How expectations fuel workforce engagement
Look at any successful partnership. You’ll find two parties who feel their expectations are being met. And if both aren’t on the same page? The relationship fades or dies.
Employer-employee relationships are no exception. Sticking power comes from mutual understanding and a commitment to meeting expectations on both sides. But when employees’ expectations are frustrated, they react in ways that cause disruption—whether that means quitting, showing up less often, or paying less attention to their jobs.
As an employer, you need to balance employee wants and needs with your own standards for performance. By focusing on expectations, you can address the causes of disengagement in a way that enables you to do both.
Why expectations matter more than “satisfaction”
Many tools (such as surveys and pulse checks) exist to measure employee satisfaction. They often use eNPS, or employee Net Promoter Score, to provide a simple rating of how your team members feel about their jobs.
Unfortunately, these tools and measurements only go so far. They can reveal symptoms, but they don’t dig beneath the surface to show what is driving problems with engagement. In addition, periodic surveys and measurements only offer a glimpse of your workforce at one point in time.
How can you escape this trap? Go beyond mere satisfaction and start looking at expectations.
When someone comes to work for you, they bring many beliefs about what they can expect on the job. Such beliefs not only shape employees’ experiences but also directly impact engagement and performance. When too many expectations go unmet, you risk losses to morale, retention, productivity, customer service, and reputation.
By zeroing in on employee expectations, you can understand the root causes of turnover, burnout, and disengagement. You also gain a consistent benchmark to measure success or failure day by day. As a result, managers, HR teams, and executives can make decisions that tangibly impact employee behavior over time.
What challenges do employers face?
As an employer, you need to account for a few fundamental challenges to keep your relationships with employees on track.
Everyone in your workforce is different.
Every employee has their own experience, background, values, and personality. As a result, people may radically differ in their expectations for their jobs. A sound decision-making process will consider these differences, as one-size-fits-all policies could alienate valuable employees.
For instance, hybrid and remote work policies require a clear understanding of individual expectations to work. Many employees, especially in the past few years, have grown accustomed to the freedom and flexibility of a largely remote work schedule. Others may have social and professional expectations that mesh more with an in-person environment or fall between the two extremes.
Such expectations don’t necessarily break down neatly along demographics or other categories. Someone’s age, for instance, is not a reliable indicator of their attitudes toward remote work. To make strong decisions, you need to build an accurate picture of your workforce from the bottom up, not the top down.
That doesn’t mean you have to satisfy every employee expectation. Your hybrid and remote work policies, or any others, will ultimately reflect your company’s needs. But you’ll make better choices if you understand what you’re dealing with—and that begins with a strong understanding of expectations on an individual level.
Expectations and conditions are constantly changing.
What employees expect from their jobs can evolve over time. If employers don’t keep up, they risk losing hearts and minds.
On an individual level, changing conditions can put employees’ expectations to the test—for example, when someone becomes a parent or has to adjust to a new supervisor. On a large scale, remote work and generational change are reshaping people’s attitudes toward their professional lives. Employers need to understand these shifts to ensure the expectations of employees, managers, and leadership are all aligned.
Lack of visibility lets mistaken assumptions flourish.
How are expectations shaping your employees’ experiences? Most organizations lack the data and insights to answer this crucial question.
For one thing, people tend to leave many expectations unvoiced until their frustrations boil over. By then, it’s too late to solve the problem. Meanwhile, a lack of reliable data leads managers and leaders to follow their intuition, which can easily lead them astray.
For example, a recent Gallup study examined the differences between “blenders,” who prefer to mingle their personal and professional lives, and “splitters,” who want a work schedule that clearly divides the two. Gallup asked CHROs to estimate what proportion of employees fell into each category.
Gallup found that 55 percent of white-collar employees were blenders, and 45 percent were splitters—a near even divide. CHROs, however, thought 76 percent were blenders and only 24 percent were splitters.
In short, the HR leaders underestimated how many employees think a 9-to-5 schedule is most appropriate for their jobs. When employers rely on such mistaken assumptions instead of actionable data, they can violate expectations without even knowing it.
Winning the expectations game
These challenges drove us to create Work Climate, one of Vantage Point’s most important feature sets. It’s a simple way to monitor expectations, gain insight into your relationships with employees, and reduce internal disruptions.
Let’s see how Work Climate helps you manage the reality of a diverse, always-changing workforce.
Focus on core expectations.
Unlike survey tools, Work Climate enables you to monitor and assess the root causes of high turnover, burnout, and disengagement for individuals, locations, and departments. In a world of constant change, you can’t measure everything—so it makes sense to focus on the categories of expectations that have the most impact:
Communication: Employees expect clarity about managers’ expectations, their own responsibilities, and upcoming changes that affect their jobs.
Workload: Employees expect a balanced workload with tasks that are reasonable and achievable on the given timelines.
Relationships: Employees expect supportive peers, effective collaboration, and supervisors who treat them with respect.
Schedule: More and more employees expect work-life balance and work schedules that consider their personal needs.
All these expectations represent variables that you, as the employer, can influence and control. When you set out to solve a problem, they provide concrete metrics to help you assess whether your actions are working.
Treat every employee as an individual.
Because every person is different, you need to monitor and address expectations at an individual level, not just in the aggregate.
Work Climate monitors and grades how every employee is feeling about their communication, workload, relationships, and schedule. Case management workflows enable you to investigate signs of trouble more deeply and provide personalized support to employees.
Need to know what’s happening at a larger scale? Zoom out to view signals for entire teams or your workforce as a whole. Work Climate builds this big-picture view from the bottom up, looking at individual expectations rather than generalizations from survey data.
Keep up with constant, unpredictable change.
Periodic surveys fail to capture the continuous and often rapid shifts that affect turnover and engagement. What you need is ongoing, consistent monitoring and data.
Work Climate gauges employee expectations and delivers actionable data every day, not every month or quarter. As a manager or supervisor, you can drill down into individual employee records to see their history and any actions that have been taken to address their concerns. You can also see broader trends over time for teams or your workforce as a whole.
Bring data and actions to decision-makers.
Busy managers, HR teams, and executives can’t spend their time mired in data gathering and analysis. Instead, Work Climate actively highlights emerging problems and helps your decision makers solve them before relationships are beyond repair.
Work Climate simplifies your process by bringing the right data and actions to decision-makers. Automated alerts draw your attention to the warning signs of turnover and burnout. When a problem emerges, you get options and tools to act right away—so you don’t waste time puzzling over what to do next.
Keep expectations aligned for success
When managers and HR teams struggle to address expectations, it isn’t necessarily their fault. Employers need better systems to understand what their people expect and where work environments are falling short, day by day.
By targeting employee expectations, Vantage Point’s Work Climate toolset empowers you to minimize the impact of internal workforce disruptions. That means you can reduce costly staffing gaps and keep your operations going strong.