Communication and clear expectations go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other.
Over the years, thousands of individuals have responded to our CORE Strengths Survey, which measures factors that impact employee engagement. Participants rate their perceptions on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being excellent.
One of the categories, Clarity of Expectations, is made up of several questions that measure how well employees understand their role, job description, and the expectations of them. On two of the questions, one about job description and one about expectations the average score for employees is 8.1, which is pretty good. However, in the same category, when asked if they get positive or constructive feedback, they score their companies at 6.5. In the Communications category, scores range from a low of 5.1 (I have a voice) to an overall average of 6.2.
This is a significant gap and employers would be wise to consider how to address it.
In such important areas as clarity and communication, scores approaching 10 are considered ideal: scores in the range of 5 and 6 underscore why so few employees say they know exactly what is expected of them. According to a 2015 Gallup survey, only about half of individuals strongly agree they know what is expected of them at work!
Employee engagement is one of the current hot topics in business, but are we making any progress? Too few companies are; but some have taken the voice of their employees to heart and experienced positive results. These companies ask for direct input about the organization, intensively analyze this feedback, and incorporate it into their strategic goals. Multi-year tracking of these companies demonstrates that there is a correlation between measurement, action, and positive improvements in the identified areas.
A critical ingredient is to clearly communicate the goals of the organization and the role that each person needs to play in the process of achieving these goals. According to Caroline Rowan, author of Results-Centred Leadership, there are three communication imperatives that help set clear expectations:
- Communication of objectives, plans and results, including both the long and short-term goals of the organization.
- Communication through systems. Organizations require effective policies and procedures that articulate clear systems; otherwise, the grapevine becomes the primary method of sharing information. We’ve all played the telephone game and know how twisted messages can get the further along the line they go.
- Communication directly to individuals. We need to do this most of all. How better to ensure the message you want conveyed is the one being heard? How best to determine how individuals feel about what is expected of them?
Great communication will never be merely a box to check off; we must always be on the lookout for ways to communicate more effectively and ensure that employees understand what is expected of them.