Appraisals for veterinary receptionists - Veterinary Practice
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Appraisals for veterinary receptionists

Appraisals should be a two-way process and conducted so that they encourage and nurture employees as individuals in their roles

British Veterinary Receptionist Association (BVRA) logo

It’s that time of year when your stomach churns as you hear the word “appraisal”!

Although appraisals are often dreaded, they shouldn’t be considered this way. In effect, an appraisal is a meeting between an employee and one or more people from the management team. Exactly who is involved will depend on the approach of individual practices, but they can be conducted by an employee’s line manager or someone more senior, such as the practice manager, director or business owner. 

The importance of appraisals

In a survey conducted in 2021 by the British Veterinary Receptionist Association, 47 percent of receptionists believed that they did not have a good supportive relationship with their line manager, and 25 percent said they were not comfortable even approaching them. Such figures don’t reflect well on the management of the reception team, which is likely to have a negative impact on team morale. 

Ideally, the appraisal experience should be a positive one for both the employee and the “boss”. It’s shocking how many employees believe they can’t express their feelings about their job role to management. But it’s important that management hear what their team think. Without this knowledge, it’s hard for management to understand the challenges that individuals may face during the course of their working day – and if they don’t know about such concerns, management can’t address them!

Appraisals should be a two-way process and conducted so that they encourage and nurture employees as individuals in their roles

Appraisals should be a two-way process and conducted so that they encourage and nurture employees as individuals in their roles. It’s the perfect moment for employees to hear how their employer feels about their work, to discuss plans for their development and ways the business can help them improve in their role, and for the individual to have their thoughts heard. Every employee requires feedback to help them develop as well as praise to let them know that they are valued, not only by management but by the practice as a whole. The appraisal is essential for maintaining excellent employee morale and well-being.

Veterinary practices are very busy places, which can make it difficult to schedule time to discuss issues or conduct an evaluation; however, appraisals are a crucial aspect of working life, not only for you, but also for your practice. So, it’s vital that time is made for these discussions.

What is the best way to conduct an appraisal?

There is an argument for appraisals to be conducted outside the practice, if possible – perhaps over coffee in a quiet corner of a local café. Not only does this make the appraisal more personal and guarantees that the discussions won’t be interrupted by the sort of queries that are everyday occurrences in busy veterinary practices, but it also helps to maintain the informal atmosphere and keep communications open.

There is an argument for appraisals to be conducted outside the practice, if possible – perhaps over coffee in a quiet corner of a local café

Before conducting an appraisal, it is beneficial to give team members a pre-appraisal questionnaire, which should be filled out and then returned to the appraiser before the meeting. This allows the appraisee to share their thoughts and opinions on paper beforehand, and the appraiser then has time to consider these as well as their own opinions. Appraisal forms serve as a useful opportunity for both parties to prepare, and provide an agenda for the meeting itself. They should be kept simple, and the questions should be relevant to the job role. So, ideally, reception staff should have a specific reception team appraisal questionnaire.

The types of areas that such a document might cover include:

  • How the employee feels they are managing their workload
  • How competent the employee feels they are at performing the tasks expected
  • Any aspects of the role which they particularly enjoy or find difficult/stressful
  • Future development plans and CPD ideas
  • Any concerns that the employee would like to raise and/or areas where they consider management could be of assistance

A step-by-step guide

The following is an easy step-by-step guide to help management carry out a successful appraisal that encourages open discussion between the appraiser and appraisee.

  1. A week before the meeting, management should provide the appraisee with a pre-appraisal form. This form should be completed prior to the appraisal and returned to the appraiser
  2. In the meeting, review each section of the form and always end on a positive note. Feedback about areas that require improvement should be given constructively, not critically, with a focus on how improvement might be achieved and what support can be provided (remember, appraisals should never be a negative experience)
  3. Discuss future developments and opportunities, eg training or CPD courses
  4. Agree on objectives and a development plan for each individual
  5. Appraisers should follow up on any areas for improvement

Final thoughts

In an appraisal, employees should feel as though they have been recognised and rewarded, as well as appreciated for the work they do. Nothing should be mentioned that the employee isn’t already aware of, and, if necessary, the process should always be flexible and adjusted to fit the appraisee’s needs.

In an appraisal, employees should feel as though they have been recognised and rewarded, as well as appreciated for the work they do

Opinions vary as to whether pay reviews should be linked with appraisals. Keeping them separate may allow the appraisal to focus more on development; however, businesses may choose to reward employees after a good appraisal. The level of reward should be relative to the employee’s performance and advancement since their last appraisal and might include wage raises, promotions, bonuses or even a simple thank you.

Louise Hudson

Louise Hudson, RVR, has worked at Glaven Veterinary Practice since 2007 and is their preventative health care champion. She gained her registered veterinary receptionist (RVR) status in April 2022 and has passed the Bronze, Silver and Gold levels of the BVRA Accredited Veterinary Receptionist award. Louise also recently completed her ISFM cat-friendly receptionist course.


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