How to Set Employee Expectations

Business employees and manager are having a discussion.
Business employees and manager are having a discussion. (Image: David Woolley/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

As much as an employee needs a job description to know what her role is, she might need expectations of achievement to sharpen her focus. Although every company will have its own desired level of performance from employees, getting the best work out of employees requires knowledge of each employee's strengths and techniques to motivate them. Employees usually start a job wanting to do well; managers should work with them to help them to bring their enthusiasm to work every day.

Set job-specific goals tailored to the position and employee. A list of job duties is a starting point to develop a series of targets for employees to meet. Especially in long-standing positions where the role of the employee is clear, the company will know what achievement levels are best for the company. These levels might have to be adjusted, however, to match the skill set and experience of the person in the position.

Allow new employees time to get settled in the position. It's an unfortunate reality that high expectations placed on star hires don't always pan out; giving new staff time to ease into the position and mentoring from a senior co-worker will avoid disappointment. Set early expectations to be achievable; instead of a long list of sales or productivity targets, be realistic about what's possible and ask your staff to meet only a few key objectives during the first three months. Remember new hires are unlikely to ask a lot of questions until they feel comfortable in their jobs.

Make expectations part of an ongoing conversation. Meeting with employees on a regular basis, once a month at least, to discuss goals and progress will help employees understand t the employer's expectations. Regular meetings help managers assess the workload of each employee and can adjust it if necessary to help employees meet the company's goals. Learning what interests and engages employees can help managers to distribute work in a way that promotes enthusiasm for completing tasks. Expressing confidence in each employee's ability and reinforcing past achievement is key to maintaining employee motivation.

Develop short and long term goals. Specific targets for employees are easier to meet than vague platitudes about stronger sales or greater productivity. Remember that employees work daily in their jobs and therefore might have a better idea of what goals are realistic and achievable. Maintaining an open dialogue about workload is a good way to assess employee capability and to find targets they can meet. Specific targets allow for clear tracking of employee performance.

Exhibit role model behavior when it comes to performance. Set goals for your own performance and share them as much as possible with employees. This demonstrates you are not simply managing in a "top-down" fashion; you expect as much from your own work as from your workforce.

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