these conversations with your staff. Contact us for more information.