Managing employee expectations

The 3 C’s for Managing Employee Expectations

The very definition of the word ‘expectation’ is a belief that something will be the case. When you take yours as well as your people’s into consideration, that’s a lot of them floating around your company. From project deadlines and professional etiquette to pay rises and promotional trajectories, expectations are intricately weaved throughout everyone’s working lives. With this in mind, when employee expectations aren’t met, it gives rise to chaos, conflict and challenge. So how do we avoid this? Well, taking the reins is one thing, but leading your people in the right direction is another.

Speaking of, let’s start with your people and what things look like from their perspective. There is a myriad of factors influencing their expectations in their work environment. For starters, the company brand. What is it telling them about the place they work? Is it reflective of their experience? Considerations also need to be made here about your company’s media coverage and what that tells them. Perhaps your sector is doing better than anticipated, and they are expecting the benefits while you are contemplating layoffs. Maybe they are preparing for life after the pandemic and returning to the office while you are considering keeping everything digital. Then there is their previous employment experiences and the assumptions they might make in their current role as a result. These are some of the elements impacting your people’s expectations, and that’s all before they clock in for work.

When it comes to your peoples’ positions, there are several areas where their expectations need to be managed; their roles and responsibilities, communication processes and upskilling opportunities as examples. The onboarding process is an ideal time to set a positive expectation management process in motion but it can still be implemented at any time with those already in the company. We’ve identified three key areas you can target for successfully managing employee expectations; clarity, communication and culture.

1. Clarity

Clarity needs to feature everywhere in your company. And the first place for managing employee expectations needs to be is with your expectations as a leader. Do you know what they are? What do you expect from your people and what can they expect from you? What can employees expect from each other? It’s imperative that you and your people are clear on these but finding that clarity starts with you.

It’s also vital that all expectations are realistic and achievable. Otherwise, goals won’t be met, and morale will suffer. Every person needs to have clarity on their role and responsibilities. They require clear briefs when it comes to projects. People want clarity on timelines as well as on company structures, systems and our next point, communication. There isn’t an area in your company where clarity can be overlooked, or it will cost you.

2. Communication

Communication plays a crucial role when managing employee expectations. By communicating from the outset what’s expected, everyone is operating from the same starting point. That doesn’t mean everyone will always be on the same page, you are going to have times when people take different meanings from the same interactions, but that’s where knowing your people is paramount. By getting to know them, how they like to communicate, and what approach or style they respond best to puts you both in a better position to communicate effectively and manage expectations.

Having communication channels which are clear and consistent is also important. Your people need to be easily able to communicate to ensure no ball gets dropped or someone isn’t included. If the communication process is confusing, clarity efforts get lost. They need to work in tandem with each other. Another reason why excellent communication supports you in expectation management is that it shuts down the company rumour mill. It doesn’t give anyone a chance to speculate and incorrectly fill in gaps which can spread like wildfire and hinder expectations being managed and met.

3. Culture

With clarity and communication supporting managing employee expectations, you need the right company culture for them to thrive. For example, it needs to be one of trust, transparency, accountability, acknowledgement and support. Trust deepens relationships, improves communication and builds a solid foundation for these practices. Transparency and accountability build trust, while acknowledgement shows your people they are seen, heard and valued. The only way any of this will work is if it’s in an environment of support.

For example, don’t be afraid to say directly to you people: “If you have any questions, or any issues arise, come to me with them, and we can both find a solution.” This also supports the practice of early intervention which helps you stop or prevent an issue getting worse. It’s another way of cultivating a culture where expectations are managed. If these are implemented, people will know where they stand, what to expect, and what’s expected from them, making your task a lot easier.

There are a few other elements to keep in mind alongside ‘The 3 C’s’. You do need your people’s commitment. They must understand and be on board with the expectation process and what it means for all involved when it goes well, and equally when it doesn’t. The same goes for time. Make sure you allow a sufficient amount of it for what is being asked. It’s not just the task being completed that is being asked of your people, it’s also the timeframe in which it’s expected to be delivered.

The same applies to empathy. You know your job best the same way your people know theirs. You might have an idea of what’s on their desk but not always a real understanding of what the process looks like for them. Keep that in mind when it comes to your expectations of your people. It and they require a fair approach. After all, people are human so we all make mistakes and interpret things differently which makes managing expectations quite the task. But if you take the time to get the process right and implement the above, you’ll be in the best position to navigate even the most challenging in expectation management.

As we establish a new way of working, we’re here to help you and your people make the transition.
Get in touch with Ronan from the team Frankli today to see how.