How To Communicate Expectations To Employees

Updated December 5, 2022

Successful leaders can communicate effectively with their employees to outline their expectations. Knowing how to instruct your employees to complete their assigned tasks can eliminate confusion and better motivate the workforce. Regularly communicating what job responsibilities need to be accomplished may lead to a more successful business and increase productivity within the team. In this article, we discuss why it's important to communicate expectations in the workplace and provide steps to take to share your expectations with your team.

Why is it important to communicate your expectations at work?

Communicating expectations in the workplace helps employees understand what managers or leaders want them to achieve so that they can do a better job in their position and reach goals. As a supervisor, effectively stating what you expect can help reduce confusion and lead to employees completing more tasks successfully.

Some other benefits of communicating your expectations include:

  • Creates clarity about assignments and reduces ambiguity

  • Improves communication

  • Allows for autonomy over an employee's work

  • Prevents individual frustration and leads to happier employees

  • Increases employee engagement

Related: Q&A: Why Is Communication Important?

Tips for effective communication

To clearly state your expectations when talking with employees, there are some practices to follow. Below are some tips for communicating your expectations effectively:

  • Communicate face-to-face. Because nonverbal gestures like facial expressions are important to understand the context of someone's dialogue, face-to-face conversations can be more effective than other forms, such as email and phone calls. This helps employees understand when you're being serious or if you're joking.

  • Take ownership of your words. When talking to your team, be confident in the directions or information you are delivering to help increase trust from others and ensure they're listening when you speak.

  • Watch your emotions. Remove your emotions from the conversation when talking to your team about expectations to remain neutral about their actions. Being calm and composed can help you communicate more effectively.

  • Keep it simple. Simplify your message so that you are direct, and employees don't miss the important facts. Long conversations may cause employees to lose interest and misunderstand your directions.

Related: 11 Tips for Communicating Effectively With Employees

How to communicate expectations with your team

Being straightforward with your employees about what you need from them can provide a more clear and efficient workplace. Here are some steps to take to help you communicate your expectations with your team:

1. Outline your expectations

When assigning tasks to team members, clarify what items you need to be completed and the time frame to complete them. Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable so your employees can meet them. Having a plan in place before you inform your employees of their responsibilities helps you outline what you to say so you don't forget any important pieces of information during your discussion.

Related: How to Become an Effective Communicator

2. Explain the importance

Understanding why you have certain expectations can help employees see the importance in your instructions and be more willing to follow them. When employees have a purpose for their actions and know what they'll accomplish, they are more motivated to deliver their requests. For instance, tell employees to submit their projects by the end of the month so that you can review them in a timely manner. Employees then know why they have their set deadline and understand how their commitment affects the work chain.

3. Put yourself in their perspective

Think of your employees when providing them with information and consider what pieces of information they'll want to hear or how a specific set of instructions applies to them. Address concerns you feel they may have when announcing any new or current expectations. Make sure what you are saying is clear and easy for someone in a different position to understand.

Related: How To Be Empathetic in the Workplace

4. Consider past actions

When assigning tasks to employees, consider how they delivered projects in the past. Those who currently meet your requirements may continue to do the same in the future and likely understand what you are asking of them. However, for employees who need help to meet their goals, provide them with more specific requests so they understand what you expect from them. Consider meeting with them privately to review their past performance and learn if there is anything you need to clarify for them.

5. Meet with employees regularly

To help clarify any confusion employees have, hold frequent one-on-one and team meetings. This allows for an opportunity to restate your expectations and keep employees accountable for their actions. During this time, you can also answer additional questions employees have. Reward those who do an excellent job so they are aware of what you consider successful for the particular task or situation. In addition to holding meetings, be accessible so employees can come to you if they need assistance or are unsure of what you need from them.

Related: Guide to Providing Feedback to Employees

6. Get a detailed commitment

Ask employees to perform a specific task by a set deadline. This helps prevent any hesitations about who is doing what. A detailed commitment can provide a record of an agreement and help keep employees accountable. Designate who's completing each part of a task so there is no room for confusion.

7. Provide helpful resources

Make resources available to assist employees in completing their tasks. Keeping a company handbook or style guide helps them understand their job responsibilities for their position and what company rules to follow when working. Consider including website links or other materials that can help employees accomplish tasks easier.

8. Check in with employees

In order to understand how employees are doing and where they are at in their project, hold a follow-up meeting to check in with them. Consider meeting with employees a few days after setting initial goals and then at a later date to make sure they still know what you expect. Keep the meeting short to show you trust them and care about helping them improve their work process. Making sure employees are on track early can help avoid errors later on in the project.

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