It’s not breaking news that employees often face challenges in the workplace: We’ve all heard stories about toxic workplaces from our friends and family members. And we all enter the workplace with certain expectations.

Let’s look at an example of what a bad workplace does to employees.

Martina joins a small business and discovers:

  • A toxic workplace with unethical management practices and rampant gender inequality.
  • Lack of bottom-up communication; employees are discouraged from discussing their ideas with senior leaders.
  • Most senior positions are held by male employees.
  • Managers don’t provide objectives or clearly define employee goals.
  • Most employees work long hours and late nights.

Uncomfortable with all of these factors, Martina quits the company within a month.

This is just a hypothetical example of how a bad work culture could negatively affect an employee. However, 3 million workers in the United States quit their jobs every month because businesses don’t meet their expectations.

Small businesses that focus only on their product and ignore employee engagement will fail to meet basic employee expectations—such as a healthy work culture, pay equity, and frequent coaching—and will see low retention and high turnover as a result.

In this article, we’ll discuss these three employee expectations and how small businesses can meet them.

3 employee expectations in the workplace

Employee expectations in the workplace

1. Build an organizational culture that boosts employee engagement

Everyone wants to work for a company that motivates and supports them in achieving their career objectives. However, 87 percent of employees worldwide aren’t engaged at work because they are unhappy with the state (stressful, poor management, etc.) of their workplace.

Key challenges

One of the main challenges faced by small businesses during expansion is maintaining a healthy organizational culture. Here are some reasons why small businesses struggle to create an engaging work culture to retain employees:

  • Lack of a strong leadership vision: Leaders must clearly define organizational goals to employees. Without a strong leadership vision, there will be ambiguity around business objectives.
  • Lack of core values: Clearly communicating core values plays a major role in driving organizational success. For instance, Zappos has a well-defined and publicized set of core values, which has resulted in high employee engagement and retention levels. Its leadership clearly recognizes that a lack of values results in high employee turnover and low motivation.
  • Poor management styles: Seventy-three percent of employees who have experienced poor management or a poor manager have considered leaving a job. Poor management results in lack of innovation and motivation among employees.

The importance of organizational culture is widely recognized across industries, but understanding the steps needed to achieve it remains a challenge. Some small businesses try to create a people-focused culture, where employees are given freedom and flexibility to work and communicate ideas with management.

However, simply implementing a people-focused strategy isn’t enough; focus on improving processes to be more aligned with your company values, and you’ll inevitably improve the culture.

The benefits of combining values into your business processes can be understood from how Facebook has implemented core values into its day-to-day operations. For example, one of the core values at Facebook is that the employees should focus on making an impact by building social value.

Recommendation: Incorporate people-focused values into your processes

Business values define what your organization believes in. Without clarity around your core values, employees will lack clarity on their company’s purpose and direction. Take these steps to drive workforce culture alignment:

  • Create a comprehensive understanding of culture: Ask HR to conduct an employee survey on your company culture. Find out if your culture helps them meet their daily goals and keeps them engaged. This feedback will help you figure out the cultural changes you need to make.
  • Practice core values in daily operations: Establish core values, a vision, and mission statement that encourage a positive work culture. For instance, a business focused on customer service should impart the value of “customers first.” Your core values might be the reason why your customers want to keep doing business with you, and your employees will have a better experience in turn.
  • Capitalize on leader impact. A good leader should help employees understand their duties and guide them in achieving goals. Leaders should be the champions of company culture, motivating employees to follow in their footsteps. Therefore, ensure that your leaders embody all your core values.

2. Close the gender pay gap to encourage female employees

A Zenefits survey found a widening gender pay gap in SMBs, with women earning 66 cents for every dollar earned by men (the national average is 80 cents to the dollar). Contributors to this gap include biases in the workplace and gender preferences for certain jobs.

