Setting Expectations

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We have already established that setting and clarifying employee expectations is an important part of the onboarding process. Requirements and expectations need to be established from the beginning. New employees should not be surprised once they begin work. Set expectations and use them to evaluate progress.

Defining Requirements

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Each position will have its own set of requirements. Requirements are more than a set of skills; they include everything necessary to perform a job. 


  • Skills: Abilities necessary to do the job
  • Experience: Experience necessary to do the job
  • Education: Training and education to complete the task
  • Company culture: Personal and company values align
  • Behavior: Attitude and behaviors necessary to be successful

Identifying Opportunities for Improvement and Growth

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Meetings and evaluations allow managers to identify opportunities for improvement and for growth. In order to meet expectations, employees need to understand them. Any expectations or requirements that are not met should be seen as opportunities for improvement. Coach employees about ways they can improve. 

Employees who do well may have opportunities for growth. These opportunities may involve additional tasks and changes to their expectations or job requirements. Any changes that accompany growth need to be explained to the employee, and assistance needs to be given.

Setting Verbal Expectations

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Setting expectations verbally is a way to personally connect with employees. This allows managers to address any questions that employees may have concerning the expectations. Verbal communication, however, does need to be documented for HR purposes. You may want employees to sign that they understand the expectations that you express verbally. This is the only way for them to be legally accountable. 

Putting It in Writing

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Expectations should be put in writing. Begin with a basic job description. Job descriptions should be crafted before a position is filled so that employees know what is expected of them. Any changes to the job description need to be updated in writing. 

Other expectations to put in writing:

  • Evaluations
  • Reviews
  • Action plans
  • Policies
  • Corrective actions

Case Study

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A manager’s department staff cannot reach their sales expectations. The manager tells the employees their individual goals every day, but they seem to ignore him. He is 20 percent off budget. Another manager advised that he documented the personal goals and had employees sign them at the beginning and end of each day. The employees took more responsibility in their performance and pride in meeting their goals. By the end of the quarter, the manager made budget.