Volume 94: Setting Performance Expectations for Employees

Since all we do at Oberg and Associates is build relationships in the industry, our process doesn’t tend to end when a candidate accepts an offer from a client. Once we’ve helped a candidate find a new role, we stay close to make sure the candidate is adapting well to their new surroundings and is fulfilled in their new role.

One of the questions we ask, that placed candidates often struggle to answer, is: do you know how your performance will be evaluated by your new employer? This is a pretty simple, yet pretty important question that a startling number of people don’t have an answer to.

How will your performance be judged?

I want everyone reading this to stop and take a second to think about this question for yourselves. Do you know what criteria the company you work for, and the manager you report to, use to measure your progress and production?

If the answer is no, how do you even know what to do each day? How do you know what you need to improve? What you need to keep doing well?

If you’re a supervisor or manager, think about this from the other side, too: do your subordinates have a sufficient understanding of how their performances are measured? When was the last time you discussed it with them? Is it formally written down somewhere?

This may seem like a minor detail to some, but let me lay out a scenario for you that happens far too often: we set up a Corrugator Superintendent, named Willie Nelson, to interview with Country Music Corrugated Box (CMCB). During the interview process, the biggest thing Willie heard is that safety is an area that they must improve, and the new superintendent CMCB hires will need to focus on that. They also need to work on waste and housekeeping, and obviously help increase production to hit goals.

Willie ends up accepting the job. Once there, he starts his efforts on the safety program and committee. He brings systems knowledge from his past job and ways that his operators and supervisors can be safer on the floor and follow protocol more consistently. When I speak with him, Willie thinks he’s doing a great job, and they haven’t had a recordable incident since he started.

I get a call from the Plant Manager of CMCB 10 weeks after Willie’s start, and the Plant Manager tells me they’re thinking about letting Willie go. He hasn’t made any headway on housekeeping or waste, and production hasn’t improved as much as they’d hoped. Also, some of the guys that have been on the floor have been grumbling about the new systems Willie has put into place.

Again, Willie thinks he’s doing a great job, and has made great headway in his first 3 months in the area of safety, which is what he heard CMCB say they were looking for through the interview process.

On the other hand, the Plant Manager says he’s not happy with Willie’s performance, because he hasn’t tackled waste or housekeeping yet, and production hasn’t jumped the way the way they hoped. He recognizes the work Willie has done in the area of safety, but their safety and recordables weren’t THAT bad to begin with.

Do you see the problem here?

Because Willie has failed to ask about formal expectations, and the Plant Manager has failed to tell him how he’ll be evaluating his progress, these two men have very different perspectives on how Willie is doing in his first ten weeks.

I know I’m a broken record on this topic, but the obvious answer to fix these issues is to be open and honest in your communication.

As a new employee, you must ask how your performance will be judged, starting all the way back in the interview process. Don’t assume the things you think you heard them focus on are the keys they’re looking for. Make sure the message they’re sending and the one you’re receiving are the same. Ask for a breakdown of what they’re looking for.

As an employer, you must detail the things you’ll be looking for from a new employee and how you’ll grade their progress, starting all the way back in the interview process.
In the orientation process, you must formalize, in detail, the things you’ll be looking for from a new employee and how you’ll grade their progress.

Asking someone to do a job without defined expectations is like asking a pilot to fly without instruments. Sure, they might be able to do it, and they might land in once piece without much damage to the plane, even. But are you really setting them up for success without giving them the ability to see how high they are and how much fuel they have left?

So, give your employees, and yourself, the best possible chance: set expectations, and ask about expectations, early and often.

As always, Stay Strong.

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