Establishing Clear Expectations For Employee Goals and Tasks

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Effective employee goal setting can serve as a powerful tool for:

–    Motivating employees
–    Improving employee performance
–    Developing organisational talent
–    Setting measurable standards for review
–    Translating organisation objectives into results
–    Fostering communication with employees
Goal setting can also be a frustrating process if it is not tackled properly. The most frustrating part of goal setting and execution is when the outcomes do not match what was expected. Managers tend to assume that the employee will execute according to their vision and then are confused when the outcomes don’t match the intended direction. What is wrong with the process?
The problem with effective goal setting lies in the lack of clear expectations being set by management. However, whether you are setting goals, objectives, or assigning tasks, outcomes can be optimised by following a checklist for setting clear expectations.

•    Establish clear success criteria: When setting and conveying expectations, managers should always say, ‘this goal/task/objective will be successful if….” and then fill in the blank. This sets clear success criteria that provides direction and focus to the employee and also allows for measurable outcomes.

•    Convey completion date: When setting clear expectations for goals, projects, or tasks, one of the most important points to convey is when you expect completion. Perhaps the completion will be in phases, in which case each phase completion date should be conveyed and mapped out to avoid any bottlenecks in other processes.

•    Outline Level of authority: Managers should consider the level of authority that they expect the employee to possess when completing specific goals or tasks. To do this, managers should consider the following: How far can they go? How much can they spend? Who can they talk to and/or involve? What resources do they have access to?

•    Communicate areas of risk, priority, or visibility: What level of priority should the goal or task take? Is this an item that has been attempted in the past and what were the usual outcomes? Are there items that must be completed before the core goal or task can begin? Are there key players that the employee should consult or consider? The answers to those questions are all elements that could make or break the employee’s success. Overall, what risks or obstacles does the managers expect the employee to come across?

•    Set Interim progress reports: The need for this step depends on the complexity, time frame, priority, and nature of the specific goal or task. It also depends on the manager’s knowledge of the employee’s familiarity or experience with similar goals and tasks. If past experience shows that the employee has struggled with similar items or you are aware that the nature of the goal is outside of their comfort zone, managers should communicate that they expect interim progress reports or status discussions with the employee.

•    Establish end-result expectations: This step might morph during the life of the goal or task; however, it is useful to communicate what the end result is expected to look like in terms of reports, meetings, events, deliverables etc. so the employee is aware.

Setting clear and realistic expectations for goals and tasks is a sure-fire way to avoid any miscommunications and to ensure that end results have better odds of matching what managers envision.