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How Can They Meet Your Expectations If They Don't Know What They Are?

Aug 17, 2007
Managing people can sometimes be very rewarding and sometimes frustrating. If we look back we may find the rewarding times were when people met, or exceeded, our expectations. Sometimes they did this without even knowing what they were!

If we look at the frustrating times we may find a variety of causes - many probably relate to the flip of the same thing - not meeting our expectations.

A key part of leadership is about painting a picture of the future and then taking people there. This doesn't have to be a grand earth shattering view of the future. It can just be about the next step.

It may be the way a department should be operating or how your business should be interacting with a key customer. What the new ordering process will look like or how the filing system will work.

Describing what you want to see as the outcome of an individual's work is an excellent way to set the scene. But how often do we take the time to do this?

You can even start it with "My expectations of this job are that it will achieve ---"

With new employees this should start at recruitment. Try this technique, it can be very powerful.

Look ahead and clarify what you will expect the candidate to have achieved to be labelled a success - at the end of three periods, short, medium and long term. Depending on the nature of the job, the periods may be, say, one, three and nine months.

Recruiting is one of the most important things managers do and if there is no clear idea of what success looks like it makes it so much harder.

We tend to set goals (if we do it at all) in periods of one year. Of course by the time a year is up it is usually too late to bring people back on track if they have started off badly.

Our experience usually lets us know if someone has started well so why don't we share what this looks like with the new recruit before they start.

Here is an example of what this may look like for a new Sales Manager.

The first month may include:
Met and got to know each of their staff
Understood features and benefits of each of the products and services they are selling.

The three month period may include:
Met and understood the needs of each of the key customers
Developed key strategies to improve sales

After nine months you may expect:
Sales strategies implemented
Sales to key customers increasing

If this sort of progress is planned you may reasonably expect the one year goal of increased sales to be met. This approach is far better than recruiting and then only setting the annual sales targets.

This technique is applicable at all levels. The position of Accounts Clerk may have expectations of success along the following lines.

At the end of 1 month:
Allocated receipts and credits to accounts accurately
Successfully applied the credit management procedures to key customers

At the end of 3 months you may expect the new employee to have successfully:
Applied all Credit Management processes and policies to all customers
Met Credit Management KPIs and targets for at least one month

At the end of 9 months you would expect the new employee to have successfully:
Accurately prepared monthly credit management reports, tables and graphs on KPIs for at least 3 consecutive months
Brought all accounts within trading terms

Once these expectations are set it is up to the manager and the employee to talk regularly about progress towards them. Frequent discussions about expectations are going to either lead to success or at least very early warnings that some corrective action has to be taken.

What happens after the first year of recruitment?

We strongly advocate each person having a job description with clear Key Result Areas and Measures. This determines "what" people do.

However, often more important is the "how" of people's performance. These guidelines come from the core competencies of a business. These are the organization's values in action.

Core competencies can be described as "an enabling combination of skills, knowledge, aptitude, motivation and inherent ability" They are observed through the behaviours of people.

For example a core competency in a business may be "Teamwork" and this may be defined in terms of working cooperatively with team members and working towards shared goals. Some of the behaviours demonstrating this competency may include sharing information with others and offering assistance to fellow team members during high work load periods.

All these elements come together to clarify your expectations of what employees need to deliver and how you expect them to do it.

In addition to the normal performance management process of setting goals and providing feedback, using the early recruitment expectations of success and then reemphasising these based on the job description and core competencies can be a very effective tool for raising the awareness of employees about your picture of success.

The job descriptions and core competencies describe the things you expect on a regular basis and the goals are the additional expectations you agree together.

With regular clarification of these expectations, feedback on progress and recognition for achievements, you'll be meeting employees' key needs at the same time as increasing the chances of them meeting yours.
About the Author
Paul Phillips is a Director of Horizon Management Group; a specialist human resource management consulting firm. He has over 30 years experience in HR and, while based in Australia, has worked in a number of overseas locations. www.horizonmg.com
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