Expectation management – Managing the future

A lot of people moving to Finland may already have experiences from living in multiple countries. In such situations it is easy for HR to lull itself into a sense that because of the previous experiences a move to Finland will be problem free. This is not necessarily the case though. Starting with language differences and the rental markets, each country is different. The sooner we start going through the unique aspects of each country, the better the end result will be.

We all have expectations of the future: Sunshine or fresh powder snow of our vacation, interesting and challenging tasks of our new job, a variety of things from a new home country. The definition of disappointment is when reality falls short of those expectations. Disappointment leads to a higher risk of physiological and/or psychological issues. This in turn is reflected in the employee’s productivity. A situation as stressful as a move to a new country expands to whole new dimensions if reality diverges from expectations. What follows may be absenteeism, negativity, and even premature return.

Even though it is important to attract a desired prospective employee with all the tools at your disposal, one also has to be careful regarding promises made. In addition, it is of paramount importance to listen to what the arrival is saying – What expectations, concerns and hopes he has. You have to know how to go beyond the surface. You also have to be able to and have the courage to say when the arrival’s expectations are not realistic.

Let me tell you a real life example. Our customer was moving to Finland from Spain and wanted an apartment in downtown Helsinki. The apartment had to be next to a lake (?), had to have two bedrooms, be on the top floor, furnished, and new. A cursory examination of a map reveals that such an apartment does not exist, but a sea-view was a good compromise for this person. He was also expecting to pay around 800€ rent for the apartment. Unrealistic, right? When we started to get to the bottom of why this was, we found out that he had no concept of the level of rents in Helsinki at the time of signing the employment contract. It would have been very important to know what was realistic before signing and arriving. Now the drop from his expectations to reality was harsh.
It can be challenging to discuss all these things with a new employee, because the employee may not necessarily be willing to talk about all of his matters with an employer representative. No one wants to highlight their ignorance or lose face. In these situations an external local support person is worth their weight in gold. It is easier to open up to a person removed from the employer. The employee gets to talk about all the matters of interest and potential challenges can be solved well ahead of time.

Expectation management enables the employee to be a productive part of the organization faster and increase his commitment. With a foreign employee this is particularly important.