Think of the last interview you had. You may have walked into an unknown office to meet a random group of people for the first time. The interview may have lasted an hour (or more) and these individuals took turns asking you a variety of questions about your skills & experience at a previous job.

The process may have been a bit daunting; you leave the office and wait for a follow-up.

A few days later, you receive an email; you got the job!

Fast forward a few weeks. It's your first day on the job. You feel pretty comfortable about what the job requires, after all, you spent a few hours during the interview process learning a bit more about key responsibilities and what the day-to-day of the job requires. You've done the same work before, so it should be a breeze.

Fast forward another couple weeks.

Something is up. Your new coworkers seem pretty happy with your work, but there seems to be some miscommunication about how you are supposed to do the work. It's almost like there's an unspoken expectation that everyone else knows...except you. This was never communicated during the hiring process either. You're not a mind-reader, so you assume that over time, you'll figure this stuff out.

This ambiguity drives you nuts. You were a star performer in the same exact role at a previous company; now you're struggling. What gives?

What vs. How

The story above illustrates the current reality of hiring, internal transfers, or anytime you're looking for someone new to fit a particular role at your company. This story paints a picture about the "what" and the "how" that a role requires.

Currently, most jobs are focused on the "what" - these are the tasks, duties, and responsibilities that the job requires. For the most part, this can easily be deduced. It's the stuff you see in a job posting.

The "how" is much tougher to have conversations about. How should you go about performing the key responsibilities of what the job entails? What behavior is encouraged/discouraged in a particular role?

In many scenarios, these role expectations are the difference between success or failure in a new role.

Example: an actor/actress

Let's use an example to illustrate this point a bit more. Imagine you are the director of a movie and you're looking to find someone to play the main character. You recruit someone for the position - what do you think one of the first questions will be?

"Can I see the script?"

The script provides a foundation for how you are expected to behave in the movie. Currently, this doesn't exist for the workplace, but it should.

Setting Role Expectations

Let's look back at the example at the beginning of the post; what caused the variance between the job at a previous company vs. the current one? How can this process be more transparent and minimize abiguity?

We recommend the following process:

Documenting Behavioral Expectations

The first step to improving this process revolves around key internal stakeholders defining the expectations (or behaviors) that the role requires in a structured way.

This can be influenced by the following factors:

  1. Organizational culture (company-wide behavioral "norms")
  2. Team composition (the people you work with)
  3. The customer/target market (what behavioral expectations do your customers have?)

Ideally, you should ask stakeholders what behaviors are most important in the role (as well as the behaviors that are discouraged).

For example, if you're managing a cross-functional team, the following behaviors may be critical:

  1. Involve people in a discussion of how things should be done
  2. Motivate others by promoting the benefits of teamwork and collaboration
  3. Asking for feedback at regular intervals

Next, the following behaviors may be discouraged in the role:

  1. Do work personally to maintain quality and accuracy
  2. Minimize time spent in small talk and social chatter
  3. Require that others display a sense of urgency or work at fast pace.

The phrases above are descriptive for a reason because it serves as a conversational piece and helps eliminate platitudes.

Naturally, some differences in perspective will emerge, which is why it's important to compare the individual results and develop a consensus for what the key behavioral requirements are. You should perform this process before you start the interview process.

Conveying Behavioral Expectations

At this point, you should have a list of key behaviors that a role entails, developed by the people who have the best understanding of what the role actually requires.

The next step is to convey the behavioral expectations that the role requires to the candidate and dig deeper. For example, if stakeholders agreed that "involving people in a discussion of how things should be done" is a critical requirement for the role, it may be a good idea to ask the candidate the following question:

"Describe a time when you had to involve a variety of people in making a decision. How did you do this?"

Since you defined the behaviors you are looking for beforehand, you now have a rubric to facilitate the interview process in a much more structured way and eliminate bias.

That's not all. You can even use this information post-hire as a coaching tool. The reality is that one person will never check all the behavioral boxes you have for a role, so developing strategies for overcoming these "gaps" can have a huge impact.

Improve this process with Crystal

At Crystal, our personality engine is based heavily on the DISC behavioral framework, which as the name suggests, is a way of mapping natural behaviors.

We're working on improving the process outlined in a variety of ways. For example:

  1. We can generate behavioral descriptive phrases automatically for a variety of situations (managing a team, coaching, delegating, etc) so you don't have to come up with them yourself.
  2. Behavioral statements can be mapped to the Crystal DISC circumplex, so you can see where key behaviors are grouped.
  3. Compare candidates (or existing employees) to the key behaviors of the role. Identify gaps that exist and automatically generate questions you can ask (or ways you can help coach the individual).

If you are interested in getting early access to this feature, please contact us at hello [at] crystalknows [dot] com.

Wrapping up

In conclusion, you can save yourself time and headaches by defining the behavioral expectations for a role. It's also great for the employee (or candidate) as there's less ambiguity.