HR Blog

January 21, 2022 | Bakare Olaide, PHRi

The most important thing you can do as a leader in this new year to improve productivity and engagement is to establish expectations for your employees. Clarity is the biggest gift you can give yourself and others. Without it, an organization can quickly escalate into chaos.

Well defined job expectations produce effective teams that have employees who know the role they play and the purpose they serve. When leaders take the time to set expectations, they create conditions for more growth, freedom and happiness in their business.

Here is a guide to setting clear expectations for your employees:

Define What Your Expectations Are

It is impossible to build mutually clear expectations with others if you have not defined your expectations. If you cannot clearly articulate them verbally or on paper, you are not ready to share them with employees.

Note that there is no room for ambiguity in the setting of employee expectations, for instance, “I will know it when I see it” is not a clear expectation.

Tell Employees Why

Setting expectations is key to hitting goals, but these days, people need more than the numbers to keep them focused and driven. To feel fulfilled and work their best every day, people need to know why what they do matters.

Providing the context and justification for expectations will increase employees’ accountability for meeting those expectations. By helping people understand the bigger picture, you will gain their support.

Communicate Expectations in Person and on Paper

After defining your expectations and determining the purpose behind them, set up a meeting with employees to talk about guidelines. But for expectations to truly come across, they will need to be in writing, too. Handing out a hard copy of expectations gives team members something they can refer back to and store in their long-term memory.

Having a record of the conversation is also good because it limits excuses and reduces misinterpretation. In addition to this, it holds both employees and their employers accountable for adhering to what has been discussed.

Establish Realistic Timelines

As a leader, it is your job to create high-quality results. Unmanageable deadlines produce poor working conditions that cause stress, burnout and anxiety. While there might be certain times employees need to speed up production, this type of workflow should not be the status quo.

More often than not, grinding through projects not only negatively impacts your customers, but also your employees and you. For example, launching a full website in two weeks is not a realistic expectation. Firstly, the timeframe does not match the amount of work required. Secondly, some team members will miss their deadline. Lastly, it leaves no room for a quality check to ensure everything is working properly. In the end, an impossible-to-meet date of completion will leave employees frazzled and customers disappointed.

Get An Agreement and Commitment

Setting expectations for employees is also part of relationship-building. Instead of providing a list of guidelines and responsibilities, turn the meeting into a conversation. One way to do this is by letting team members know they are welcome to ask questions, voice concerns and suggest ideas throughout the discussion.

Before leaving the meeting, reaffirm what is expected. Then, formalize the expectations by requiring employees to sign off on them. When employees sign off on your expectations, it makes them more serious. In the event they do not meet your expectations, you will have the documentation to hold them accountable and make a case as to how they have fallen short of the agreement.

Set the Tone and Model for Productivity and Performance

Finally, having established how to set clear expectations for your team, it is important to consider what they expect from you as their leader as well. Just like employers have expectations of their employees, employees have expectations of their employer.

So, when setting employee expectations, ensure to communicate your plan for showing up as a leader. Discuss the role you will be playing to help them achieve their goals and performance expectations. Whether providing resources and support or building them up as leaders through mentorship, make it clear you are there to ensure they have everything they need to succeed. By setting the tone and model for productivity and performance, you can then expect your team to follow suit!

There is quote by Steve Jobs that explains this perfectly: “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people are not used to an environment where excellence is expected.” This means going above and beyond when it comes to demonstrating the expectations you set. If you ask your employees to give 100 percent, you must be ready to give 120 percent.

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