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Performance Management
Setting Performance Expectations
Onboarding a new employee
 
Expectations are standards for employee performance and behavior that are set by a supervisor, the agency administration, through policy, rule, law or Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The agency Human Resource (HR) section plays an important role in assisting the agency and supervisors in setting and delivering expectations to employees. Expectations have a wide range of value, but the primary goal is employee success.
 
Because setting and communicating expectations for performance is a critical element of supervision, it is important that HR coach agency supervisors in setting clear expectations. Expectations can be created for an individual, a unit or an agency. Some documents have embedded expectations, such as position descriptions and policies. Other expectations need to be constructed.  
 
It is important to remember two things: 
  1. People can perform well at work if they have been told what is expected of them.
  2. Employees will carry their expectations with them from one job to the next, unless they are told otherwise. 
 
The best time to set expectations is before the employee needs to perform the task or display the desired behavior. Employees do not always know what is expected unless they are told.
 
When constructing an expectation think about the following elements: what needs to be done (be specific), when it needs to be done, why it needs to be done (importance, value, big picture, relevance to organizational goals), and resources to assist in meeting the expectation.
 

Communicating Expectations Verbally
 
Verbal expectations should be as specific and timely as possible, using a what, when and why approach. What is the employee expected to do? When it is expected to be done? Why the employee is expected to do it?
 
The supervisor can clarify expectations by asking questions, such as:  “How do you plan to accomplish these expectations?” and “Is there anything that will prevent you from accomplishing the expectations?”  Let the employee know whom to inform should they have trouble meeting the expectations.
 
When expectations pertain to all employees, they can be presented during a staff meeting or with a small group of employees. Sometimes group expectations will be given individually, such as during an employee's orientation.
 
Expectations created for an individual employee should be presented to the employee when other employees are not present. Make a note of verbal expectations in the supervisor’s working file. Include the date of the meeting and the basic content of the expectations.
 
 
 
 A good test that an expectation is understood
is the average employee complies with the expectation.
 

 

Communicating Expectations in Writing
 
The following examples are times when written expectations are advisable: 
  • The employee or the supervisor is new to the job or unit 
  • The expectations expand on the job description
  • Expectations are needed due to the gravity of the situation
  • It is a critical or important expectation
  • To ensure the expectation is absolutely clear
  • To reinforce or emphasize the importance of previously stated verbal expectations
  • The employee is not meeting previously stated verbal expectations
  • The employee’s learning style is visual, not auditory.
Written expectations inform employees about what is expected of them in the workplace; whether it is timelines for accomplishing work, leave use policies, or getting along with coworkers and do not contain admonishment of employee behavior.  Written expectations do not threaten future discipline if the employee does not comply.  Written expectations are not discipline and normally are not placed in an employee’s official personnel file.
 
Expectations can be typed in memo or letter format and can be bulleted or be in a conversational style. 
 
The supervisor meets with the employee to discuss the expectations, ask if the employee understands, and if anything might prevent the employee from accomplishing the expectations.
 
A copy of written and dated expectations go in the supervisor’s working file. The supervisor may have the employee sign, acknowledging receipt of the expectations.
 

Delivering Expectations
 
Carefully determine who delivers the expectations as it may have a positive effect or may have unintended consequences. Generally, expectations are set by a supervisor or agency leadership. If a supervisor sets expectations for subordinate employees, the supervisor should deliver the expectations. Agency-wide expectations may carry more weight if the agency head or HR delivers the expectations.