Defining Expectations Leads to Productivity Acceleration

When employees know what their managers expect from them, they are more likely to feel connected to their employers. This is one of the findings of the Gallup Q12, a survey that measures twelve key expectations employees need to feel engaged at work. Gallup discovered that, “engagement scores reveal that those with high Q12 scores exhibit lower turnover, higher sales growth, better productivity, better customer loyalty and other manifestations of superior performance.” (1)

To see how the Q12 works in the “real world,” we posted each of the twelve questions on social media sites and analyzed the results. In this series of articles, you’ll discover why employee engagement matters.

Q12, question number one, “Do you know what is expected of you at work?”

Ellen, an Executive Director at a local college, was in charge of her institution’s training department. Because she was left to her own devices, she often questioned whether top management noticed her efforts. Ellen received her answer during an executive meeting when her supervisor told her that the organization was launching a brand new service model. They invited Ellen to be in charge of the training effort, and flew her to a three-day seminar on Exceptional Service. Ellen shared, “I learned more in that program than in all the workshops and seminars I had ever attended, and was able to help launch an incredible service model that is in use to this day. My employer invested in me, and it made all the difference.”

Why did this work? Ellen’s employer not only invested in her by sending her to training, they also allowed her to use her skills, knowledge and talents in a new way. When management set high expectations for her, they boosted her confidence level. This new role also gave her the opportunity to take on more responsibility and in so doing created a win/win situation – the company gained a more versatile employee as well as a successful new service model for the company, and Ellen realized that management noticed and appreciated her efforts.

Author, speaker and journalist, Caitlin, began her career as a reporter for a large, national daily paper. Being in such a tough and competitive environment, Caitlin realized that making the front page was like climbing Mount Everest. She achieved the pinnacle of her professional pursuits when one of her articles finally made it to the coveted front-page spot. Soon afterwards, Caitlin received a one-word, hand-written note from her managing editor that simply said, ‘Magnificent.’ Although this happened decades ago, Caitlin shares, “It made me feel deeply grateful that I could cut it at that level and that someone with such high standards liked my work. I was lucky that he was emotionally generous enough to share that praise with me. I still have that note and treasure it. Praise is very rare in my business.”

Why did this work? The key point in this story is that an event that happened decades ago was still having such a profound impact. The transformational moment in Caitlin’s career happened with a single word, ‘Magnificent’. Although it is expected in the publishing world for reporters to give their very best effort on each article, it’s important to acknowledge that these efforts are being done by people who thrive on encouragement from their superiors. It’s critical to catch your staff doing things right and to recognize them with sincere words of praise.

When employees have a clear understanding of what management expects from them at work, they excel. Investing in training and providing accurate job descriptions, are key components to meeting and exceeding expectations in the organization. When you let your employees do what they do well, and take the time to give them honest and sincere praise for their efforts, you will have a more productive, happy and engaged staff.


(1) Thackray, J. (2001, March 15). Feedback for real. Gallup Management Journal.

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