Communicate Expectations

Every employee should have an absolutely clear understanding of their manager’s expectations for their work. What the employee is expected to do is communicated by setting goals. How the employee is expected to perform is communicated by setting performance metrics.

While deciding what and how employees should perform communicating expectations requires a partnership between manager and employee. The goal of performance management is to provide every opportunity for employees to be successful. The company continued success depends on the combined contributions of its employees.


Most employees should be given individual goals to accomplish during the performance period (month, quarter, semiannual, or annual). Employees whose duties are essentially the same each work day may not need to have individual goals. For instance, production workers perform the same tasks each day and are most often measured on how they perform their jobs. While they can be given quantity goals such goals are usually the same for all employees performing the same work.

When setting job goals, make sure that the goals are appropriate and reasonable—and then give your managers a process to establish, oversee, and reward employees’ work toward those goals. All goals should be SMART goals.

In 1981George T. Doran, a consultant and former director of corporate planning for Washington Water Power Company, published a paper called, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” In the document, he introduced S.M.A.R.T. goals as a tool to create criteria to help improve the chances of succeeding in accomplishing a goal.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Managers should not set goals in a vacuum. They should discuss what they want done with their employees and be prepared to fine tune the goals in collaboration with their employees.

S - Specific

When setting a goal, be specific about what you want to accomplish. Think about this as the mission statement for your goal. This isn’t a detailed list of how you’re going to meet a goal, but it should include an answer to the popular ‘w’ questions:

  • Who needs to be involved to achieve the goal? (Especially important when working on a group project)
  • What exactly are you trying to accomplish? Be as detailed as you can.
  • Where is the work to be accomplished? (If a location or event is part of the goal.)
  • Which obstacles or requirements may need to be identified before the goal can be completed?
  • Why is the goal necessary for the department or company?

M - Measurable

How will you know the goal has been met? Include the specific metrics that are going to use to assess achievement of the goal. A goal is more tangible when there is a way to measure progress. If the goal is a project that will take months to complete, include some milestones to be used to measure progress toward goal achievement..

A - Achievable

Make sure the goal can be accomplished. Goals are intended to motivate. Unachievable goals lead to discouragement. The tools and authority to achieve the goal need to be held by the employee. If the employee doesn’t have the necessary skills to accomplish the goal, you might want to set a goal for the employee to acquire the skills then assign the goal.

R - Relevant

Goals should be set so that their accomplishment leads to the furtherance of the department’s goals and the company’s goals. If all employees achieved their goals, the company should achieve its goals.

T - Timely

Include a target completion date for goal deliverables. A large goal or a goal that will take a great deal of time to complete should have milestones and a timeline. Timelines create a sense of urgency. Employees should have the opportunity to overachieve goals with quality and timing.

Performance Metrics

Employees need to know how management expects them to perform their jobs. This is communicate by setting Performance Metrics. While it is suggested that the number of performance metrics be less than 10, PEP has a library from which companies can chose. These performance metrics can be edited to fit exactly how the company wants. Some can be combined to lessen the number of metrics. The following are some of the Performance Metrics available.

  • Accuracy and Quality
  • Analytics/Quantitative Skills
  • Attitude
  • Business Judgment
  • Communication
  • Demonstrate Core Values
  • Job Knowledge and Skill
  • Leadership
  • Ownership
  • People Management
  • Planning and Organization
  • Problem Solving
  • Process Management
  • Productivity
  • Prospect Qualifying
  • Sales Prospecting
  • Teamwork
  • Teamwork and Communication
  • Work Effectiveness

While it is possible to establish expectations to the entire employee population it is easier and more effective to do so for smaller portions of the organization. Identifying jobs for which the same Performance Metrics would be relevant provides an opportunity to tailor performance expectations to precisely fit the organization. Setting the same performance metrics for all employees in the same job or similar jobs treats employee with consistency and equity.

You can even standardize performance metrics across many job types, such as exempt, non-exempt, production, people management, executive management, sales, and other jobs.

When you build HR processes designed for successful communication, coaching, and recognition, your employees are far more likely to be successful contributors to your company’s vision and goals.