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How To Implement a Peer Review Process

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Some of us from our hospital’s administration and management team had just attended a Quint Studer workshop.

As we walked to dinner afterwards, our vice president wondered, “What are the barriers to setting up a peer review employee interview system like the one Studer was talking about?”

Studer’s view is that such systems make for more successful employee hires and orientations as well as more “ownership” of the hiring decision by others on the team.

Later, as I thought about the question, my first thought was that one constraint would be the increased time it would require. But as we considered it further, I realized it should eventually reduce our hiring time commitments because it would likely reduce employee turnover.

In retrospect, after more than 100 hires using the peer review system we now have in place, retention has not only improved but we’ve found it also helped us reduce the time spent working with low performers.

When you let staff choose their co-workers, it changes the culture of the department. It improves the satisfaction and engagement of existing employees because they feel they have more of a voice in decision making.  

For example, we see more people taking new co-workers under their wings, helping them to be successful in the critical first weeks of a new job. We also found that it encourages employees to more often bring us their ideas, because they gain a sense that we value their input.

Here’s a summary of how our peer interview standard process works:

All candidates are first screened by our hospital's HR department.

A foodservice manager always conducts a preliminary interview, inviting back only candidates they would consider hiring.  Managers do not express any judgments about the candidate to the committee ahead of time.  

Only high performers from our staff are invited to participate in the peer interview process. But everyone from the dishwasher to the dietitian has participated.

What happens in the interview

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All participants receive training, including role playing, before participating.

Interviews are scheduled at times when participants can forward calls, turn off pagers and devote time to the job at hand.

Interviews take place in a neutral, orderly location, with a table and comfortable chairs arranged in a circle. The room should be clean and orderly, to leave a good impression.

The process is thoroughly explained to the applicant in advance, with an emphasis on its benefits to both the organization and the candidate.

When the applicant enters the room, participants stand to greet her and shake her hand.

A leader again summarizes the process before it begins. The explanation goes something like this:

 “Here at St. John, we strive to carefully match applicants to available jobs.  We feel the peer interview process not only helps us to get to know you, but helps you get to know us and determine if you want to work here.  Employee retention is as important to us as selection, and we find this process helps with both.”

Participants introduce themselves, noting their tenure at SJMC and, briefly, why they choose to stay here.

Participants take turns asking pre-selected questions.

Candidates are invited to ask their own questions.

When the interview concludes, candidates are thanked for considering St. John as their employer of choice.  Each participant stands and again offers a handshake. The leader’s business card is provided and the candidate is invited to call should further questions arise.

Optionally, a  candidate is invited to tour the potential work area and is introduced to other potential co-workers.

After all interviews are completed, participants meet to select the employee with a goal of consensus. Each interviewer scores each candidate privately. Scores are then compared and combined.  

Score sheets are tallied and kept by the manager. Participants are encouraged to discuss how they arrived at scores, and why the applicant would or would not be an excellent candidate for the job.

If the group has any hesitation about whether the candidates will be a good fit, we encourage them to tell us to keep looking for additional candidates.

If there are several excellent candidates, those to whom the job was not offered are considered for other openings within the department (if qualified), or are referred back to human resources or to other department directors.

Once a manager sends candidates to the peer interview committee, the process is in the hands of the committee.  The manager has a vote, but the committee selects from the candidates in its pool.  

Janet Potts, RD, LD, is the director of food and nutrition services at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.