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Setting expectations

Employees need a clear understanding of what is expected of them at work and how this contributes to the organisation.

A critical part of a manager or supervisor’s job is working with employees to make sure they understand what they need to do and how and when they need to do it. Understanding and, where possible, agreeing expectations should happen as part of an employee’s induction or at least within a few weeks of starting the job. These expectations/objectives can be recorded in a 'performance agreement’.

It’s important to have these in place as the employee will be assessed against them in their role.

The acronym SMART is a useful tool to use to help set appropriate expectations/objectives.

An objective needs to be:

A well-defined objective is easier to achieve. It should be easily understood to someone without in-depth knowledge. Be specific about:

  • Who: Who is involved/ doing each aspect?
  • What: What needs to be achieved?
  • Where: Identify where it is to be done.
  • When: Establish a time-frame.
  • Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of achieving the goal.

Set clear criteria for measuring progress toward achieving each objective set.

Measuring progress helps you stay on track to completion date. To ensure a goal is measurable, ask questions such as:

  • What exactly will be measured? Quality, quantity, speed, cost?
  • How will it be monitored or reviewed?
  • How will I know when it is done?

Can the employee control the things that will affect whether they can achieve their objective? Achievable doesn’t mean that it will not be hard to achieve; a great objective may stretch the employee. Discuss what the challenges are to achieving the objective with the employee. For example, if it requires funding from elsewhere or development approved, put these steps into the objective.

When you put all the objectives together that your employee is expected to achieve, are they still achievable? Don’t just think of them individually. The aim is to set the employee up to succeed.

Can the employee achieve what is required with the resources available? Show how the work links to the organisational objectives or outcomes. Giving context helps the employee understand the significance of their work and is motivating.

When does this objective or action need to be completed? When are there key milestones that need to be achieved? Specify this.

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