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  • Writer's pictureThe HR Guy

The HR Guy Answers: New Year and Setting Expectations

My name is Russell Lookadoo, President and Chief Strategist for HRchitecture. I am The HR Guy for small business. My firm exists to leverage my expertise and experience in Human Resources so that the small business owner can achieve their dreams through effective use of their team.

Happy New Year and welcome to a new decade. Today I'd like to talk to you about how to start the new year on a path to success. After all isn’t success why you went into business?

Each year, companies go through a strategic planning process to set their goals for the coming calendar year. Planning is a great thing to do and is essential unless you are planning to fail.

Let's talk about how that applies to your employees. As you set your company goals, the most important thing you can do to align the goals with each individual employee is to set individual expectations in your performance management system. Notice I said “performance management system” not “performance evaluation”.

One of the biggest mistakes I see leaders make is waiting until the annual performance evaluation to hold their employees accountable for what they have not even been asked to do. No one will be successful if they don't know the definition of success.

In every satisfying sporting event there is a place where the score is kept and there are rules in place to determine what type of behavior achieves what score. For example in basketball a single shot made from the free throw line is one point. A shot made within the three-point arc is 2 points, and beyond that arc the shot is worth three points. Each player knows which action will result in which reward.

The same concept is true with your employees and performance. If they understand what their key accountabilities or the essential functions are and there is a defined standard or criteria assigned to each of those essential functions, then they have a road map for success. In the absence of that road map they may or may not be successful. Your ability to manage performance is predicated on setting expectations. Unclear expectations will result in uncertain results.

I'm not necessarily recommending that everyone have a concurrent review date where everyone's review is due on the same date each year. A lot of companies do that and it's not a bad system if it's manageable. Keeping the employee's annual review date on an anniversary of higher promotion also has some merits. That will be a topic of another video discussion. Review date is not the point, setting expectations is the most important point today.

January is a great time of year to set these individual expectations based on your business annual strategic plan. Daniel Pink, in his book, “When” suggests that you use socially recognized events to start projects, initiatives or ventures such as Mondays or the first of the month, quarter or year. This makes sense as well for setting performance standards in January. By creating alignment for individual expectations that are consistent with and cascaded from company goals, your strategic plan will successfully come to life.

Contact me ( and I will work with you to implement this process. I believe that aligning your employees with the Wildly Important Goal for your business each year will help you achieve success. After all, is that not why you started your business?!

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