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Setting "Expectations of Success" For That New Employee

Aug 17, 2007
While "throwing them in the deep end" might sound challenging for a new employee, it can be a careless way to treat your new investment. We recently heard of a new employee calling his wife at lunchtime on his first day in the new job to say he was coming home. The treatment, or lack of it, he received told him he had made the wrong choice.

When recruiting it is important to note that appointing a successful candidate is not the end of the process: we must now determine that this person will make the required contribution to your business.
Once the successful candidate has been appointed it is easy to sit back and relax. But the job is not done yet.

We need to set some goals - for the benefit of the organization and the employee. Starting a new job can be quite stressful - what do I do first, what do they expect? This is why setting "expectations of success" for the early stages is a very useful technique. It keeps the initial stage of employment right on track.

Choosing a period which is appropriate for the job is the first step. This may be only a week or so for a routine position or three months for a managerial job. Lining it up with at least the probationary period is a good move.

While the key requirements of the job - what has to be done and the appropriate behaviours, have been addressed before recruitment we now need to consider what needs to be achieved or demonstrated by the new employee by certain times for us to consider the exercise to be a success.

Imagine you are going to convince your manager, or the Board, that you recruited successfully - what must the new employee have done over, say, the first three months.

There may be items such as; met and held discussions with key staff; met key customers and understands their needs; prepared a sales plan; made the first sale; prepared the first monthly report under supervision.

These goals should be laid out in a progressive way so that the individual can see what he or she must learn and carry out during the early days and weeks. Progressively, these should lead on to doing the whole job so that any shortfall will be detected early enough to take action. This will relieve them of a great deal of anxiety and allow them to perform.

It is also important to view the actions and achievements as something actually demonstrated, not just something that you think the person could do.

For example, by the end of the third month this employee should have successfully completed the monthly report without supervision. Not that you or they think they could, but rather that they did do it.

If the expectations of success are written before the recruitment exercise begins then they act as an extra check that you covered all the "must haves" during the planning stage. It is no good expecting someone to have written a plan in their first month on the job if previous planning experience was not on your list of key pieces of evidence to collect.

Most managers and new employees are broadly aware of the existence of "probationary periods" in the early months of an employment relationship. Having clear expectations of success for this period makes it a very easy decision for both parties to determine if the probationary period has been successful or not.

If you have set the expectations of success well, and the employee has achieved or surpassed them - fantastic: a good recruitment exercise and you can confirm the employee. If the employee has not achieved them, and was given the opportunity to achieve them, then the chances are this is not a successful "fit" and you may choose not to confirm the appointment.

Our experience is that, in most cases, managers who procrastinate in the face of such clear evidence, and extend the probationary period or appoint someone in the hope that "they'll turn around", usually regret this decision and are faced with a much more difficult and ongoing performance management or even dismissal proceedings in several months' time.

Of course, delivering against the goals in expectations of success will be in addition to going through a comprehensive induction process which is also a key element of successful recruiting.
About the Author
Paul Phillips is a Director of Horizon Management Group; a consulting firm which assists businesses manage their people more effectively. More resources, including free downloads, are available at www.horizonmg.com
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