Establishing Performance Expectations

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Establishing Performance
Identifying employee performance expectations is a shared
process between employees and supervisors. Objective-
based performance expectations are critical to individual,
team, and organizational success. This module helps
leaders prepare for and conduct planning discussions,
encourage continued involvement, and work with project
teams or individuals on their performance plans.

• Identify performance expectations that support organizational
• Encourage meaningful involvement as people develop their
performance plans
• Set expectations within your area of responsibility with direct
reports or as a leader without formal position power
• Meet employee personal and practical needs during
expectation-setting discussions

What is Performance Management?
Performance management is a communication system between the supervisor and the
employee. Its purpose is to motivate employees to work at their highest capacity by
helping them see how their daily efforts help to achieve the overall mission and goals of
the organization.

An effective performance management system provides for a dialog between the
employee and the supervisor concerning where the employee’s efforts need to be
directed over the course of the evaluation cycle. It includes jointly establishing job
standards and objectives, periodic review of progress toward achieving those results, and
planning for the employee’s development. It ultimately can provide a basis for
rewarding employees according to their achievements through increased job
responsibilities, job flexibility, and permanent appointment. It also provides for a dialog
about what needs to be done, how well it should be done, how well it is being done, and
how it can improve. It includes documentation of this dialog on a performance
evaluation form.

Another important purpose of a performance management system is its relationship to the
discipline process. A performance management system seeks to correct marginal or
unsatisfactory performance before it is necessary to take punitive disciplinary action; and,
if discipline should prove necessary, the record of actions taken to improve performance
will provide documentation to support these personnel actions.


What are Performance Expectations?
Related to performance management is the concept of
performance expectations. Performance expectations
represent measurable outcomes that supervisors and
employees make about the level, standards, and timing
of results to be achieved by their department and with
each individual employee. Supervisors and employees
should establish performance expectations for each
responsibility the employee has. The performance
expectation not only defines how performance will be
measured along a scale or dimension, but also identifies
the specific, planned level of result to be achieved
within an explicit timeframe.

Performance expectations may be quantitative, qualitative, or a
combination of both depending on responsibility. While expectations
for quantitative indicators will be numerical, expectations for
qualitative indicators will be descriptive. In most cases, performance
expectations are quantitative -- they identify how much of a change
is expected from year to year. For some indicators, performance
expectations will depict an increase of some sort. Declines or
decreases can also represent improvement. Departments sometimes
select qualitative indicators that focus on changes which are not easy
to describe in quantitative terms.
When a supervisor submits a job description to personnel, they are beginning the
process of setting up performance expectations. Using the job description as a
guide, a supervisor and an employee can build measurable expectations.

Performance Expectations are:

1. Clear and specific
2. Measurable or observable
3. Consistent with personal capabilities, job classification, and departmental
4. Consistent with organizational goals
5. Cost effective
6. Consistent with resources and opportunities
7. Can include professional development activities


Benefits of Establishing Expectations
Performance Goals help employees:

• Find out how they are doing
• Know what is expected of them
• Take responsibility for their performance
• Learn their own performance strengths and weaknesses
• See where their goals support organizational goals
• Direct efforts where they can do the most for their own
careers and for group and organizational success;
• Feel that they are taken seriously as individuals and that the
supervisor is truly concerned about their needs and goals

Performance Goals Help Supervisors:
• Develop an objective means for evaluating employees
• Tie individual tasks, goals, and directions to group and
organizational goals
• Work with employees on career development plans and
• Identify where individuals need coaching and training
• Provide recognition and motivation to employees
• Document an employee’s progress towards reaching goals


Overview of Activities and Roles
Performance feedback is not simply a piece of paper that is filled out once a year. It is an
on going process throughout the year beginning with the setting of expectations. Both
the supervisor and the employee have roles and responsibilities within the performance
feedback process. Listed below are continual activities that you can do with your
employee to make this process more beneficial. You may think of other activities that
can be added when considering your own situation.

-Provide clear expectations
-Ask for clarification
-Discuss priorities
-Provide input
-Review department goals and

current job description

-Offer ideas
-Offer ideas
-Make suggestions for
-Make suggestions for improvement
-Identify training needs
-Identify training needs

-Acknowledge progress &
-Ask for feedback
-Tell supervisor of accomplishments
-Offer encouragement
-Keep a file of accomplishments
-Provide constructive
-Be willing to listen to suggestions for
improvements or changes
-Network for gathering

-Discuss observations as they

-Keep a file of employee’s


-Encourage employee to
-Be prepared to discuss & ask questions
-Prepare written feedback
-Give specific examples
-Be willing to share personal accomplishments
-Prepare written feedback

-Provide balanced assessment


The Performance Management Cycle

The performance management cycle consists of three major components: work planning,
coaching, and evaluating performance. Each has separate functions but is dependent on
the others for providing quality communication.

Work Planning - the beginning of the process to assure that:

The supervisor communicates to the employee the larger
organization’s goals and key initiatives for the upcoming

The supervisor communicates to the employee how the
department’s activities will support those goals and initiatives

The employee is made aware of how his or her efforts for the
year will be expected to support those goals and key

The current job description is an accurate reflection of the
scope of the employee’s responsibilities and the duties the
employee is currently performing

The employee and supervisor have discussed their mutual
and separate interests related to the employee’s development

Coaching - the process of consulting with the employee on progress toward performance
objectives. It involves discussing the status of current projects and any changes in
priorities, providing recognition, and developing improvement plans when necessary.


Evaluating - means providing written documentation of performance

For this module, we are only going to be concentrating on the Work Planning stage.

