Employee expectations refer to the guidelines and conditions employees should accomplish as part of their job responsibilities. These expectations also include other aspects of their employment, such as professional development, compensation, working conditions, and company culture. Setting expectations for employees plays a crucial role in employee retention.
When employees understand their role and what is expected of them, they become more engaged, which leads to higher productivity. It also lessens the occurrence of misunderstandings caused by unclear communication. This article provides five strategies for setting expectations for employees so they have the information and understanding they need to produce optimal results.
1. Set Expectations on Day One
Communicating the expectations early on sets the tone for the employee’s role and provides them with a clear understanding of what’s expected. By providing the new hire with a roadmap that outlines the specifics of their position reduces—if not eliminates—the likelihood of misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and issues down the road. This transparency gives employees confidence and a sense of direction, making them productive and efficient.
Setting expectations, however, goes beyond listing employee tasks and responsibilities. It also includes introducing the company’s vision, mission, values, and culture to the new hire. The introduction helps the employee to seamlessly integrate into the organization.
Employee expectations are influenced by different factors like job role, industry, and individual preferences. However, some common expectations include:
- Clear Job Roles and Responsibilities – Employees must have a clear understanding of what their job entails, including their specific tasks, responsibilities, and expectations. Having this information, they will be able to perform what is expected of them excellently.
- Competitive Compensation – Fair and competitive pay is one of the most basic expectations. Any employee wants compensation that is commensurate with their skills and experience.
- Professional Development Opportunities – According to Gartner, 45% of employees are leaving their current jobs for better professional opportunities. The number says a lot about how workers value learning and growth. If organizations want to retain top talent, they need to give their employees access to workshops, training, and other avenues for developing their skills and advancing their careers.
- Work-Life Balance – Employees, especially millennials and Gen Zs, value companies that also prioritize work-life balance. This includes flexible work schedules, reasonable working hours, and policies that support work-life balance.
- Inclusive and Diverse Environment – Employees expect a workplace that values diversity and inclusion. They want to work in an environment that not only respects but also celebrates differences and provides equal opportunities for everyone.
- Health and Wellness Benefits – Aside from a competitive salary, employees also expect their organization to provide benefits that support their physical and mental well-being. That includes access to health insurance, wellness programs, flexible time off, and more.
- Job Security – Employees generally seek job stability and want assurance that their positions are secure. Being transparent about the company’s financial health and long-term plans can help address this expectation.
Team and employee rules and expectations are co-related; however, they are different in terms of scope and focus. While employee expectations primarily revolve around the person’s role, responsibilities, and performance in the organization, team expectations include the collective behavior and performance standards expected from a group of people collectively working together.
For example, an employee of a manufacturing company is expected to be responsible for the maintenance and care of their equipment and workstation. As a team, they are expected to be collectively responsible for maintaining a safe workplace. Meanwhile, in sales, a sales rep is expected to meet sales quotas and maintain strong relationships with clients. As a team, they are expected to share relevant information, sales tactics, and insights to enhance their overall performance.
2. Be Clear and Deliberate
Vague expectations can lead to confusion and subpar performance. Use SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound) criteria to define expectations. The SMART framework creates a clear pathway for employees because it breaks down large goals into manageable and actionable steps. It also fosters an achievement-oriented culture.
Here’s also a SMART goals template you can use with your team and an example of how you can create SMART criteria:
- Start by defining the desired outcome: For example, “Increase customer satisfaction ratings by 10% within the next quarter.”
- Break down the desired goal into smaller, measurable steps: So if you want to achieve the goal above, some of the steps might include:
- Responding to customer inquiries within 24 hours
- Resolving customer complaints within 48 hours
- Offering satisfaction guarantee on all products and services
- Tracking customer satisfaction surveys and make improvements based on the feedback
- Providing excellent customer service training to all employees.
- Creating a customer-friendly website and online support resources
- Define the criteria for success: How will you know if the employee has achieved their goals? For example, you might define success as meeting or exceeding the predetermined goals or as making progress toward the goals even if they are not met.
