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How To Create And Communicate Performance Standards In Your Startup

by Lior Levin

When new employees are able to become productive team members, your company receives the best return on its investment in personnel. However, companies face the challenge of providing performance standards so that their new hires understand what the management expects of them and support staff, such as trainers and managers, can provide the information new hires need to succeed.

How does a company set up performance standards for new hires and effectively communicate them? Here are some tips for this two-step process of creation and communication of expectations:

Tips for Creating Performance Standards

Customize Standards for the Job

While managers and executives will need to have concrete standards and measures in mind for a particular job, the most effective performance standards should be developed alongside new employees. This will ensure there are no misunderstandings and the employees are invested in the process.

In fact, collaborating to create a custom set of standards for employees can pay off. Arnold Anderson writes at the Small Business Chronicle, “When employees participate in creating their own performance standards, they have an increased feeling of responsibility for reaching, and even exceeding, those standards.” That isn’t to say that you start from scratch every time. Rather, you build a performance plan based on what the job requires and then modify it in light of the specific talents of each employee.

Use Quantitative and Qualitative Measures

As you develop a performance plan, take into account the outcomes and key result areas that are easy to measure and those that require more feedback. Sometimes the most important aspects of a job, such as customer satisfaction, are difficult to quantify.

Eve Ash of the training firm Seven Dimensions suggests a use of quantitative and qualitative measures in setting performance standards: “Quantitative standards relate to things that can be counted – amounts, errors, time, cost, percentage of visits, number of complaints, output etc. Qualitative standards – which relate to how well something has been done.” Consider qualitative measures such as the ability to explain customer service procedures, customer feedback, or manager evaluations.

Take Variables Into Account

There are certain factors in business that you can’t control that may impact an employee’s performance. The HR department at Indiana University suggests a helpful list of factors to consider:

  • Are there behaviors that are expected in your department to promote teamwork, leadership, creativity, customer service?
  • What results would be considered satisfactory?
  • What condition will exist when the duty is well performed?
  • What is the difference between good and poor performance?

Careful attention to mitigating factors will help you effectively determine whether employees simply fell victim to circumstances beyond their control.

Tips for Communicating Performance Standards

On the Job Training

One of the fastest ways to begin training an employee is to set up a hands-on training structure that allows them to learn on the job. This isn’t a sink or swim proposition, as supervisors must be involved throughout the process in order to explain standards and to evaluate performance.

Linda Varrell, the President of Broadreach Public, assigns tasks to her employees right away, but they have access to a supervisor throughout the day if they have any questions and then sit down for a discussion of performance.

Varrell adds, “the supervisor asks questions to encourage more creative thinking, corrects any technical or procedural errors, has the new hire explain their thought process and then sends them back for round two if necessary. Although longer and more involved at the start, this training process helps a new hire become more effective and efficient faster because they have to be responsible for their work and they have to learn how to figure things out.”

Formal Training

Depending on the nature of an employee’s task, a formal training course may be the most effective way to communicate the standards and expectations for a particular job. Former Netscape Director of Product Management Ben Horowitz suggests the following for employee training: “The training courses should be tailored to the specific job. If you attempt the more complex-style course, be sure to enlist the best experts on the team as well as the manager.”

When employees have learned from experts both what they need to do and how they can accomplish it, the investment made in training will pay off for the long haul. In addition, a formal training session provides an opportunity for conversations with your employees, learning about their strengths and weaknesses.

Bill Cushard describes a successful training session in a Business Insider article: “A training session should be a back-and-forth exchange. To borrow from Harold Stolovitch’s book title; telling people something for four hours is not training them.”

There’s no better way to improve employee performance and morale than by setting out clear standards and investing the necessary time to help them meet their goals. By creating attainable standards, effective measurements, and clear communication, your employees will be set up for success.


This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing advisor for a neon sign store that offers custom made neon and led signs such as led open signs; and who also advises for a company that offers psd to xhtml service.



This is an article contributed to Young Upstarts and published or republished here with permission. All rights of this work belong to the authors named in the article above.

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