Human Capital Management Blog

Strategies for HCM Professionals

Employee Expectations and How They Influence Engagement

We hear all that time about disengaged employees in the workforce – with a significant portion even actively disengaged. It’s a huge issue for employers and HR professionals, not to mention the workers themselves. Low engagement levels lead to subpar performance, dissatisfaction, decreased productivity and, ultimately, higher turnover rates.

The importance of engagement

As Gallup recently pointed out, not addressing the engagement of their workers and taking every opportunity to improve – businesses are leaving a concerning amount of money on the table. Research recently conducted by the source revealed some telling statistics about the differences between companies that have engaged employees and those that don’t. For example, organizations with the highest levels of employee engagement:

  • Are more productive and profitable.
  • Receive better reviews from customers.
  • Experience fewer accidents and less absenteeism.

There are many factors that can contribute to employee disengagement, including a lack of communication, recognition and transparency, as well as limited opportunities for growth and development. However, as Gallup explained, of the 12 components that make up employee engagement, there isn’t really one aspect to focus on that guarantees a solution across the board. All of these elements should be addressed in one way or another. But, perhaps a more sound approach to take toward improving engagement is to start at the base level: setting expectations.

Lack of clarity with employee expectations

Gallup research showed that approximately half of workers today strongly agree that they clearly understand exactly what is expected of them – with about just as many indicating they don’t. Obviously, it’s not difficult to see why this should be a concern for employers: When workers don’t have clear expectations, they probably won’t be as likely to meet them. You can have highly motivated, happy and hard-working employees – but, unless they know what the expectations of them are, it’s all too easy for them to focus on the wrong tasks and, in turn, waste time on work that is unproductive.

The urgency behind setting clear expectations for workers is further highlighted when you consider the opinions of those who do get this information from their employers. Gallup revealed that of the millennial workers who have managers that set performance goals for them, 72 percent are engaged. And this kind of correlation isn’t just true for this age group, either. Every generation, Gallup said, agrees that when their managers help establish relevant objectives, they are significantly more engaged.

Tips for establishing employee expectations

Clearly, if you are looking for ways to combat disengagement, it would be helpful to start by making sure each team member has a thorough and sound understanding of what your expectations for them are. The role of the manager, in this case, is extremely important when it comes to driving engagement and setting these expectations. Gallup shares mores ways we can make these efforts more effective:

  •  Be straightforward. There is no need to sugarcoat things or put them in overly fancy jargon when there is a simple, more direct and ultimately more effective way of communicating expectations to the employee. When you are explaining what the goals are, be as specific as possible. Workers shouldn’t have to waste time trying to figure out what something means. By taking the guesswork out of the responsibilities and job functions, you free them up to have more time to actually conduct the work.


  •  Ask for their input. You want to make sure your employees are comfortable communicating with you about any and all work-related issues. If they are confused, unclear or having trouble meeting some of the expectations, surely this is something you’ll want to know as soon as possible so you can correct it. By involving members in the development of their expectations and goal plans, you will make them feel more included and, therefore, engaged.


  •  Focus on employees’ strengths. Most people tend to enjoy doing things that they are good at more than those they struggle with, right? When establishing expectations for workers, play into their strengths as much as possible.

Managing employee engagement can be overwhelming. But it’s crucial to organizational performance and success. The good news is that by addressing worker expectations at the foundational level, you can help ensure they are better positioned to do their jobs and, in turn, enjoy their roles more.


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