Guest Columns

Where's my raise?

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Dave Sedgwick
Dave Sedgwick

A relatively new administrator asked me a great question recently. He asked, "Do you (and should I) always give a raise along with an annual review?"  

I was taught the answer to this the hard way at my first facility, by a certified nursing assistant. Several years back, as a new administrator, I was reviewing a handful of annual reviews, including one for a CNA.  His review was not extraordinary.  It wasn't poor either. It was average.  It was "satisfactory." He always seemed like a happy, nice guy to me when I saw him on the floor.  But, because his review was "average," I thought he shouldn't get a raise.  

Raises, I thought, were for extraordinary performers only. When he received his review from his supervisor along with the news of not receiving a raise, he asked to meet with me. And, that's when his lesson for me began. He argued that he should receive a raise because, as far as he could tell, we were happy with his performance and we wanted him to stay.  He pointed out the following: 

  • He had never been written up. 
  • His supervisor never mentioned any dissatisfaction with his performance to him. 
  • His annual review was "satisfactory" or better across all domains. 


All of that, by definition, meant to him that I was happy with his performance or I was such a pathetic boss that I avoided performance management or coaching or hard conversations and I tried to hide behind HR formalities.   

What he taught me was that the onus is squarely on my shoulders as the administrator to make sure everyone knows where they stand.  The book Good to Great, by Jim Collins, teaches an important principle: "When you know you need to make a people change, act."  

Before we get to that "people change" point, let's act immediately at the first signs of under-performance.  We coach immediately.  We document our expectations and our disappointments and our commitments to help them achieve the performance necessary.  We follow up to make sure needed changes have occurred.  We stop bottling up inside our minds the frustration we feel with individuals.  We, as a result, give our staff the best chance for long-term success.  

Brian Hulse, the Chief Human Capital Officer at The Ensign Group, added breadth and depth to this issue for me when he taught the following: "Think of the annual review as a review of what you had already discussed together through the year. There should be no surprises on the review. One thing you can try if you already have the format you want for their review form, you can give them a blank copy of it and have them rate themselves. Then both of you bring your completed evaluations to the review meeting and compare notes. It has helped me see how good or bad I have been at communicating and at holding my employee accountable. It also gets the employee to think about the specific review criteria before the meeting happens. My best employees would often score themselves too low and my weak employees would typically score themselves too high. It's a lot easier to spot the disconnect and address it head on.  My best employees loved hearing me argue why I ranked them higher in a particular area and seemed more open-minded when I ranked them lower in another area."

We cannot surprise our staff with a poor review and discouraging news about not receiving a raise. If the employee is on the schedule, has no performance improvement plan in place, and is unaware of any supervisor dissatisfaction with his performance, then we are, by definition, satisfied with him and he deserves a raise. The interesting question then becomes just HOW satisfied are we with his performance and that's where the size of the raise comes in. 

Dave Sedgwick has served as executive director, vice president, and chief human capital officer forThe Ensign Group since 2001. He's currently the interim Executive Director at an Ensign Group-affiliated facility in Denver, CO. His healthcare leadership blog can be found athttp://worldclasscare.wordpress.com

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