Be straightforward when communicating your expectations. Avoid using ambiguous language to ensure the employee understands what is expected of them in terms of behavior, performance, and goals. Being clear also means aligning each expectation with the broader goals and objectives of the organization. By doing so, each individual can see the purpose and importance of each task. When they see how these little tasks contribute to the success of the organization as a whole, there is a sense of ownership and purpose.
Need more help in creating SMART goals? Check our article on SMART goals examples to help you get started.
3. Encourage Accountability
Goals, no matter how SMART they are, fall short of their intended impact if employees are not committed to achieving them. Accountability serves as the fuel to turn goals into achievements. When employees are accountable for their goals, they are willing to invest their time, money, and effort to meet or exceed those goals. Additionally, accountability also makes employees aware of the positive impact of achieving the goals and the negative outcome if they fall short.
4. Provide Regular Feedback
In his book, The One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard emphasized that “feedback is the breakfast of champions.” That’s because feedback will show them whether they are on the right track or getting off course. It also shows them whether they are doing good or bad. Without feedback, employees are put in limbo not knowing how well their performance is.
When giving feedback, timing is important. Don’t store up all the negative feedback and suddenly pour all of it during a performance review or a minor incident. Such practice sets you up for failure. When your people see that you are not telling them the truth, they will lose their respect for you. Learn more about how to provide feedback in the workplace in our guide.
5. Ensure Ongoing Communication and Alignment
When setting employee rules and expectations, you have to acknowledge that circumstances can change. Factors, such as evolving project requirements, workload changes, or professional development needs, may warrant a reassessment of expectations to ensure that they are still aligned with the organization’s goals. Here are some strategies on how to do that.
- Encourage two-way communication: Foster an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their ideas, concerns, and challenges. Encourage open dialogue and active listening. This helps build trust and strengthens the manager-employee relationship.
- Regular check-ins: Schedule regular check-ins with employees to discuss progress, challenges, and concerns. These meetings provide an opportunity to address any gaps in expectations and provide support and guidance.
- Performance evaluations: Conduct regular performance evaluations to assess employee progress against expectations. Recognize achievements, address performance gaps, and provide guidance for growth and development.
- Goal adjustments: As circumstances change, expectations may need to be adjusted. Managers should remain flexible and open to adapting expectations when necessary. Keep the lines of communication open to address changing priorities and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Importance of Setting Expectations
Clear expectations serve as a roadmap for employees, providing them with a clear understanding of their roles, responsibilities, and performance standards. When employees know what is expected of them, they can focus on meeting those expectations and aligning their work with the organization’s objectives. Here are a few reasons why setting expectations is essential:
- Clarity: Employees need clarity to perform their tasks effectively. Clear expectations eliminate ambiguity and provide a framework for employees to understand what they need to accomplish.
- Motivation: Setting expectations can motivate employees by giving them a clear vision of what success looks like. Clearly defined goals and objectives provide a sense of purpose and direction, inspiring employees to work towards achieving them.
- Performance management: Clear expectations facilitate performance management processes. When expectations are set, it becomes easier to evaluate employee performance objectively and provide feedback for improvement.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Employees expect their managers to understand their challenges and pain points. One out of five employees say that they are not convinced that their managers are interested in the struggles and challenges they face in the workplace. Additionally, they also expect managers to participate more in group discussions rather than having frequent 1:1 meetings.
Setting expectations for remote employees includes defining work hours and availability, establishing what kind of communication channels to use, implementing collaboration tools, and establishing guidelines for communication. Additionally, it should also include providing them with resources and support so they can perform their jobs effectively.
Setting employee expectations is one of the foundations of a successful organization. It is also the driving force of turning goals into results. Thus, managers should start setting expectations on day one to ensure nothing is lost in translation. However, it should not stop there, it should also be communicated regularly to give employees insight into how well they performed.