Does an employee have the right to clear expectations?
Or, is it the employee’s responsibility to ask if they are unclear about any aspect of their role. As leader’s should we just expect that the clarity and details will come in time – it’s not like there is an expectation of high performance on day 1..or day 10..or day…? Or, is there never an expectation of high performance? There should be!
Earlier this week I read a blog on the Leaders Beacon website (thanks Colleen Sharen) providing insight into expectation setting. It got me thinking. How well do we as leaders really set clear expectations? Do we induct our new employees effectively? Is this even on the radar of leaders or central to business planning and strategy? Do we consider business requirements, measurement and regularly review these aspects for our longer-tenured team member’s? Fair questions for leaders…not so great a reality.
Expectation setting is more than providing a broad brush-stroke of requirements as highlighted in a position description document. It is also not simply a high-level group of role requirements that form part of the probation period, if there is one. It goes well beyond that and has a direct correlation to employee engagement. It is defining a reality for that employee – with depth and meaning – based on the information included within but not exclusively from work documents, policies and position descriptions. Yet, it is more than that.
Every individual has different expectations of themselves, their leader and the employer. Each team member brings different skills, values, biases, desires and other personal traits to their role. It is the leaders job to understand the employee well enough to blend business needs with personal needs. This helps to build strong relationships, opportunity to align values and remove uncertainty that often comes from unexplained or misunderstood diversity between employees.
Clarity in expectations is not only important for each employee but clearly of benefit to the employer/business. The risk is that if expectations are not clearly set and understood, performance will suffer, morale of this employee and possibly others around them may decrease and certainly, the ability to ‘master’ their role is diminished. It is a lose-lose situation and yet not all that rare an occurrence.
Reduced discretionary effort and a limited willingness to engage beyond the bare minimum are also potential risks. Additional pressure is often felt by the employee and can be demonstrated through behaviours such as increased hours in the workplace, withdrawing from the team, irritability, sullen attitudes and other negative outcomes.
Setting each team member up for success starts before their first day. We all make judgments and these start during the recruitment and interview process – for both the employer and the potential employee. Hopefully, you have set a good standard of communication and enhanced the image of your business throughout the recruitment process. This high standard certainly must be consistently delivered from day one of employment, assisting to build employee engagement, which is of value to any leader as noted below.
- In world-class organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 9.57:1.
- In average organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 1.83:1.
Actively disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line while breaking the spirits of colleagues in the process…estimates this cost to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone. Beyond the significant differences engaged workgroups show in productivity, profitability, safety incidents, and absenteeism versus disengaged workgroups, we have proven that engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in their same industry. (1)
In any role, the employee has the right to expect a clear understanding of what is required of them. Every task, function, skillset, policy and other related expectations should be provided early in his or her tenure. This set of expectations should then form part of the regular rhythm of coaching, discussions and review.
It is never fair employment strategy nor smart leadership to expect that an employee will ‘pick up’ all they need to perform their role to a standard if that standard is never clearly established.
This includes the need to also check in and ensure clarity (for both parties), along with a willingness and ability to meet the expectations now or in the future with the proper support, development and training.
If we don’t, then we are breeding and encouraging mediocrity in our leadership standards, within our team cultures and potentially setting the bar low before your business has had a chance to excel.
Expectation setting – who cares? You should!