How to Set Clear Performance Expectations for Employees

A key driver of employee productivity is role clarity. Clearly articulated expectations empower employees to perform satisfyingly and grow strong working relationships. Because expectations serve as a standard for measurement, they enable employees to evaluate their achievements continuously—and when these expectations are clear cut, they help employees grow and develop, as well as improve productivity and create consistency in the organization.

Expectations should be set when an employee is hired, when job functions are changed or added, as well as when clarification of responsibilities is needed. The first place where employees get a sense of what is required of them is in the job description. To eliminate any ambiguity from the get-go, ensure your job descriptions not only summarize the position and express essential job functions but also include measurable expectations for each key responsibility.

What does this really mean?

Imagine you are hiring an accounting clerk. In addition to listing the tasks this employee will be responsible for in the job description, also include how often they will need to complete these duties. It is not only telling an employee what his/her job is, but how to do the job well and to the standards of the organization.

Here’s what this might look like:

  • Compiles and sorts documents, such as invoices and checks, substantiating business transactions – Daily
  • Audits invoices against purchase orders, researches discrepancies and approves for payment – Two times per week

And like goals, expectations should always be “SMART”:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Reasonable
  • Timely

Job descriptions are not only useful to the employee when they are fresh to the organization, but should be kept as a point of reference to continuously evaluate performance. This shouldn’t be the beginning and end of the conversation, either. As a supervisor, ensure you have continuous dialogue with your employees on how well they are meeting these objectives and make certain your employees also understand where they fit in the grand scheme of things. Explain why the job exists, where it fits in the organization and how the job’s responsibilities align with organizational goals.

What if setting expectations didn’t guide my employee to success?

Unfortunately, sometimes no matter how much time and effort you put in in outlining expectations and setting your employees up for victory, you can run into more valleys than peaks. Termination is an uncomfortable topic. Register for our webinar, “Fire Right: Taking Away the Surprise & Avoiding the Guilt,” and learn how to identify your options and avoid potential employment claims if you decide to terminate.

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