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How to Outline Employee Expectations

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When technicians leave the shop for the day, how do they know they were successful? Is it based on their efficiency? Their productivity?

Assuming they hear no feedback from a manager or an owner, they continue to work in their usual way, unless otherwise stipulated. The issue, however, isn’t necessarily the technician’s fault; it’s that they have not been given proper expectations.

“You’d be surprised how many techs don’t know,” says Jim Piraino, business development coach for Elite.

After owning a successful shop for 33 years, Piraino stresses the importance of setting expectations to his clients, particularly those with new hires, to make sure that they are letting the new hire know exactly what is expected of them. That includes everything from the highest level of expectation to the minimum levels of acceptable performance (MLAP).

Without the mutual understanding of expectation between the employee and employer, it not only creates confusion, but also leaves the employee wondering where they stand—a feeling that doesn’t help your employee retention.

Piraino gives a few key steps for helping create a better system for outlining and maintaining set expectations, leading to lifelong employees.


The Basics of Setting Expectations

1. The employee handbook. Piraino advises that your policies and job-specific duties need to be written. A handbook is a living document and is subject to change, he says. You can have a handbook that is specific to the business and a separate handbook that is specific to a position. Piraino says that there are many templates out there that you can own and adapt to fit your business needs.

As with any handbook, outline HR issues such as sick time, vacation pay and sexual harassment, Piraino says. Then you can move into company policies, such as dress code and behavior. If you choose to make it job specific, this is where you can outline your employee expectations, such as minimum efficiency or productivity levels. Piraino’s had two copies of the last page of his handbook, one of which the employee had to sign.

Lori Kleiman, managing facilitator of HR Topics, says that signing isn’t mandatory by law, but without a signature, it’s useless. This way, employees can’t claim that they didn’t know of a certain policy.

 It’s best to make your handbook specific to at-will employment because it reinforces the law that anyone can be fired at any time with or without cause, according to Kleiman.

Since the handbook is subject to change, Piraino says to update as needed, such as if a work incident inspires a new policy, or a state law changes (in regard to labor, sick time, etc.).

For example, Piraino wrote his handbook before cell phones were popular. Once they became so popular that his techs had them in their hands all the time, he had to write a policy that limited their use of them.

Use general verbs such as “generally or might.” That wording indicates that these policies or rules may change in the future, Kleiman says.

The biggest mistake you can make is copying someone else’s handbook, whether that is from a friend, family member or the Internet. By doing that, you run the risk of grabbing policies that may not apply to the size of your business. And, the policies are different depending not only on size of business, but also according to state and local law.

A great policy that is included in many handbooks for organizations of 50 people or more is the Family and Medical Leave Act. If you were to copy that over from one handbook to yours, you are immediately required to offer that, Kleiman says.

2. The employee review process. Piraino says that he used to do reviews in his shop and found it helpful when it came to evaluating someone's performance. The reviews, which were held every six months, evaluated quality of work, attendance, employee relations and more. Based on a 10-point system, if an employee scored a 7.25, for example, Piraino would sit down with them and work on ways to get them to an 8. He also mentioned that everyone would review each other, not just management.

“It was interesting to see how other employees rated the employee that was under review and how the employee under review rated himself,” he says.  

3. The vision. Your employee needs to know what your business is about, Piraino says. As an owner, you need to inform your new hire as to what the longterm goal for your business is, whether that means expanding or changing locations, and how they fit into that. Let them know what they can do to help. Piraino suggests a written document that outlines these goals. Also, make sure to let your employee know that you will keep them posted along the way.


Taking Expectations to the Next Level

Once your employees knows what’s expected of them, Piraino says they will want to hit and exceed those benchmarks, eventually leading to lifelong employees.

He remembers telling his employees that they were a great shop and that other shops were going to headhunt them, but because of Piraino’s encouragement and attention to expectation, he was able to retain them. How did he do so? According to Piraino, there are six key elements that need to be in place for employee tenure:

  1. Basic pay system: The tech needs to know that he can obtain a paycheck at least every week.

  2. Opportunistic income plan: Establish the base pay, but also tell them what they could make if they hit certain goals. You can incentivise it in any way you choose, as long as they know they can make more money.

  3. Reward them for exemplary performance: When they’re “superstars,” you need to make sure to take care of them.

  4. Security: Employees need to know that you want them there and that they’re not going anywhere.

  5. Reward for tenure: This doesn’t necessarily mean a pay increase, but some sort of a perk, such as extra vacation time.

  6. Leadership: Provide staff with the ability to excel and move up in the ranks.

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