Harini is a strategic HR Leader with proven expertise in organisational restructuring for M&A and Change Management. A design thinking practitioner, behavioral analyst, transactional analyst and innovator, she is a strong advocate of the concept of Happy Workplaces. Harini has been leading the HR function in MNCs and is a guest faculty at prominent B schools and universities.
When an employee starts working with an organisation, they are expected to perform certain tasks and deliver certain results. Likewise, employees also have some expectations from their employers. What are these expectations? Are they different for different organisations? Are they met? Is it even important to consider them? What if you don’t? Let’s implore the answers to these questions, and understand what lies on the other side, through the looking glass with Ms Harini Sreenivasan.
Alice sits in her armchair at home, drowsily watching her pet kitten, Kitty, as she unravels a ball of string. She snatches Kitty up and begins telling her about “Looking-Glass House,” an imaginary world on the other side of the mirror where everything is backward.” This is from the famous book, a sequel to ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll and will be often referred to in this article.
‘Is the ‘other side’ really going to be backward’, wondered Alisha as she sat reading her appointment letter! Alisha was interviewed by her dream company last month and had just received her contract. The feeling had just begun to sink in and along with it, a lot of apprehensions too. The three rounds of interviews and multiple interactions with the HR department did give her a vague idea about what she is getting into. She had also carried out extensive research about the company culture and what it would feel like being employed there. Suddenly the phone rang, and Alisha grabbed it frantically. She was greeted by a ‘buddy’ from her prospective employer.
Alisha realized that she was no longer a ‘candidate’ and was now transitioning into an ‘employee’. She began exploring her ‘Wonderland’.
What are Alisha’s Perceptions?
Alisha would expect the existence of a human connection in the organisation. In the words of Robin Sharma in his book ‘The Mastery Manual’, “There is a giant search for meaning within the corporate world. People are no longer willing to sacrifice fulfilment for economic benefits.”
Each day every employee wants to go to work to make a meaningful contribution. However, many a time they feel that their work does not get the recognition it deserves. Employees want to know if their opinions will be considered for decisions. They expect transparency and fairness in all processes related to their employment. Most importantly, there is an expectation of clear two-way communication where their voices shall be heard. Certain employee commitments are universal and not unique to any organisation. Anyone would agree that Alisha is not an exception and her list would include
- Hard work without compromise on quality
- Uphold organisational values and beliefs
- Invest in self-development
- Enhance customer centricity
- Demonstrate teamwork
Employees want to know if their opinions will be considered for decisions. They expect transparency and fairness in all processes related to their employment.
In return for these expectations, Alisha would expect recognition, professional enhancement, and personal fulfilment. There is a new paradigm when it comes to recognition. It is no longer just money or the more evolved ‘cash or kind’ rewards. It is instead the feeling of being valued as humans.
Let’s now see through Alisha’s ‘looking glass’ and see what’s there on the other side.
Employer’s Expectations and What are They?
Employers may often harbour a bias that employees don’t always see past their own work efforts; they don’t see the big picture and that their desire to bring value is not always aligned with business objectives. However, employers too make commitments such as –
- Providing a safe and respectful workplace
- Stimulating and challenging tasks
- Opportunities for development and growth
- Pay for performance
- Recognition of novel ideas and innovation
If you superimpose the commitments of the employees and that of the employers, you may notice that a lack of existence of a psychological contract. Sometimes there doesn’t exist an alignment of expectations because they react based on individual perspectives alone. This is when the gap that creates frustration and disengagement begins to widen. Is there a magic formula to bridge this gap? Let’s introduce the character of ‘White Knight’ from the story.
White Knight – A kind and noble companion who rescues Alice from the Red Knight and leads her to the final square. The White Knight is old with shaggy hair, pale blue eyes, and a gentle face. He is an eccentric who has invented many bizarre contraptions.
Here is the key! The white knight is the phenomenon of a change catalyst who in his bizarre and seemingly unconventional style can affect a positive change.
Sometimes there doesn’t exist an alignment of expectations because they react based on individual perspectives alone. This is when the gap that creates frustration and disengagement begins to widen.
Organisations that are forward-thinking and believe in progress have started playing the part of the White Knight. The key steps in this direction are:
1. Develop Positive Cultural Standards for Individual and Organisational Effectiveness
It is pertinent that employees feel empowered and this is the very foundation for positive work culture. This may be achieved by committing and aligning with the vision, mission, and purpose of the organisation. Transparent and consistent communication, collaborative and human approach to people and their concerns, solutions rather than complaining or consulting are all flavours of a positive culture. Organisations that have started demonstrating these are able to understand the alignment of expectations between the company and employees.
2. Build an Inclusive Value Framework
Well defined and clear objectives outline the expected values for individuals, teams and departments and these are always linked to overall business results. This clarity empowers employees to identify ‘value-added’ efforts based on achieving jointly agreed goals.
Employees are less likely to feel that they are shooting in the dark and their efforts are going unnoticed. Even if they may not like doing some of the work, they will still feel a lot accomplished and appreciated. For an organisation that is able to define it’s strengths and those of it’s employees it will be easier to specify and justify the resources needed to enable those strengths to function at their peak performance. It is therefore important to showcase the link between performance and financial results and lay emphasis on peak performance initiatives as part of its regular announcements.
Isn’t it obvious that to bridge the employee-employer expectation gap, investments should be made in resources so that they will generate results aligned with business goals?
3. Refresh the Employee Value Proposition (EVP)
EVPs have a shelf life and it is worth a timely refresh. Here are some quick tips for a healthy EVP to build a strong bridge to connect employee and employer expectations. Here are a few tips for a great EVP.
It is important to showcase the link between performance and financial results and lay emphasis on peak performance initiatives as part of its regular announcements.
Tip # 1. Create your Employee Persona
Define the characteristics, behaviours, traits, and skills that make up your employee
Tip # 2. Define Components of your EVP
Seek answers to questions like – What is the employee looking for in the company in terms of culture, remuneration, benefits, etc.
Tip # 3. Carry Out Research and Get Convincing Answers For All of the Above Questions
The answers would lead to a direction to keep employees motivated and wanting to stay. It would also give employers a reason to keep their employees valued.
Last but not least, the final step in creating the EVP is its successful implementation with appropriate customization based on the employee segments and its expectations.
Alisha, in her dreams about her career, had imagined various characters and behaviours. She had also planned on how she would deliver to the best of her abilities. An organisation that is treading the path shown by the White Knight to realize such dreams will keep Alisha happy in corporate Wonderland, won’t it?