For Your Health
For Your Health

News from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences

From the Dean: Evaluating our performance

Each year around this time, supervisors are expected to do a performance evaluation on most UND employees (both faculty and staff members). This is a requirement of the North Dakota University System as well as UND (and a best business practice, by the way). A slightly different evaluation rubric is followed for faculty, relative to staff, but the end result is the same – an assessment of how well the employee performed over the past year and how well they met the performance goals that were set the prior year. Additionally, the supervisor and employee agree on performance goals for the upcoming year. As indicated, these performance evaluations are annual undertakings and are based on calendar (not academic) years. Thus, the current performance evaluations are for 2023 with goals established for 2024. In addition to giving the employee feedback on their performance in 2023 and goals for 2024, these evaluations serve as an important component of how possible salary merit increases are adjudicated, a process that will occur soon as we start preparing our budgets for the upcoming academic and fiscal year that runs from July 1, 2024, through June 30, 2025.

One crucial feature that is important to keep in mind (especially with the usually high-performing employees we have at the SMHS) is that providing feedback and suggestions for “improvement” does not imply that the performance of the individual wasn’t up to or above par; quite the contrary – for most employees the goal is to help them attain even greater levels of success. Paraphrasing the highly acclaimed author Jim Collins, the goal is to help specific individuals move from “good to great.”

As an aside, this evaluation process is also an example of how we model professionalism for our students. That is to say: the process of goal-setting for our School’s staff and faculty runs in parallel process to how our medical and health science program trainees are evaluated. This process helps prepare students to become productive clinicians, who will continue to be evaluated as they advance throughout their careers.

Another benefit of these evaluations is that the supervisor can learn things about the accomplishments of the employee and the employee’s unit that might not have otherwise come to light. As an example, I recently had the true pleasure of doing the performance evaluation of Colin Combs, chair of our Department of Biomedical Sciences and the School’s relatively newly appointed associate dean for research. In the course of our discussion about the 2023 accomplishments of the School’s research enterprise that Professor Combs oversees, he shared with me a few wonderful facts about the accomplishments of our research teammates. The first was an analysis he did of the amount of research funding that departments like his (that is, biomedical sciences) receive annually from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It turns out that we have moved into first place (out of around 30 schools nationally that have similar departments of biomedical sciences)! Quite an accomplishment – and one that I might not have known about were it not for this performance review. Another fact that he shared with me is that the SMHS ranks #5 in total sponsored funding out of the 30 or so community-based medical schools in the U.S. This also is quite an accomplishment – to be in the top 20% of comparable schools in terms of funding, a commonly used metric to evaluate the quality and quantity of research and community service work. When Colin and I discussed these data, he suggested that we set a goal for the SMHS’s research enterprise – specifically, a goal for us to move up to #3 on the community-based school list. This will not be easy, but we both think that it is a reasonable goal. Accordingly, we plan to recommend consideration of this goal as the SMHS faculty and staff finalize the adoption of the UND LEADS strategic plan into the equivalent strategic plan for the School.

Thus, a final attribute of the School-wide performance evaluation process is that it can provide insights and guidance not only for an individual’s efforts going forward, but in fact for the entire institution. The bottom line is that the evaluation process has the potential to make both individuals as well as institutions better – even when they already are functioning at a very high level.

Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH
Vice President for Health Affairs, UND
Dean, UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences