Top Ways to Set Expectations for Employees

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Saying that our working style has evolved over the last two years would be an understatement. Both employees and employers have had to adjust to what at times seems like a whole new world, from the COVID-19 epidemic to the advent of remote employment and even beyond then.

You could ponder establishing employee expectations while we all deal with the “new normal” together. Setting expectations may be helpful whether you’re trying to improve staff performance and retention or avoid burnout.

Many companies, however, don’t lay out their requirements in unambiguous terms. In actuality, according to a Gallup poll, the majority of employees are unaware of their employer’s expectations for them.

This may create a decline in employee engagement, ultimately resulting in individuals quitting your organization entirely.

Although employee loss is always a danger, it is more important than ever now. According to Microsoft, 52% of millennial and Gen Z employees want to look for a new job in 2022. How can you beat it, then? Learn how to communicate expectations to your staff members.

You can ensure that both new employees and seasoned team members are prepared for success by setting expectations. Additionally, according to Gallup, workers who know what is expected of them are more engaged, successful, and content with their jobs.

Managing staff performance unquestionably requires leadership abilities. Let’s examine how to train employees to work based on expectations.

What are the goals for employees?

There is no doubt that it is crucial to learn how to manage expectations at work. But first, it’s important to agree on what “employee expectations” means before moving on. What precisely is expected of employees?

Employee expectations here refer to what a company or leader expects from a certain person. Although this article focuses on what is expected of specific employees, employees may also have expectations of their company or management.

A corporation’s management or leadership team establishes the behavior, performance, job duties, and results expected of its employees. These requirements might be clearly stated in a job description or employee handbook. They can also be discussed informally in team meetings or one-on-one conversations.

In addition to the actual task, employees are typically held to expectations on how they work and interact with others. Results are still another crucial component of expectations-setting.

Here are a few instances of what to anticipate from employees:

  • The goal established by management for the sales team is to bring in a particular amount of money from new clients in a predetermined length of time.
  • The standard that a CEO sets for all workers is to preserve particular business cultural ideals, such as excellence, morality, and integrity.
  • The standard set by supervisors for each group member is to complete projects on schedule and be proactive in communicating challenges.
  • The standard is for staff members to be on time for meetings and treat others with respect, attention, and professionalism.

How to make employee expectations clear

It is your responsibility as a leader to facilitate the success of your business. And one of the greatest ways to achieve it if you’re directly leading a team is by outlining clear objectives for your workers.

You may learn how to develop goals for your team and support employee growth with a little bit of intention.

Here are our top six suggestions for establishing expectations for staff members:

  • Establish staff expectations early and frequently.
  • Keep your goals reasonable and reachable.
  • Set objectives that adhere to the SMART goal structure.
  • Link expectations to precise metrics.
  • Regularly evaluate staff performance.
  • Be willing to discuss expectations with others.

Let’s examine each of these approaches to controlling expectations at work in more detail:


1. Establish expectations early and frequently.

You should start establishing employee expectations as soon as you start the recruiting process for a position. Even if it’s not deliberate, the job description for the position might show specific performance expectations. The questions you ask during interviews will also be affected.

The good news? You should leverage the power of this opportunity to start establishing expectations sooner. The sooner you are explicit about expectations, the more probable it is that a recruit will live up to them.

The onboarding period is the ideal time to continue laying out specific expectations when a new employee is recruited.

Employee performance can rise as much as 11% in environments with efficient onboarding procedures. That’s an excellent reason to clearly state and express a position’s tasks and responsibilities at the outset.


2. Be reasonable in your expectations

Keep expectations modest as you understand how to set them for staff members. For instance, expecting your team to put in an excessive amount of overtime is not necessarily reasonable. Extra labor may occasionally be necessary, but it shouldn’t happen frequently.

Your staff may burn out if your expectations are not reasonable. If you are excessively demanding, they could also feel insulted, which is one of the main reasons individuals leave their jobs. Make sure the demands you’re making on your team are fair and will allow them to maintain a healthy balance between work and life.

Recall that having reasonable expectations is essential if you want to increase employee engagement and retention.


3. Set objectives that adhere to the SMART goals framework

Do you know what SMART objectives are? SMART is short for:

  • Specific 
  • Measurable
  • Attainable 
  • Relevant 
  • Time-bound 

SMART objectives have a history of achieving important workplace outcomes. They can also aid in setting effective team objectives. Before telling your staff about a need, consider if it satisfies the criteria listed above. If your answer is no, your expectation might not be as solid as you think.

