Employees know far less about employer expectations than their managers may realize—an October report from Gallup of 1,000 employed adults found that only about half of the employees surveyed had a clear understanding of what was expected of them at work.
That means that fully half of employees are unsure about their career development. They do not know if they are on the right path or what they need to do to succeed in their roles.
And that makes for a bleak picture, which highlights a disconnect in today’s workplaces. Because, when leaders and employees are not communicating properly, goals are unclear, progress stalls, and objectives are not reached.
Here are a few steps to get employees and managers on a clear path for professional development, for the sake of the employee and the company:
1. Focus job descriptions.
Start at the very beginning. Setting employees up on a fulfilling career path starts with the job description. Most employers approach the job description as a list of requirements or only an ad to sell their company culture. But that description really serves as an employee’s first introduction to a new role. Think of it as the entry point to the performance management process.
There is good reason to do that. Some 85% of candidates surveyed by CareerBuilder in 2015 said that clearly defined job duties and responsibilities positively influenced their decision to apply. But, first, the description needs to accurately represent the position; otherwise, new employees will be set up for failure. They will think they were hired to do one thing, but their managers will expect them to do another.
And that is a recipe for disaster: Before the new hire even starts the job, he or she is already on a different page than management.
How to fix it: Take the time to understand the job before writing the description. Ask managers what they expect from the candidate, and inquire from current employees what they need on their team. Use these responses to draft a description. Then, put yourself in the place of the new hire reviewing it. Does the description accurately reflect the responsibilities of the job? Is it focused? Are the expectations clear?
2. Create and evaluate job families.
With an accurate job description in hand, employees can start the job knowing what is expected of them—but do they know where they are going? Do they understand future expectations or how to advance down their career path?
In a 2015 SHRM survey of 600 employees, 83% said career advancement was important or very important to them, but only 20% were very satisfied with how their company was addressing this need.
And that begs the question: If employees do not know what is expected from them, how can they know how to advance?
While some employees may not be growing as much as their managers expect them to, some managers do not recognize when their employees are taking on more responsibilities. In fact, 2014 research from the Office of the Future found that 41% of administrative professionals surveyed said they felt that their job description had become inaccurate, given their new duties.
How to fix it: Use "job families" to show employees a clear career path and to help managers recognize when employees are ready to move up. Job families are groupings of similar jobs, showing their inter-relationships and structure in terms of their responsibilities, pay, and advancement.
Job families detail what is expected from employees at each level, what requirements are needed and how to progress along a given career path in an organization.
Also encourage HR and managers to create job families that accurately reflect development within the company. If these groupings are already in place, review them to make sure they are clear and correct. When developing these structures, focus on what people do at each level, not their job titles.
Above all, make these career paths transparent and accessible for employees. Share your company's job families, explain them, and make them available on the HR platform employees regularly use.
3. Align personal and organizational goals.
Job families help employees know what to do to reach the next level of their career. They can help employees set goals—but do these goals align with their managers' goals? What about the goals of the organization overall?
Probably not. The Gallup survey found that just 32% of respondents said their manager helps them set performance goals. In addition, a 2015 survey of North American employees conducted by Achievers found that 6% did not even know their company’s mission, and an additional 57% said they were not motivated by that mission.
How to fix it: Managers need to help employees set goals that align with the company’s mission and objectives. First, review the company mission and vision with employees. Remind them of what they are working toward and how their job contributes to this overall purpose. Then, have managers and employees set goals together, with the mission as a focal point.
Sharing these personal goals with the whole team can keep employees and managers focused, suggests research from the Dominican University of California: Study participants who wrote down their goals, shared them with others, and sent weekly updates to friends were 33% more successful in meeting these objectives, on average.
In addition, a 2015 report from Bersin by Deloitte suggested that high-performing companies should make individual work goals public for all to see. Sharing goals can help keep employees and managers on track, accountable for their performance, and ultimately on the same page.
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