Effectively setting employee expectations is a critical part of successfully leading and managing a team, as well as developing a culture of accountability. Ideally, all managers within the company should be setting expectations within two to four weeks of an employee being hired. However, if that has not occurred, it’s perfectly acceptable to establish expectations at any point during employment.
It is recommended that a manager schedule 30 minutes to an hour to have a “setting expectations” conversation with the employee. The process should include a discussion of expectations about the job description, job performance, appropriate and inappropriate behavior in the workplace, and an opportunity for the employee to ask for clarification and share with the manager how they would like to be supported in their role.
The benefits of setting expectations with employees are that doing so:
- Provides clarity for both the employee and manager and gets everyone on the same page
- Establishes a baseline of measurement for future performance
- Enhances communication
- Empowers employees to act more freely because they have operating guidelines and structure
- Creates a reference point when expectations are not met
- Provides a way to hold employees accountable
The impact and result of not setting expectations is that you create a culture that lacks clarity and accountability.
What’s the best way to handle the conversation?
Plan, in advance, for what you intend to communicate to the employee. Employees cannot read your mind and you need to communicate expectations clearly. This small step of carving out time to discuss expectations with employees typically leads to increased performance by each person in the organization and ultimately drives significantly improved top and bottom line results.
- Start with the big picture. This can be your business direction or your vision for the future.
- Clarify roles through a job description and the conversation. Job descriptions give an overview of the job while the conversation gives the manager an opportunity to drill deeper to be sure there is a clear understanding of expectations.
- Be sure that the goals are the right goals. Goals should cascade from the top so that everyone’s goals are in alignment with each other. Goals help people understand the priorities and how their role supports the overall organizational goals. All goals should be specific, measurable, and timed.
- Frequent feedback is important. If an employee is performing well or not performing well, it should not come as a surprise to them. Feedback should go both ways – give the employee feedback and seek to learn from them how you can better support them in achieving the best results possible.