Especially in this age of fast pace and high demand, everyone wants to get the most out of their employees. So these days, among the corporate buzz terms is “employee engagement,” and with good reason—interested, present, committed (engaged!) workers are efficient, profitable components to the company. But one thing that many managers overlook when they try to engage their employees is how to appropriately set (and follow through on) expectations.
From day one, employees like to know what they can expect from their new employer. Among the most important pieces of information are those about performance reviews—how and when reviews are scheduled, who is involved, what the format is, and what the measurements are. New hires also like to understand any system for salary increases and the requirements for promotion. They’re also keen to know the process behind paid time off—whether and at what stage the company offers sick time, personal time, vacation time, or even flex time—and how they can accrue and spend those hours. All of this information should be communicated to new hires from the get-go, and managers need to stick with what’s outlined. For example, if an employee is told official performance reviews occur every June, the manager must be sure to follow through on that plan—holding off on the review until August or not scheduling one at all will diminish the company’s credibility, which can lead to disinterest and disengagement.
Similarly, new (as well as seasoned!) employees are eager to learn what their managers expect of them. When managers start a new project or welcome a new member to an existing project team, it’s important that they let all members know and understand the deliverables. Managers should be clear on roles and responsibilities for the team or just the project, timelines and deadlines, how they intend to communicate with the team, the way and how frequently they would like the team to communicate with them, and how they would like to see issues addressed. The more advance work managers do to let employees know what they expect, the more likely it is that they’ll get what they need—and more!—in the results.
Which means that, at the core, one of the most important factors to setting employee expectations is solid communication. Clearly outlining what an employee can expect is important, keeping in mind that people learn and absorb differently and at different rates and in different ways. Clear communication takes more than just one mention in one meeting. It takes spoken word, written word, and follow-up. Obviously, plans and projects can change frequently—that’s the speed of doing business. But that doesn’t mean that expectations should be dashed to the ground. Instead, it should mean that communication is heightened. Frequent, measured, clear, and open communication helps create an environment of trust and understanding, reduces unwanted surprises, and increases engagement. Through all of that, as more managers focus on properly setting and following through on employee expectations, the returns are likely to be high.