Key challenges

Here are some of the key challenges to closing the gender pay gap in small businesses:

  • Unintentional bias in the workplace: Forty-two percent of U.S. women have faced gender discrimination on the job, reportedly receiving less support from senior leaders than their male counterparts, which contributes to underrepresentation of women in executive or C-suite positions.
  • Gender-based job selection: Some professions, such as mining, gaming, and computer programming, are male-dominated, with women constituting just 6.6 percent of the full-time workforce. Despite earning more degrees than men, women are choosing lower-paying, more stereotypical professions such as nursing and cosmetology.
  • Career stagnation because of motherhood: When women rejoin the workforce after a maternity break, they’re paid 20 percent less than men. While the Family and Medical Leave Act provides paid leave for both fathers and mothers, the fact remains that new mothers are at a greater disadvantage than new fathers.

Despite the legislation aimed at preventing employers from paying women less than men for the same work, the gender pay gap is rising by 0.17 percent annually. When employees experience this inequality, their likelihood of staying with the company falls by 16 percent.

Recommendation: Implement a strict fair pay policy

Here are three ways small businesses can decrease the gender pay gap:

  • Have unbiased performance evaluations: Adopt performance evaluation software that uses the same key performance indicators (KPIs) for everyone. Technology makes it easier to evaluate employees without bias and reward them on merit and individual performance, regardless of gender.
  • Conduct pay equity audits: Seventy-four percent of SMBs say they do evaluate the gender pay gap to ensure pay equity. Regular pay audits can help you identify any gaps. Also, ask HR managers to analyze payroll data and the market rates for new roles. They can recommend actions to encourage equal pay, right from hiring new employees to promoting existing employees.
  • Close the gender pay gap through awareness: Sixty-seven percent of employees say they don’t want to work in a company with a gender pay gap. You should educate your company’s managers about the importance of equal pay and equal opportunities, so that women can also be key decision-makers in your company.

3. Adopt manager coaching for better employee performance

Manager coaching is an essential part of learning, especially in small businesses where a manager is accountable for the success or failure of their direct reports. However, the continuous process of managing employees and driving productivity in a fast-paced environment can take a toll on a manager’s efficiency as a coach.

Key challenges

Here are some of the key challenges in common managerial styles that affect employee performance:

  • Lack of ownership in employee development: Often, employees and managers fail to take ownership of individual development. When employees fail to achieve their goals, it impacts their performance and motivation.
  • Lack of guidance: Manager guidance is essential for new employees and under-performers to improve their performance and align their individual goals with business objectives. Lack of this guidance could result in increased stress and decreased employee productivity.
  • Lack of innovation due to micromanagement: Micromanagement is seen as one of the worst qualities of a manager, and it can result in talented employees quitting the company. It impacts employees’ professional development since micromanagers don’t give them the freedom to make their own decisions.

Recommendation: Apply ‘connector management’ principles to coach employees effectively

The connector management approach lets managers provide targeted feedback and development assistance. It requires identifying an employee’s needs and matching them to a skilled peer who can help the employee achieve their goals.

A connector manager isn’t an outside professional; one of your own managers can become one. Gartner notes that the connector manager approach improves employee engagement by 40 percent and employee performance by 26 percent.

Here’s how small businesses can benefit from the connector manager strategy:

  • Plan personalized coaching and development: The connector management approach helps managers identify employees’ skill gaps, capabilities, and areas of improvement. Then they can better understand employee needs, design personalized coaching, and create development plans for them.
  • Enhance employee skills: Fifty-seven percent of employees learn new skills through the connector management strategy. For example, if an employee wants to hone their public speaking skills, the connector manager will ask a peer with excellent public speaking skills to train the employee.
  • Drive better business results with interteam collaboration: Bringing two different teams together creates more value for the end user, but also results in a happier, engaged, and unified team. For example, sales reps use a CRM system to track customer activities, sales leads, manage business contacts, etc., while the engineering team can use the same system to help them resolve technical queries by more tech-savvy users.

Next steps and other recommended resources

Every employee has some basic expectations that motivate them at work. Let’s recap and discuss the steps you can take to meet the employee expectations in the workplace.

Three steps to take to meet employee expectations

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