Expectation management as a crucial element in managing the employee experience

By Dr Lydia Cillié-Schmidt

If one accepts the definition of employee experience by Tracy Maylett  and Matthew Wride (The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results. 2017) then expectation management plays a focus role in managing the employee experience. They define the employee experience (EX) as the sum of the various perceptions that employees have about their interactions with the organization in which they work as expressed in the formula: EX = Experiences + Expectations + Perceptions. According to this view there could either be expectation alignment or a gap that could lead to expectation alignment dysfunction, impacting on the employee experience.

Expectation management takes place across the employee-lifecycle. Let’s look at the different aspects of the employee lifecycle and the type of expectations that should be managed:

Employee Lifecycle Phase Expectations that should be managedTools that could be used to ensure alignment 
Attraction. During this phase of   the lifecycle the potential employee becomes aware of the opportunity,  considers it and may or may not show interest.The potential employee’s   expectations during this phase focus mainly on the perceived value of   pursuing the opportunity. The organisation’s brand, the employer brand and the Employment Value Proposition (EVP) informs these expectations. The EVP Profiler by Advanced Workforce Strategies (www.advancedworkforcestrategies.com) helps to determine the mix of tangibles and intangibles for the role in question and informs the role profile and job advertisements.
Application, selection and hiring phaseDuring this phase the potential employee decides that his/her expectations regarding the role, the organisation, the rewards, the development opportunities, etc. at the prospective organisation have a high likelihood  of being met and applies for the role. The candidate experience during the selection and hiring phase will either confirm these expectations or indicate that they will not be met.Candidate experience mapping may be useful to establish all the touchpoints during the candidate journey and identify where expectations are being met and where more can be done to meet expectations. The EVP Profiler by Advanced Workforce Strategies (www.advancedworkforcestrategies.com) may also be useful during this phase to do a Realistic Job Preview (RJP), matching candidates’ expectations with the Employment Value Proposition.
Onboarding. During the on-boarding process the organisation has definite expectations of the new employee, and the employee also has expectations regarding his/her new work situation.The expectations of all the stakeholders involved in onboarding, typically focus on the 4 C’s as identified by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to create a successful onboarding programme: Compliance includes teaching employees basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations. Clarification refers to ensuring that employees understand their new jobs and all related expectations. Culture includes providing employees with a sense of organizational norms— both formal and informal. Connection refers to the vital interpersonal relationships and information networks that new employees must establish.Providing line managers and new employees with an expectation alignment framework and toolkit during this phase could be useful. The framework could include a series of questions by the line manager to facilitate the new employee opening up about his/her expectations and allowing the line manager to discuss the organisation’s expectations. A well-designed on-boarding programme and plan will also help to ensure expectation alignment during this phase.   The EVP Profiler by Advanced Workforce Strategies (www.advancedworkforcestrategies.com)  could also be used after three months to do a post-recruitment expectations delivery check (i.e. checking whether the promise or the “deal” has been delivered).
Maintain, develop and grow. This phase is of an unspecified duration and lasts as long as the employee remains with the organisation. As the employment situation is dynamic, both the employee’s and the organisation’s expectations may change several times during this period.The organisation’s expectations are mainly influenced by its strategy and what needs to be done to achieve the strategy within the context of changes in the external environment. The employee’s expectations may be influenced by various factors – personal and business-related. During this stage of the employee journey it is important for the organisation to keep its finger on the pulse of employee expectations to ensure continuous alignment and subsequent employee engagement.During this phase several tools can be used to ensure expectation alignment. For example: Employee experience journey mappingPerformance dialogue sessionsCareer discussionsVarious feedback mechanisms – pulse surveys, annual surveys, etc.
ExitEven during this phase, the employee and the organisation may have to do expectation alignment. The employee may be leaving as a result of expectation alignment dysfunction or other reasons, and organisations would usually like to establish the reasons for the exit so that they can make adjustments to ensure better staff retention in future.The exit interview remains an important tool during this process to understand where expectation misalignment may have happened. Some companies do surveys 18 months after the employee has left to get a less biased view, as the ex-employee has achieved more distance from the situation.

As Tracy Maylett  and Matthew Wride said in an interview at https://www.decision-wise.com/employee-experience-interview-authors/, “one’s engagement is less dependent on foosball tables, Taco Tuesdays, benefits, and compensation than it is on whether the individual’s expectations are met. Much of our employee experience perception is based on how well expectations are fulfilled. If expectations aren’t aligned, an expectation gap is created, causing disengagement”. It is therefore worthwhile to explore exactly how expectation alignment could be facilitated.

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