If your expectations aren’t clear, your staff won’t know what they need to do. They’ll be less driven as a result, which will lower their output and level of satisfaction at work. As a team leader, you don’t want it to happen. Make sure your objectives are SMART if you want to understand how to create expectations for staff. You might also request that your staff members list their objectives via a 30-60-90-day format.


4. Align expectations with precise metrics

For your team, establish clear metrics at all times. One of the most effective methods to guarantee that your staff is doing their best work is doing this.

Metrics are the standards associated with certain objectives. Don’t just mention that you want your social media manager to boost engagement, for instance. Establish the explicit goal that after the first quarter, social media engagement should have increased by 30% (for example).

It might be challenging to link numbers to your objectives at times. Some objectives are less closely related to dates and numbers. However, you might do well to reconsider the approach if you can’t find a method to connect your expectations to your team’s or organization’s goals.


5. Consistently evaluate employee performance

Setting metrics without a procedure for discussing them with staff is useless. One method for doing this is through annual performance evaluations, which are typical for most businesses. Under the direction of human resources, they ought to be prioritized and carried out annually (or even more often).

However, supervisors should provide feedback and assess performance more frequently to preserve clear employee expectations. For instance, scheduling weekly one-on-one meetings with the people you are managing might be worthwhile if you just have a small team. These sessions provide you a chance to talk about expectations and how closely an employee is fulfilling them. You’re able to maintain alignment in this way.

Additionally, more regular check-ins regarding expectations aid in the employee’s development. If the employee is not living up to standards, they have the chance to comprehend and change their behavior. If it turns out that the expectations are no longer necessary, the management can also change them.

If your team is larger, you will need to depend on the employees’ direct supervisors to take the initiative. You may still monitor everyone’s progress through a reporting mechanism, but try to refrain from micromanaging.


6. Be open to working together on expectations

It’s better to take the initiative and get to work when you begin learning how expectations can be set for your staff. However, as time passes, team communication will get better. You should seize the chance to work together when it arises.

People who do their jobs regularly will likely have insightful knowledge about their professional objectives. Additionally, frontline staff members who frequently deal with clients may add their expertise to the team’s plan.

It is your responsibility as a leader to practice inclusive leadership and listen to your team. However, keep in mind that for team members to be on the same page, you must ultimately explain and express the expectations.

How to convey expectations to employees

It’s one thing to understand how expectations can be set for workers. The challenge is in effectively expressing those expectations.

Your employee may disagree with a specific objective expectation, which compels you to apply your conflict resolution abilities. Or, your employee can misinterpret your instructions and perform actions completely at odds with what you intended. In either case, using the following tips can help you articulate employee expectations better:

  • When communicating an expectation, always explain why so that people are motivated to accomplish it.
  • Be specific and adhere to the SMART framework so that staff understands what you are expecting of them.
  • Allow employees to inquire after you’ve explained a requirement to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • To discover when your expectations are excessive, ask your staff for feedback.
  • To ensure that everyone can be held personally responsible and that expectations are appropriately communicated, ensure they are recorded.
  • We are setting different standards for team members.

After learning how to create employee expectations, you might consider whether you need different expectations for your team members. The answer, in a nutshell, is yes, even though there is a slight distinction.

Expectations for employees are based on one individual’s performance. You could have similar goals for each team member. Depending on their job description, you could have different expectations for each person.

Team expectations, in contrast, are goals for how your staff should collaborate. As part of these expectations, the team may be held to particular targets, such as completing a specific number of tasks in a quarter. Or, you might base your objectives on the general plan of the team.

Teams and people must be allowed to make more decisions for businesses to be more proactive and react rapidly to changing demands.

Managers may effectively assist their teams by offering the appropriate direction and boundaries. When managers establish clear, well-considered expectations for team performance and what it entails, they help to build this atmosphere. Otherwise, despite their best efforts, people could improve their work at the expense of the team’s effectiveness.

For instance, suppose your team plans to attract X clients by month’s end to boost income. Your team’s objective could be that your team members produce a certain amount of deliverables through teamwork. Each of their efforts should advance the larger goal. After the project, that target would then be reassessed. Metrics of team performance will also be explored.

In contrast, you would expect your staff to perform their job duties. Your social media manager should make Instagram posts, but email marketing efforts should be directed at email campaigns. You should assess each employee’s metrics independently from the team’s primary outcomes.


You may improve as a manager and leader by effectively setting staff expectations. You’re on the right road whether you’re working to enhance workplace culture, goal setting, or staff retention. 


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