How to Set Clear Employee Expectations and Improve Productivity

Setting clear employee expectations is vital for a structured, professional environment. Here is how to do that effectively.

November 30, 2023
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Do your employees know what’s expected of them? You might be surprised to learn that many don’t.

Setting your expectations early on is fundamental for creating a structured, professional environment. It also directly impacts your employees’ attitudes towards their work and can result in higher business productivity.

Now, you probably have 101 other things to worry about to boost the success of your business, like improving your customer onboarding system or brushing up on the human capital management definition. However, prioritizing employee productivity will only help your business in the long run.

Knowing what you want from your staff is one thing, but what’s the best way to make them aware of that? This is where many employers struggle.

Here are some easy ways to set clear employee expectations and improve productivity throughout your business.

  1. Communication is Key

It’s well known that internal communication is important to ensure the smooth day-to-day running of a business. However, that doesn’t mean that all companies are communicating effectively. In fact, only 7% of US workers strongly agree that communication in their workplace is accurate.

A lack of team communication can create significant problems for your business. It can negatively impact productivity levels and work quality, which means you could be losing time and money. 

This can all be avoided by creating an open environment and promoting effective communication throughout the business. After all, how can you expect your employees to know what’s expected of them if you don’t tell them?

Set your expectations and use an effective intranet to communicate them to your employees.

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Make sure they have verbal and written confirmation of what you need from them, and what they can expect from you in return. Address any potential barriers and take necessary actions to eliminate them. For example, upgrade inadequate systems and disband communication silos, or implement voicemail drop to streamline operations (more information here).

Setting your expectations and sharing them with your employees is only half the battle. But, once this is done, everything else will gradually fall into place.

By creating an open line of communication, your employees will feel more comfortable and confident at work. They will be more inclined to share their ideas, discuss business limitations, and flag any concerns they may have. 

In turn, this will increase the quality of work and boost productivity massively.

It’s a win-win situation!

  1. Employees Should Feel Valued

One of the biggest mistakes an organization can make is to overlook the needs of its employees. The workers make the business what it is, and it’s important that they feel happy and respected.

And with the dramatic increase in remote working, this is especially important. Some employees may struggle to stay connected and feel visible while working remotely. So, it’s crucial to remind them that their efforts are valued by the company.

Employees who feel valued at work can be more positive, more productive, and may stay with the company for longer. Not only will this create a happier working environment, but it will also improve the organization’s reputation. 

Because, let’s be honest, it’s difficult to trust a brand that can’t keep their staff.

So, try celebrating your employee’s accomplishments, or offering progression and development schemes. Ask them for their feedback and act on what you learn from them.

You can build trust with your employees by listening to their ideas and actively acknowledging any suggestions they may have. Whether they have thoughts on how to make the company greener or they’ve found some great examples of operational audits, take everything on board and make them feel heard.

Anything you can do to make your employees feel that their work is meaningful will have a positive impact on their working life. This may also make the management team seem more approachable, which would be greatly beneficial for you.

Your employees will be more comfortable coming to you for clarification on a project, which will only increase the quality of the end result.

  1. Trust Your Employees 

Trust is a key factor in any relationship, and it’s no different when it comes to the relationship between an employee and their management team.

Workers that don’t feel trusted in their job are often less productive. They may also not feel comfortable enough approaching their management team regarding any confusion over what’s expected of them. 

The main indicator of a lack of trust is micromanaging.

We know, it can be tempting to peer over your employee’s shoulder and comment on every move they make. But this does more harm than good. 

55% of workers said that micromanaging only made them less productive, and research has shown that micromanagement is one of the main reasons why people quit their jobs.

Trust cannot be gained overnight. It needs to be earned. However, there are small things you can do to show that you believe in your employees’ capabilities and avoid micromanaging.

Learn to delegate

Start small. Over time, your trust in your workers will grow stronger as they prove that they are capable of handling the workload.

Stop the constant check-ins

Try cutting down on the number of check-ins required for each project. 

We know, we know. We said that communication is key. But constant emails requesting updates can create an overwhelming situation.

Create an open dialog

If the above ideas are too much for you, even the simple act of asking your employees for their feedback shows that you trust their judgment. Feedback may also be encouraged further when employees feel that information they divulge will not be used against them publicly. For this, it may help to first establish open dialog and confidentiality, and to clarify the difference between confidentiality and privileged communication.

So, at your next team meeting, don’t shy away from asking: “What is a business process you feel we could improve and why?”

It’s not always easy to receive feedback, so make sure you’re prepared to respond to any criticism in a constructive manner.

  1. Be Consistent

Inconsistency within a management team can lead to disaster.

Your employees will look to you for structure and stability in their working life, and you need to be able to provide that. Research has shown that inconsistent leaders are not trusted by their team and were thought to have poor judgment.

You want your team to thrive, but they can’t do that unless you stay consistent in your actions and values. There are a few ways to do this:

Stick to your word

If you say you are going to do something, do it. 

Don’t make empty promises just to get what you want. Everyone will soon learn that your word doesn’t mean much and, once they figure that out, they won’t trust anything you say in the future. 

Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Honor commitments

Having a busy schedule can be overwhelming, but consistently missing deadlines and rescheduling meetings can create distrust among your team. 

They need to be able to rely on you to lead them to success. But they won’t trust you to do that if you can’t honor your own commitments.

There’s no room for favorites

Expectations should apply to all employees, and everyone should receive the same treatment if they fail to meet those expectations. 

If you deviate from this rule with a few people, word will spread, and your workers will assume that the expectations you set were actually just flexible suggestions.

  1. Review and Improve

Ok, so you’ve set your expectations, and made some changes to boost productivity. But now you need to find out if it’s actually working.

Regularly reviewing your employees and their productivity is essential to ensure long-term positive change. Explore some of the most effective ways to measure workplace motivation.

If some employees are struggling to meet what’s expected of them, find out why, and create a solution around this. If some worker productivity has increased more than others, pinpoint what has helped them and try to implement it to the rest of your team.

Remember, this is not a one-size-fits-all process, you may need to re-evaluate several times to get it right.

Now What?

Keeping your employees engaged and on track can seem like an impossible feat. But, with these five tips, you should now be equipped to tackle this challenge head-on. 

Just remember: Nobody is perfect. 

New systems and procedures can be difficult to get used to, so try to cut your staff some slack. Whether they’re struggling to adapt to the new communication policy or figuring out how the new phone system works, try to have some patience.

As long as you can communicate and trust openly, be consistent, and show your appreciation, everything should fall into place.

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