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Setting Clear Performance Expectations

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In today's ever-changing business landscape, business leaders worldwide are focused on increasing performance, achieving goals and improving efficiency.

However, HR teams often face the challenge of translating these ambiguous goals into concrete performance expectations for employees.

Let's face it, the last five years have been a tough time for hiring managers. They had to deal with the war for talent, the pandemic and remote work, the big layoffs and the big waves of layoffs.

Today they are faced with the latest trend that is slowing down many companies: "The Big Stay" (dealing with large numbers of dissatisfied employees who feel disconnected from the company's mission).

Big, vague expectations

In a recent collaboration with YouGov at Lattice, we conducted an employee sentiment survey that revealed a worrying lack of clarity around performance expectations.

Shockingly, only 21% of British workers knew exactly what their employers expected of them when it came to performance reviews, promotions or pay rises.

Even more worrying, only 22% felt they had clear performance expectations and metrics for their roles. Not exactly a recipe for success, is it?

Creating clarity and consistency in performance goals

The burning question is this: How can we expect exceptional performance from our employees if they are left in the dark about what is expected of them or how to measure their own success?

It's like asking someone to hit the bullseye while blindfolded and then acting surprised when they miss. That just doesn't add up.

This is where the critical importance of setting clear performance expectations comes into play.

It's time to stop assuming that everyone involved is on the same page and start formulating concrete, actionable goals.

No more vague or ambiguous statements that only make employees shake their heads. We need crystal clear guidelines, goals and metrics that leave no room for interpretation.

Equipping employees with the right tools to manage change

However, setting expectations alone is not enough. We need to invest in programs that help employees meet these expectations. We need to equip them with the modern tools and resources to navigate all of these recent changes.

Let us now turn to the interrelated but separate issues at issue. The first problem is that business leaders and executives struggle to set clear company-wide goals that can be translated into departmental, team, and individual goals.

Once these goals are established, the challenge is to effectively communicate them, monitor them, and measure their performance.

Ensuring alignment with OKRs

To bridge this gap, I have always advocated the model of cascading “Goals and Key Results” (OKRs).

By reviewing the company's priorities and developing three to five high-level goals that are critical to success and growth, we create a waterfall effect. All department, team, and individual OKRs should flow downward from these high-level goals to ensure alignment.

A common pitfall with this model is the failure to assign concrete, measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics to key results.

While some key results may be difficult to quantify, it is important to establish agreed milestones that can be measured on a simple "yes/no" basis.

The 33/33/33 approach to performance management

Next, let's discuss the 33/33/33 approach to performance management. With this holistic approach, the performance assessment is divided into three core categories, each of which is weighted equally: performance, competencies and values.

By evaluating performance against KPIs, assessing how goals were achieved, and examining alignment with company values, we create a well-rounded evaluation process.

This model avoids rewarding high-performing employees who haven't internalized your values, but it also helps identify low-performing employees who are fun to work with to get them back on track.

However, it is important to remember that in addition to this approach, a well-defined Individual Development Plan (IDP) can serve as a tangible basis for growth conversations to align employee development with business needs.

Different hiring managers may have found specific IDP templates that work well for them. However, feel free to take inspiration from templates like the one I personally use and customize them to your specific needs.

Put your employees on the path to success and unleash their potential

Essential HR programs such as regular one-on-one meetings, clear career paths, and access to professional development resources have long been considered best practices in the industry.

However, our recent research shows that the percentage of employees who benefit from these important skills development conversations is shockingly low.

For example, only 13% of employees said they have a clear career path, and only 15% said they have regular conversations with their managers about their career development.

Without a visible development path and a lack of understanding of what it takes to advance, motivation, performance and morale will suffer.

Clearly defined career paths are an important tool for retaining top talent and motivating top performers.

Are your employees motivated to go the extra mile?

Ultimately, to unlock high performance and individual potential in employees, we must create an environment in which voluntary effort thrives.

This means that employees are willing to go the extra mile, think creatively, act entrepreneurially, take initiative and put in extra effort because they are motivated by meaningful work, committed to the success of the company and based on it trust that their hard work will be recognized and rewarded.

Transparency around performance expectations and performance measurement, clear alignment between individual and organizational goals, and a culture that encourages and rewards high performance and excellence are essential to creating an environment in which voluntary effort thrives.

Clarity and investment in success

While one-time bonuses or performance-based incentives may bring short-term gains, fostering a culture where voluntary effort thrives will yield far greater long-term returns.

In the current climate, setting clear performance expectations and investing in programs that help employees meet those expectations are paramount.

By aligning organizational goals with individual action plans, eliminating communication gaps, and creating an environment where volunteerism thrives, we can pave the way for exceptional performance, employee growth, and overall success.

Investing in clarity and aligning individual goals with organizational objectives fosters a culture of high performance and growth. Explore IceHrm for modern HR solutions.

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