Setting and communicating employee expectations

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Setting the expectations you have of an employee and the job they will be doing starts as early as the job ad.
A candidate should know what the expectations of the role are to decide whether the job is the right fit for them.   These expectations should be repeated during the job interview, allowing the candidate to ask for clarification if necessary. 

Once hired, expectations can be set out formally in an employee handbook or job description and can be reinforced during team meetings or one on one discussions. Putting the expectations in writing helps avoid any confusion or misunderstandings. Be sure to provide opportunities for the employee to ask questions and provide feedback. 

Define the main tasks expected of the position, but also the desired outcomes, behaviour, and performance. How does the job fit in with the overall success of the business? Talk about the company, its mission, products (if applicable) and strategy, and be clear about how the role directly impacts the success of the business. 

Expectations should be achievable, relevant, and measurable. Ensure that new hires are aware of performance metrics and how often you may wish to meet to review their performance and what they are responsible for. 

It is recommended to review employee performance regularly, to ensure that goals are being met and any questions/concerns can be addressed in a timely manner.  Frequent check-ins around expectations are beneficial in helping the employee to grow and gives them an opportunity to understand and adjust behaviours if they are not meeting expectations. 

Not all check-ins have to be formal or noted in writing. Just having a quick conversation with an employee can often be enough – and lets the employee know they're not invisible. If the employee raises an issue, then you can take the opportunity to deal with it then and there. If you notice an issue, then you have the perfect opportunity to do some direct in-the-moment coaching/mentoring. Managers can also use this time to adjust expectations if it becomes clear that there are some that are no longer relevant to the employee’s role and responsibilities. 

There is no one size fits all answer when it comes to the length of time it takes an employee to feel comfortable in their new role. Keeping this in mind, it is important to note that some tasks should be second nature to most employees in a certain timeframe. Set timeline expectations with the new hire for specific tasks or responsibilities. For example, if they are required to use specialized equipment to perform their job duties and have received training, indicate when they should be capable of using the equipment without assistance.  It may be helpful to have a touch-base with the new hire during their orientation period to write down a list of job tasks and the timeframe within which they would be expected to comfortably complete each task/responsibility independently.

During the review, ensure you are using language that offers up specific and measurable assessments of the employee’s successes and shortcomings.  When possible, back up your assessment with one or two examples of behaviours you are describing. It helps to jot down examples of specific employee performance over the training period.

Setting and communicating your expectations clearly will pay dividends in having an engaged, productive employee. And on the rare occasions that an employee is struggling, you will have a good foundation upon which to build an employee performance review.