Setting expectations for work that will be delivered is a 2-way process between the staff member and their manager.

The process should focus on 4 questions:

  • What is the staff member expected to deliver and why?
  • What does ‘good’ look like?
  • How well is the staff member performing against these expectations?
  • What do they need to do to develop?

The SMART model is a useful framework for discussing and agreeing expectations — whether these are expectations for performance over a whole year or related to a specific task. 

Specific: what is the desired result?

Goals need to define the specific results to be achieved. Vague goals can feel overwhelming and unachievable. For example, “We are going to concentrate on sharing knowledge,” is vague. It is better to set specific steps which are clearly and readily understood, such as “Each week, have one team member present on a topic requested by other team members. Create a roster so that every team member has an opportunity to present.”

Measurable: how much, how many, how well?

Verify that an objective measurement is available to gauge the achievement of the goal. If the goal cannot be measured, then it cannot be properly managed. Words such as ‘more’, ‘better’ and ‘improved’ are vague and do not include any form of assessment. Be specific. Think about, “What will I hear or see that will let me know this goal has been successfully achieved?” Describe an observable performance standard. Ideally, this performance standard is quantifiable, but frequently is qualitative.

Achievable: is it realistic for the competency level, time, and resources?

Ensure there will be appropriate resources and support to achieve the goal so that your staff member can succeed. Create stretch and set goals that are challenging and achievable.

Relevant: how does it relate to the team/organisation purpose?

Goals should be relevant with a clear purpose and the ‘big picture’ in mind. Connection between a goal and the wider purpose of the organisation or the team is important. Team members should believe in the goal and know that it is within their reach to accomplish.

Time-bound: when will it be achieved?

Identify a timeframe for when a goal should be achieved. It’s okay to have both long- and short-term goals, but without a deadline, accountability is easily lost.