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How Clearly Defining Expectations Creates Employee Engagement

Updated on January 25, 2013

First in a Series Based on the Gallup Q12

This hub is the first of a twelve-part series based the Gallup Q12. In case you're not familiar with it, the Gallup Q12 measures employee engagement. Based on feedback from 1.5 million participants, researchers discovered twelve key expectations that employees need in order to feel engaged at work. According to Gallup, "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)

This hub explores question number one of the Gallup Q12: "Do you know what is expected of you at work?”

Ellen Ryder Griffin, Executive Director, Hesser College was in charge of her company’s training department. Because she was left to her own devices, she often questioned whether her efforts were noticed by top management. Her question was finally answered when she was called into an executive meeting and was told that the organization was launching a brand new service model. They invited her to be in charge of their new training program, and sent her to a three-day program on providing Exceptional Service. Griffin says, “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? Griffin’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 a successful new service model for the company, and Griffin became more confident in what she was doing when she realized that her work was noticed and appreciated.

Author, speaker and journalist, Caitlin Kelly (www. began her career as a reporter for a national daily paper. Being in such a tough and competitive environment, Kelly felt that making the front page was a goal similar to climbing Everest. One of her articles made it to the front page, the pinnacle of her professional pursuits. She received a one-word, hand-written note from her managing editor that simply said, ‘Magnificent.’ Although this happened decades ago, Kelly 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.” (2)

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 Kelly’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 is expected from them at work, they are given the opportunity to meet AND exceed those expectations. 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.


(2) What roadblocks keep you from recognizing and appreciating ..,
MA/1047082-26269848 (accessed January 20, 2013).


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