According to Gallup, the single most important question for a company to get right is for your employees to say: “I know what’s expected of me at work.” Don’t even bother looking at the rest of the survey unless your people are crushing it here. You might think, “Of course my people know what’s expected of them! We trained them, and they execute their jobs every day.” Not so fast. When you start digging into what this really means to individual employees, you quickly discover that many of them don’t fully know (or feel that they know) what is expected of them. I’ve seen this first hand at my companies as well as others – founders, CEOs, and managers dumbstruck when their best and longest employees reveal that they don’t really know what’s expected of them. What?!?
Well, for starters, no one ever asked them directly if they knew what was expected of them. And, of course, most employees don’t voluntarily walk into their boss’s office and say, “Hey, I’m not fully aware of what I am supposed to do here.” They may not be fully aware of how what they do supports the company. They may not understand why what they do is important or how what they do affects other departments. When measuring their performance, they may not understand the importance of their particular measurements. In many smaller companies, employees are not officially measured at all adding to their frustration of not knowing what’s expected of them.
A mentor of mine once said, “No one gets up in the morning and thinks, ‘I’m going to do a bad job today.’ Deep down, everyone wants to do a good job.” I think that’s true. Now, imagine an employee wakes up, wants to have a great day, and wants to do a great job at work. During their day, they think, “What happens with these reports after I complete them?” or “Does it really matter if this shipment goes out today?” or “This step makes no sense – I’m just going to stop doing it.” Not having the answers to these types of questions frustrates and disempowers them. And, to make matters worse, the longer this goes on, the harder and more embarrassing it is to ask for help. We’ve all had the experience of being in a conversation with someone where we cannot remember their name. As the conversation continues, it becomes impossible to ask. Not knowing fully what to do in your position creates the same sense of anxiety and helplessness.
One of the best ways for your staff to know what’s expected of them is for them to enjoy accessing and learning company processes. To do that well, your processes must be clearly documented, standardized (both content and appearance), easy to access, and in a form that they enjoy interacting with.
Most companies have documented their processes, but far fewer take the time to standardize them as well. A standardized document or source gives the trainee or the long-time employee confidence that they completely understand what they are reading or listening to. When a source is not standardized, even if the reader doesn’t notice it consciously, they know, deep down, that something isn’t right. So, great companies standardize their content. Exceptional companies take it a small step farther and make their standardized content exciting and engaging as well.