Work Planning is the part of the process that takes a lot of time initially, but will save
time in problem solving later.

There are three parts to Planning:
Communicating organization and department goals and key
Reviewing job responsibilities
Setting expectations

To help employees channel their efforts toward achieving organizational objectives, it is
critical that supervisors communicate as much information as possible about how their
employees’ daily activities and special assignments link to the goals and objectives of the
larger organization, the organization’s strategic plan, and the department’s stated mission.
Communicating this sense of where we as an organization are headed can help focus
employee efforts on what is most important to the department, SARFS, and ultimately the
University at Buffalo. This is especially true in times when competing priorities require
employees to make choices about where to direct the bulk of their attention.

At the beginning of each performance period (the time between evaluation due dates), the
supervisor and employee should review the job description for the employee’s position
and compare it to the current scope of the employee’s responsibilities and duties.

Five components of setting expectations include:
Review the existing key areas of responsibility and identify
any new ones
Describe the performance objectives for each key area
Establish employee development goals and expectations
Determine the level of independence with which the
employee is expected to carry out assigned responsibilities
Determine what evidence will demonstrate achievement of
performance objectives


Mutually Establishing Performance Expectations
Once you and your employee have a clear understanding of the employees’
responsibilities, their needs, and future plans, it is time to establish measurable
performance expectations. The following questions will help you prioritize and create
measurable statements.

• What tasks and results are important to the department or
organization’s success? And why?

• How will you measure successful or unsuccessful

• From your point of view, what will the employee need to do
or need form you to be successful?

• From your point of view, what are the priorities?

• When do you expect to see progress and how will it be

Use the SMART Model to Set Expectations

S - Specific – In concrete terms, identify exactly what is to be achieved

M - Measurable – Use precise quantitative or qualitative measure to define results

A - Attainable and Agreed Upon – Challenging but achievable. (Numerous social
psychology experiments reveal that once individuals or teams become enthused with
the goal setting process, they set their goals too high!)

R - Realistic – Relate to institutional/departmental priorities

T - Timely – Identify clear deadlines and checkpoints. The goal should normally be
accomplished within a one-year time frame, but, when the goal stretches beyond a
year, year-end milestones should be identified


SMART Model Explored

SPECIFIC: Goals should be straightforward and emphasize what you want to happen

Specifics help us to focus our efforts and clearly define what we are going to do.
Specific is the What, Why, and How of the SMART model.

WHAT: are you going to do? Use action words such as direct, organize, coordinate, lead,
develop, plan, build etc.

WHY: is this important to do at this time? What do you want to ultimately accomplish?

are you going to do it? (By…)

Non-specific goal:
I will improve my computer skills.

Specific goal:
Since I have transferred into a new position and will be responsible for developing and
maintaining lengthy documents, it is important for me to learn how to efficiently and
effectively use word-processing tools. By June of 2005, I will learn new word processing
skills such as merging letters, techniques for formatting long documents and developing
databases. To learn these new skills, I will take an advanced Word class and will
immediately practice by working on the department instruction manual.
Non-specific goal:
Improve interdepartmental communications

Specific goal:
To improve the department’s response time and service to the campus community, I will
immediately work toward timely communication of information to other staff within my
area. Efforts will include: lead quarterly sessions where we talk about progress and
concerns; designate a bulletin board where we will post the status of key projects;
circulate minutes from the staff meeting and train student workers on the kinds of
correspondence that routinely need to be circulated.


Not a SMART goal:
Instruct classes; meet with subject matter experts regularly to design instructional
materials, evaluate training.

How would this goal be measured? In aggregate, or by element?
What defines acceptable range of performance?
What is timeframe? Is it attainable within the plan year?
What is ultimate desired result – cost savings or operating efficiency?

Meets the SMART test:
Improve instructional content of classes by regularly meeting with subject matter experts
and continually evaluating training classes by:
- Increase instructional knowledge in SES by sharing instructional design journal articles
on a monthly basis with my coworkers.
- Meet at least three times with subject matter experts before a training class is delivered.
The first meeting will set up the expectations and general content structure of the
class. The second meeting will be an established time to go over a rough draft of the
instructional material. The third meeting will validate the final instructional
materials can be used in the established training class.
- Evaluate each training class based on feedback received from course evaluations and
director verbal feedback.

Measurability is the second element of the SMART Model. This characteristic should not
be confused with quantitative or numeric definition. Certainly, use of numeric goals does
add a clarity and servitude to the objective statement, but many initiatives and alternative
results within this organization were not suitable for a numeric definition. In such cases,
the objective statement should sufficiently define the targeted results so that the people in
charge with assessing goal completion and even an independent third party could
determine if results were there or not there. Often, this element of the objective
development process is the most challenging. When defining a project or initiative as an
objective, one needs to think carefully about the measurable aspects of the targeted result,
such as cost aspects, timing factors and quality factors. An important part of the
qualitative standard is often user feedback on the impact of the completed project or
completed initiative. The objective statement should describe enough of these key impact
factors so that the user or customer focus is properly addressed in the overall statement.


How will you know that you have met your goal?

? Goals should be defined in clearly measurable terms, either quantitative or non-
quantitative, so that the actual level of performance achieved can be accurately assessed
against the targeted results.

? Goals should describe the desired outcome, not just the tasks or action items planned to
produce the outcomes.

? Measurements must be defined for both quantitative and non-quantitative areas.

Quantitative Areas

? How many
? How much
? Percentage increases
? Revenue realization
? Number of days
? Number of calls, etc.

Non-Quantitative Areas (Qualitative)

? Opinion surveys
? Customer response
? Change in observable behavior


Document Outline
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