For the Love of People

Great (and Clear) Expectations: How to Prioritize Performance Well

October 18, 2023
November 7, 2023
Amanda Jackson
Lattice Team


Ask those in the working world what they need to perform at their best, and you’ll get a range of answers. (Trust us — we asked.) Some will identify wellness-focused elements like flexible working policies. Others will mention performance-related aspects like recognition. 

Ultimately, employees need support with both performance and wellbeing, and a successful company culture strikes a balance between the two.

Ross McDonald, Perkbox’s country manager for Australia and New Zealand, has a passion for performance-wellness alignment. As a leader for the employee benefits and rewards platform, McDonald shared how Perkbox practices what it preaches, ensuring employees know what’s expected of them and that they feel personally supported.

The Importance of Performance and How to Prioritize It

During economic downturns, companies focus intently on productivity and profits. But leaders must prioritize performance carefully if they want employees to thrive.

Too often, people see a coworker get promoted without understanding what they did to advance. If employees wonder, “What are my leaders looking for?” it’s a sign they don’t understand their performance expectations, and that’s a big problem.

“Businesses owe it to their people to be clear what performance they’re seeking and what performance is good and valued,” McDonald said. 

Leaders can start the process of clarifying expectations by updating onboarding and training plans. They should also guide employees to break bad habits they may have picked up when they were first hired.

When employees know what positive performance looks like, they’re able to deliver good work while also maintaining a strong sense of wellbeing. That’s key to alignment.

How Perkbox Balances Performance and Wellbeing

With companies increasingly focused on profitability (and employees more aware of culture), balancing performance and wellbeing is a challenge for HR leaders. 

But they shouldn’t view these priorities as an either/or. “We get into trouble [when] we think it's one or the other.…The valuable part is working out how to make them work together,” McDonald said. 

How does Perkbox make its performance expectations work together with employees’ wellbeing? McDonald attributed success in this area to two company traits.

1. Explicit Company Values

Perkbox’s four core company values are trust, spirit, unity, and curiosity. “We talk about them all the time,” McDonald said.

Trust is a critical element of employee wellbeing at Perkbox because it leads people to operate as if their coworkers are trying to do the right thing. If someone does wrong, the onus is on the other person to understand why or to assess what information they didn’t provide, rather than moving to a place of blame.

Trust builds up between two people slowly through “transactions” which show that each person is trustworthy. The transactions build a foundation for assuming that things will go well. Over time, both people see that the risk of the other person doing something harmful (especially intentionally) is low.

At Perkbox, leading with trust helps employees balance performance expectations with a supportive environment.

2. Responsibility for Culture

A second way Perkbox strikes a balance between performance and wellbeing is by making one person responsible for culture and wellbeing at the company. This person, also a busy marketing manager, is tasked with thinking about Perkbox’s culture. 

It isn’t her job to solve all possible culture-related problems. But it is her responsibility to bring employees together around wellbeing topics — raising any issues, ensuring they’re heard, and helping everyone reach solutions. 

Luckily, as an employee benefits platform, Perkbox has access to the tools and systems needed to resolve its internal culture issues easily. However, having one person who is responsible for overseeing wellbeing ensures it remains a priority alongside performance.

The Features of Impactful People Programs

A people program is only as good as its results, and success starts with understanding your unique company. “You need the level of detail that makes that [program] meaningful for the people that you’re talking to,” McDonald said. 

For instance, career development looks different at a professional services consulting firm versus a manufacturing plant, but employees at both organizations value career growth. HR directors need to tailor people programs to staff needs. Successful people initiatives make the organization’s values clear and consistent, listen to employees, and match the values with employee needs.

McDonald has also seen results from employee listening programs, but he cautions that companies shouldn’t simply go through the motions. “There is no point asking your employees for feedback in any way, shape, or form if you're not going to listen to it and [take] action [on] it,” he explained. 

Taking action doesn’t mean doing everything employees suggest immediately. The goal is to show employees that leadership is listening, make changes that are within scope, and find ways to address other issues over time.

The bottom line? Don’t make employees feel like their feedback is ignored. Take it from McDonald: “If you’re going to do continuous feedback, just make sure that you’re prepared to act.”


This article features ideas from “Are we doing enough to set our employees (and our businesses) up for success?” the eighth installment of our webinar series, For the Love of People. Visit our library of on-demand webinars for more.