Many employees leave an organization within a year of being hired because the job doesn’t meet their expectations.
Take a moment and reflect on the last time you were applying for a new job. Think about why you applied to that role. What made you seek out that opportunity?
In most cases, people apply to opportunities that align with their individual needs, but by the time they get to the interview, the focus has shifted completely to the organization’s needs. Consider your last job interview and ask yourself the following questions:
- How did I prepare for the interview?
- How did the interview go?
- Why did it turn out that way?
It is likely your answers included something about aligning yourself with the hiring organization’s needs and expectations. Rarely are the candidate’s needs and expectations addressed during the hiring process.
As interviewees, we are encouraged to practice our responses to common interview questions, show up in customary dress and convince the interviewer(s) that we are the best fit for them. As interviewers, we prepare by crafting questions that evaluate the candidate’s fitness for the role, team, company and sometimes culture. This common hiring practice can be flattering to a company at first, but ultimately quite costly. Candidates that accept a job offer are agreeing to meet the organization’s expectations and expect the organization to deliver on a reciprocal commitment. When organizations do not have a firm understanding of their employees’ needs and expectations, they are more likely to experience higher voluntary turnover rates. This phenomenon was supported by Qualtrics validation study that found differences in expectation vs. experience account for variance in retention risk.
Organizations hold employees accountable to their psychological contract by conducting performance evaluations. Performance evaluations are done annually at a minimum and are often coupled with formal and informal performance conversations throughout the year. But what about the reverse? How do employees hold their organization accountable to their psychological contract? Typically, they don’t. The average organization’s primary performance indicator is often a resignation. This begs the question:
How well are organizations upholding their end of the bargain?
To answer this question, we suggest organizations explore expectations vs. experience within their employee surveys (e.g., onboarding, engagement, and exit). Those who conduct this type of employee listening can learn where there may be issues. Common areas where expectations often fall short include job characteristics, culture fit, and opportunities for advancement.
Ensure Alignment of Messaging
In addition to utilizing employee surveys, we suggest making sure that promises and expectations communicated in recruiting align with the reality of working for your company. Companies should provide realistic job previews during the recruiting and interviewing processes to proactively close the employee experience gap (Qualtrics, 2022). What messages is your organization communicating in recruitment materials? How well do these messages align with actual work experiences?
I can recall an organization I worked with that had strong conviction to its mission statement and marketed itself as a company that valued diversity and developing leaders. The company recruited smart, highly skilled, and educated talent, but dealt with the challenge of immense turnover because they did not deliver on the values they sold applicants. While the organization was very committed to its mission and the staff was visibly diverse, the organization was susceptible to groupthink and did not provide its employees with clear ways to grow within the company. Many employees did not feel this organization made the best use of their skills and talents and, consequently, took their gifts elsewhere.
Organizations should reflect on the messages they are sending applicants during the recruiting process and consider how to build the projected values into the interviewing, hiring, and onboarding processes. Organizations can see a meaningful shift in stay intentions simply by focusing on aligning expectations and meeting the needs of both the hiring organization and the new hire early in their tenure as an employee. And remember that meeting expectations is ongoing work that doesn’t end after onboarding. Use your next survey to check in on how well your organization is meeting employee expectations over time.
Share Your Experience
Please share your experience vs. expectation stories with us in the comments below. When did a work experience meet your expectations? What did they do well? When have you seen a large gap in expectations vs. experience? What were you expecting in that instance?
Andre, L. (2022) On teams: 112 Employee Turnover Statistics: 2022 Causes, Cost & Prevention Data. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from FinancesOnline Reviews for Business, from https://financesonline.com/employee-turnover-statistics/
Qualtrics. (2022). The Future of Employee Experience: 22 Predictions for 2022. Qualtrics. Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://www.qualtrics.com/blog/future-employee-experience/.