Employees Only Meet Expectations When They Know What's Expected

Survey data reveals employees want managers to tell them how their work fits into company strategy but those conversations are the exception, not the norm.

learn more about Heather R. Huhman

By Heather R. Huhman


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Understanding employee work expectations go far beyond those monthly staff meetings catered by Qdoba, participating in passive break room conversations and the countless back and forth emails that solve nothing.

Employees who don't know what their manager expects of them can't be engaged or successful in the workplace. And unfortunately, an October report from Gallup of 1,000 employed adults found that only about half of employees surveyed have a clear understanding of what is expected of them at work.

Considering merely 32 percent of employees surveyed in the same study from Gallup agreed that their manager helps them set performance goals, and less than 40 percent said they feel their manager supports them in setting work priorities, it's time to tell your employees exactly what they need to know about workplace expectations and everything in between.

So how do employers effectively communicate employee expectations?

1. Set clear and realistic goals.

The key to communicating employee expectations is by setting goals with them. Unfortunately, employees do not believe their managers are taking the time to discuss company goals. It's time to stop hiding behind the computer. Call it old fashioned, but constructive conversations are more effective when done face-to-face.

The first question managers must answer is what are the goals and mission of the organization, and do they align with the goals set for the team and each employee? Employers must never assume that their employees are aware of these goals.

Too often, managers tend to focus only on their own goals and forget to collaborate with others who could provide a new perspective. Pay attention to the needs and requests of all employees. Remember, goals need to be challenging, but still achievable.

Related: 7 Tips for Wooing Your Employees Into Loving Their Jobs, Again

2. Tell employees that their jobs matter.

Every employee needs to know how important their role is and how their work contributes to the overall success of the organization. To achieve this, employers must encourage productivity and acknowledge dedication and performance in the workplace.

In fact, a 2015 Employee Development Survey conducted by Saba Software and WorkplaceTrends.com in August found that out of the 700 employed adults surveyed, 60 percent of HR leaders believe their companies provide employees a clear career path, while only 36 percent of employees believe this to be true.

Try focusing on the importance of expectations by letting employees know that their role plays a significant part in the team. This can be as simple as praising an employee for handling a difficult client. Feedback leads to improved performance and, in turn, could result in advancement and boost the overall morale of the workplace.

Related: 7 Things Employees Wish They Could Tell Their Boss About Salaries

3. Clear accountability objectives.

How can employees perform if they don't know what work for which they are being held accountable? Too many blurred lines can create a workplace plagued by inefficiency. Managers have an obligation to tell employees what tasks they are responsible for by using open lines of communication.

Yet, an October survey from Wrike of 1,400 employed adults, 44 percent of employees believe they are receiving unclear task accountability and consider it a significant level of stress at their company. In the same survey, 34 percent of workers are unhappy with their company's process of managing work.

Solve these problems by encouraging employees to voice any concerns they may have and always remain available for those conversations. Employees should feel comfortable reaching out for help. In return, if managers know an employee is struggling, recognize the problem and address it right away.

Related: 3 Reasons Holacracy Isn't a Good Fit for Most Businesses

4. Provide advancement opportunities.

Employee advancement doesn't always require a formal promotion. Even if the movement is lateral, employee advancement drives performance.

Questions like the following can help employers identify what they are or are not telling their employees and if employees truly understand what's expected of them at work: If promotions are available how can I help them get there? Do I acknowledge their hard work? Am I providing employees with clear goals and expectations? Am I adding to their over success?

Related: 4 Advantages That Small Businesses Can Sell to Attract Top Talent

Heather R. Huhman

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, the PR solution for job search and HR tech companies. She writes about issues impacting the modern workplace.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game
Business News

These Are the Most and Least Affordable Places to Retire in The U.S.

The Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable, while areas in the Mountain State region tend to be ideal for retirees on a budget.

Business News

I Live on a Cruise Ship for Half of the Year. Look Inside My 336-Square-Foot Cabin with Wraparound Balcony.

I live on a cruise ship with my husband, who works on it, for six months out of the year. Life at "home" can be tight. Here's what it's really like living on a cruise ship.

Business Solutions

Master Coding for Less Than $2 a Course with This Jam-Packed Bundle

Make coding understandable with this beginner-friendly coding bundle, now just $19.99.


5 Ways to Build Grit in Times of Uncertainty While Growing Your Business Faster Than Others

Perseverance and grit are essential traits for any entrepreneur. By nurturing grit, you will become a better leader, grow your business faster and outperform your competitors.

Thought Leaders

The Collapse of Credit Suisse: A Cautionary Tale of Resistance to Hybrid Work

This cautionary tale serves as a reminder for business leaders to adapt to the changing world of work and prioritize their workforce's needs and preferences.

Business News

Mark Cuban's Grocery Store Hack Will Help You Score Cheaper Produce

The billionaire talked about his early days in Dallas when he was strapped for cash.