Often, when there’s misunderstanding or conflict between managers and employees, the root cause can be linked to issues with employee expectations. Either the manager didn’t convey the expectations for the job plainly enough, or the employee failed to carry them out accordingly (even though they were communicated appropriately).
As a manager, you must establish clear parameters regarding what’s expected of your employees and take measures to help ensure that they comprehend those specifications. You should also be ready to take action when employees repeatedly fail to live up to the expectations you’ve set for them.
The following eight steps will guide you through setting expectations not just for new hires but also existing employees.
1. Identify the vacancy you’re looking to fill.
For instance, your full-time accounting clerk just resigned and you’re seeking his or her replacement.
2. Write down the responsibilities of the role you’ll be recruiting for.
Be sure to include day-to-day tasks, who the employee will report to, and whether the position calls for full-time or part-time hours. Create a job description that provides a solid yet concise overview of what the role entails.
3. Establish the personal characteristics that you want your employees to have, and hire people who seem to closely match those traits.
Note that even if employees perform all of their practical tasks to perfection, if they lack the personal attributes that you seek, you will not be satisfied with their overall performance. For instance, you may want your staff to be trustworthy, pleasant, professionally dressed, and articulate with good team playing skills.
4. Communicate your expectations to each new hire yourself, and give them a copy of their job description.
Even if HR has already relayed the job expectations to the employee, you should personally reinforce the expectations as well. This will allow you to create a dialogue with the employee and solicit feedback. Also, be sure to state any additional duties that the employee might be required to perform that are not listed in the job description.
After conveying your expectations to your new hires, ask them if they have any questions about their responsibilities or if they need additional resources that will help them better understand or perform their role.
5. Provide each new hire with a copy of the company’s employee handbook.
The handbook should include general policies and procedures and standards of conduct that employees must follow. Have the employee sign for the handbook to show receipt, and reiterate the importance of reading it thoroughly.
6. Prepare an improvement plan for each employee before their performance review. (No matter how talented an employee may be, there’s always room for improvement.)
The plan should indicate areas the employee needs to work on—which should be based on your observations of the employee’s performance throughout the review period. Additionally, the plan should offer the necessary resources for helping the employee achieve the newly established goals that you’ve set.
7. Give the employee the improvement plan during the performance review meeting.
Depending on the employee’s feedback, you may need to adjust the improvement plan after the review has taken place. For instance, if you both agree on regular follow-up meetings—such as biweekly or monthly—say so in the plan. Have the employee sign the initial improvement plan or its adjusted version, and explain the significance of meeting the expectations outlined in the plan.
If the employee has not been performing up to par, inform him or her of the consequences of poor performance, such as written warning, suspension, or termination. Remember, performance isn’t restricted to job duties but also to the employee’s behavior/conduct at work.
8. Modify your expectations as they change.
As time goes on, you may find that tasks or strategies that you required for certain positions do not work anymore and you may want to change your expectations to reflect what you think will work. Keep employees updated via phone calls, emails, and formal meetings if your expectations for their position or certain projects change.
Maintain a copy of employee expectations in the respective employee’s personnel file.
Be clear in your instructions. For example, instead of calling a certain project a priority, say what it takes precedence over.
Have an open-door policy, which encourages employees to approach you without fear if they have questions or concerns. Listen to their input objectively and decide whether it’s in their—and the company’s—best interest.