Workplace success starts with clear expectations
Setting realistic expectations with new hires is critical to ensuring a positive workplace experience. Failing to deliver on expectations will be painful for everyone involved. But when expectations are met, and employees and employers are aligned, that’s when the magic happens.
Expectations are a key predictor of employee turnover, especially for employees who have been with an organization fewer than five years. The best organizations meet employee expectations across all levels of the organization.
Leadership: Leaders make and encourage decisions focused on the organization’s mission, vision, and values. They also watch for high turnover, to see whether there are recurring themes that drive people away.
Managers: Workers expect managers to provide support. New hires need help learning the ropes, cooperating with colleagues, and understanding the nuances of their role and how it fits within the organization’s mission. Longer-tenured employees need to understand priorities and get help overcoming obstacles.
Employees: Job candidates should be clear about expectations and ask questions to ensure a role aligns fully with their strengths and their aspirations. Unstated expectations on either side can lead to frustration.
So how do good organizations ensure everyone is aligned on expectations?
It starts with realistic and thorough job descriptions. Walk prospective workers through what a typical day might look like.
Prospective employees should have time to meet and talk with future team members about team dynamics, communication approaches, meeting cadences, and socialization opportunities.
Workplace culture can vary, as can the preferences of candidates. Some organizations are agile, fast-paced, and competitive. Others are risk-averse, traditional, and cooperative. Employees should know what type of culture they are getting into since it can shade their work experience.
Be clear about opportunities for growth and advancement. During the hiring process, realistically convey the potential for career progression, including typical timeframes, performance expectations, and the frequency of available positions. Individuals' expectations will vary, so it's important to be clear from the start.
Candidates also should have necessary information to make an informed decision about a job opportunity, especially regarding wages, hours, and working conditions. Failing to disclose those details can lead to confusion, frustration, and increased turnover.
Regarding pay, it’s important to cover when and how managers assess raises. Employees are rightfully frustrated when they feel they have been misled about their paychecks.
Workloads can be a source of friction. It’s reasonable to expect workloads to change somewhat over time, but a consistently unmanageable workload due to understaffing or other issues is not. If employees will have to consistently put in long hours, be candid about that up front.
In the big picture, workers want to know they are valued and their job has meaning. Limited training and development, or inefficiencies in the organization, can intensify feelings around expectations.
Avoid miscommunication during hiring/onboarding. Over time, issues regarding promotion expectations or dissatisfaction with the culture can create problems.
Employee turnover can be costly, so take the time to set the right expectations while recruiting and onboarding before it’s too late.
Bob Helbig is media partnerships director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s survey partner for Top Workplaces.