Expectation vs Reality: Why You Struggle to Meet Employee Expectation

Meeting employee expectation is a struggle many small businesses face. An unsatisfied workforce is hardly the secret to business success, but many employers aren’t aware of the detrimental impact not meeting employee expectation can have.

Competition for top talent is fiercer than ever, and employees need more than just money to be motivated; most expect to find meaning in their jobs and to feel they are valued in their workplace. Therefore, to maintain a productive workplace and retain good employees, small business owners must know how to meet the expectations of their workers.

Why meeting employee expectation is important

Theorists like Maslow and Herzberg have shown through decades of data that employees become greater assets to organizations when they have a better sense of value and recognition at work.

What’s more, not meeting employee expectation could cost your business. Workforce experts estimate the cost of replacing a worker to be 1.5 times the worker’s annual salary – an expense many small businesses can’t afford.

The benefits of a positive employee experience are often dependent on the individual and the business in question. However, research from Kevin Kruse, Forbes contributor, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling author, has shown that when employee expectations are met, benefits can include:

  • Better productivity at work
  • Increased loyalty
  • Lower staff turnover
  • Less employee absence
  • Better communication

Why you’re not meeting employee expectation

While a great deal of importance is attached to customer expectation, businesses have not focused on much on employee satisfaction – until now. The importance of the employee experience is well recognized, and there are five main reasons why you might be falling behind:

1. You don’t know your employees as individuals

According to research by Azure Consulting, 48% of managers do not know the names of their employees’ children. While this might seem like a minor detail with little significance to your business, showing that you know and value your employees on an individual basis can mean the difference between an engaged workforce and a disinterested one, claims the study.

The findings by Azure Consulting also concluded that employees who don’t have a personal connection to their employer are 200% less productive than those who feel valued on an individual level.

The study also shows that small businesses with disengaged workers tend to experience higher rates of employee turnover, as well as mounting recruitment and training costs. Therefore, it’s in your interests as a business owner to get to know your employees better.

“The best way to get to know your employees is to push up your sleeves and work side by side. Get out of the office and get to know them and the work. Let your employees tell you what they do and let them see that you care.” Michele Gonzalez-Pitek, Best Friends Credit


2. Employee work is too structured, or not structured enough

Structure is integral to a positive work environment for some, while others prefer to work independently. Again, getting to know your employees on a one-to-one basis will help you play to people’s specific strengths.

As a general rule, you should offer structure and flexibility, encouraging your team to use their own initiative and problem-solving methods while also enforcing boundaries. Your employees should be aware of the specific guidelines, timelines and procedures that must be followed, but they should also have the freedom to take on new responsibilities, offer ideas and streamline existing procedures for the benefit of the business.

3. Your work environment is unsuitable

Let’s overlook the obvious factors and assume your employees work within a helpful team, with the basic resources they need at a comfortable temperature. Subtle environmental factors can have a significant impact on employee experience, such as the ability to express personality, contribute ideas and enjoy social relationships with coworkers.

Of course, different personalities thrive in different environments, and you won’t please everyone all the time. A smart way to meet employee expectation is to conduct a survey or use an anonymous suggestion box. That way, you can learn directly from your team what the work environment is lacking.

You may find that extroverted employees work best in a social environment that facilitates collaboration. Introverted workers, on the other hand, may expect to be able to work in quieter surroundings. If you have enough office space, think about installing work booths or quiet areas as well as co-working spaces.

4. You’re not offering adequate career growth

Work satisfaction is not just about salary and benefits. Employee expectations are based primarily on immaterial things, such as enjoyment of the role and opportunities for career growth. If your key employees invest time and effort into their job role, they expect to get rewarded – and not just in monetary ways.

Over time, new job titles, increased ownership of work or more responsibilities are vital for career-minded employees, so make sure your team knows there are opportunities for advancements.

5. You’re not flexible enough

Expecting your employees to work in the same way is a somewhat outdated management view. The key to getting the most out of your employees (and keeping them happy, engaged and motivated to work for you) is to recognize their differences: different strengths and weaknesses, different needs, and different methods of working.

This means you need to become more flexible as a business. According to CEO Jason Fried, it’s time to let all employees work remotely so that they can choose their best working hours and environments.

“Some people prefer silence, some people prefer a lot of noise, some people prefer a lot of chaos, some people prefer a lot of calm. Why not let them work where they’re most comfortable where they can do their best work?”, Jason Fried, Basecamp CEO



The benefits of meeting employee expectation, both in a business sense and a personal sense, include less turnover, reduced recruitment costs, better productivity and stronger working relationships. Therefore, improving the employee experience is something every employer should strive to achieve.

Timothy Kelly

Timothy Kelly

Tim has been a writer for over 20 years covering financial markets and small business. In addition to writing about the financial markets, Mr. Kelly writes extensively about digital marketing and SEO. Mr. Kelly attended Boston College where he studied English Literature and Economics, and also attended the University of Siena, Italy where he studied studio art. Mr. Kelly has been a decades-long community volunteer in his hometown of Long Island where he established the community assistance foundation, Kelly's Heroes. He has also been a coach of Youth Lacrosse for over 10 years. Prior to volunteering in youth sports, Mr. Kelly was involved in the Inner City Scholarship program administered by the Archdiocese of New York. Before creating ForexTV, Mr, Kelly was Sr. VP Global Marketing for Bridge Information Systems, the world’s second largest financial market data vendor. Prior to Bridge, Mr. Kelly was a team leader of Media at Bloomberg Financial Markets, where he created Bloomberg Personal Magazine. Contact Tim tim.kelly@smallbizstar.com