Effective Solutions Through Partnership

10 Best Practices for Setting Clear Job Expectations From the Start

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, Hiring, Human Resources, Managing/Leadership, Onboarding, SHRM

By Melissa McManus, Ed.D and SHRM-CP

I’ve heard people say if you set expectations then you should be prepared for disappointment. From my perspective as a Human Resources Professional, if you fail to set clear expectations, then the only likely outcome is disappointment.

Expectations are an essential business function. The inability to meet unspoken expectations can lead to frustrations for both the employee and the employer. Not only do clear expectations create an understanding and a guideline, they create accountability for the employee. With clear expectations, the employer knows what to expect from the employee and the employee knows what to expect from the employer and the job itself.

Expectations should be established from the beginning. When I hire for a position, I always include the basic functions of the position, the necessary qualifications, and desired skills I am seeking in the job announcement. Before I have even looked through resumes or interviewed potential candidates, I have already begun to set expectations for that position. Expectations should be further identified through onboarding, orientation, and discussions with team members and supervisors.

Here are some of my tips for setting clear expectations from the beginning:

Guidelines for setting clear expectations:

  1. Expectations should be clear and understood by all parties so that there is no confusion
  2. Expectations should be outlined early and often. Setting them once is not enough—they need to be revisited on a regular basis as job functions can change and evolve
  3. Set attainable, realistic expectations; keep in mind your floor could be someone else’s ceiling
  4. Expectations could be in writing (i.e., in the form of a job description), simply verbalized, or both
  5. Expectations could differ from position to position; they should be specific

 Benefits of setting clear expectations:

  1. Improves performance
  2. Happier employees
  3. Establishes goals
  4. Sets priorities
  5. Enriches team dynamics

Having clear expectations, goals, and objectives is a must if you want your staff to be as productive and efficient as possible. Job success is not simply trying to determine who can sink and who can swim; I think the rate of turnover experienced in certain positions is a direct result of either unclear or unrealistic expectations. If you want quality, high performing employees, then you should give them all the tools necessary to be successful.

What has been your experience with setting expectations in your role as an employee or in a role you hire for or manage?

 About Melissa: Dr. Melissa McManus is a human resources professional and research guru. One of her greatest strengths is her resolute ability to soak in new information and her never-ending thirst for knowledge. Melissa has a Master’s degree in Counseling, and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, career development, research, writing, training, and knowledge transfer. She is passionate about life and describes herself as an avid bookworm. In her free time, when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.

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