When you think of employee engagement, your thoughts probably turn to team building outings, free gym membership passes and fun themed days at the office. All too often, people mistake engagement for fun and benefits, but these rewards (while fun and effective at times) are not the way to attract and retain the best talent.
No – employee engagement is about so much more. A truly engaged employee feels confident about their role in their company, and they know what is expected of them at every step of a project or task. While a fully stocked tea room might be the de rigeur tip recommended on countless blogs, if you want to recruit and retain the best candidates in your field, you need to ensure that they are satisfied at work.
Millenials in particular crave structure and guidance – they need to know what is expected of them in order to perform to their highest potential.
We’ve all been there – in a new (or not so new) position at a firm, without a clue about what we are supposed to be doing. Without clear role definition, we end up almost paralysed, unsure about what to do next or who we are supposed to report to.
If this has happened to you, you are not alone. A 2015 survey by international pollsters Gallup revealed that 50% of workers did not know what was required of them in their place of employment. That’s huge! This means that half of all employees were arriving to work each day and crossing their fingers, hoping that what they were doing was going to cut muster.
You might have the idea that by leaving your employees to self-start and define their own roles, you are giving them a healthy dose of autonomy (something that we have discussed before). While autonomy is important for employee happiness and engagement (no one likes to be micromanaged at work), you must first define clear and concrete expectations for each of your staff members.
Plain and simple – job expectations and role definition will keep your employees focused. This will prevent them from getting off track and wandering off task, and will ensure that they produce outcomes on a regular basis. It also prevents your employees from periods of stagnation vs. periods of frantic productivity, ensuring that they are pushing towards their clear goals all month long.
When everyone is doing what they are meant to be doing, your workplace will run more smoothly. No one will be repeating work (billing you for redundant hours) and no one will be sitting around idly while you pay them. You will be increasing employee engagement while you increase your bottom line and do what is best for your business.
The opposite of engagement? Frustration. A frustrated employee feels demotivated, under appreciated and even angry with their employer, and they certainly will not be doing their best work.
Gallup also reports that those employees who have clear goals and role definition are happier – and more engaged – in their workplaces. That means that they produce better, higher quality work on a regular basis, and they stay with your company for longer. When (and if) they do leave, they do so on good terms, and they recommend your firm to their colleagues and networks.
If you have never given this process any thought, now is the time to get started. Don't worry – setting expectations does not have to entail a big ordeal – it can be a simple as arranging a meeting and clearly defining who does what, and why. Consider setting a monthly meeting so that the process of setting and discussing expectations becomes the norm, and your employees get used to this new part of your routine.
1. Define specific employees expectations
Effective expectation setting is not something in the abstract. It does not look like “attract new clients.” It is clear and precise, something more like “attract 5 new clients by June 30.” By setting a clear deadline for measurable results, your employees can work towards concrete goals that leave no room for confusion. They can also ask you for help when they fear that they may be falling behind.
2. Leave no room for confusion in your communications
A casual mention or a quick chat in the elevator is not a clear and appropriate way to communicate your expectations to them. Put all of your expectations in writing, and go over each sentence with your employee. Ask them to sign the bottom of each page, and print them off their own copy that they can refer to going forward.
3. Your goals need to be achievable and realistic
We all want to see massive increases and major progress, but when you start to set goals that strive too far too quickly, you can discourage your employees. While your goals should be challenging, they shouldn’t be wildly ambitious. Create small, achievable goals that can be checked off of a plan, and break long term goals down into smaller steps.
4. Hold regular reviews and reward success
You can set all of the expectations that you want, but if you are not holding your employees accountable for them, they are destined to go unmet. Check in with your team on a regular basis, and remember to focus on their successes rather than their failures. Celebrating success (rather than punishing shortcomings) leads to improved workplace productivity and over all employee engagement.
Setting clear expectations will change the dynamic of your workplace for the better. Your team will be motivated, excited to get started and ready to achieve the goals that they now know they are expected to achieve.
Do you have experience with setting employee expectations? Share your experiences in the comment section below.