The employee lifecycle is a term used to describe an employee’s journey from the point they first encounter a company to when the employment relationship ends. 

The employee lifecycle can be broken down into six stages:

  1. Attraction
  2. Recruitment
  3. Onboarding
  4. Retention
  5. Development
  6. Separation/Exit

Mapping out the employee lifecycle can help you to visualize what your employees encounter and what their needs are at different points during their employment. It can also help you identify opportunities to enhance the overall employee experience while benefiting your organization.   

Stages of the Employee Lifecycle

The following outlines some of the key considerations in approaching each stage of the employee lifecycle.

Stage 1: Attraction

The employee lifecycle begins with attraction: when a prospective employee first hears of a company and forms their initial thoughts and feelings about it. As an employer, focus on how you plan to appeal to prospective new hires. This is often achieved through creating a solid company brand and employee value proposition.

This proposition will give prospective hires a clear idea of what working for your company would be like. It should include ­­­­­­­­­­­­­your values, the benefits on offer, your corporate social responsibility stance, and more. Ensure you communicate this tactically, perhaps with the help of a marketing department, in order to attract the right talent that aligns with your ethos.  

Stage 2: Recruitment

The next stage of the employee lifecycle is recruitment: typically from the point when a candidate decides to apply for a vacancy, through to being made an offer of employment.  

When formulating your recruitment plan, it’s important to find a balance between streamlining the process for efficiency, and ensuring it is robust enough to filter through the right people for the right roles. Collecting feedback from candidates can also help you understand how the recruitment process can be improved. If you can ensure that even unsuccessful candidates have a positive experience, this will reflect well on your company.

Measuring the impact of the recruitment campaign can also provide valuable insights. For example, knowing the number of applicants that came through a particular source will help you decide where to focus your recruitment efforts.  

Stage 3: Onboarding

The onboarding stage is where a candidate becomes an employee, and their viewpoint of a company moves from external to internal. It’s crucial to get onboarding right, so the employment relationship gets off to a good start. A large part of this is creating a sense of belonging. 

Even in the early stages, new recruits should feel that they are integral to the organization, bringing with them as much value as they are getting out. Creating an induction plan for new starters will help embed them into the company and to get established in their roles. The plan should include “meet and greets” with key people, a handover, if applicable, and details of any training they will need to complete in their first few weeks.

 For a smooth start, a new recruit should have all their basic needs in place from day one. This could include system logins, access passes, and IT equipment, among other things. You should also ensure that new starters have clarity on the company’s culture and values, as well as the expectations of their role and responsibilities, so they can hit the ground running.

It’s good practice to check in with new recruits to be sure they have settled in well. Some companies do this through 30-, 60-, and 90-day surveys or simply through scheduling regular catch-ups between new recruits and their managers or nominated buddies.

 Stage 4: Development

The potential to develop and grow within a company that offers opportunities to progress is a major draw within the job market. You should regularly review your employees’ performance, provide opportunities for learning and development, and help them set out a clear career path. This is not only a great retention tool, but it also boosts job satisfaction and engagement. 

Another development option is succession planning, where potential successors are identified and prepared to move up when more senior roles are vacated. This creates a pipeline for progression and encourages the company to build upon the talent they have internally. 

It’s worth keeping in mind that some employees may have no desire to climb the ladder. They may still seek development in other ways, however. Having a learning and development strategy in place can help keep these employees engaged through strengthening their existing skills and acquiring new ones. You could also provide opportunities to get involved with ad hoc projects or initiatives that will give them a sense of self-fulfillment within their roles.

Stage 5: Retention

Naturally, after your efforts to attract, recruit, onboard, and develop employees, you’ll want to retain them for as long as possible. Equally, if an employee is happy at your organization and experiencing high levels of job satisfaction, they’ll want to be retained.

 Understanding the main reasons for leaving the organization is essential in determining how to improve retention. Recently, companies have seen the value in gathering data at regular intervals, and many have introduced pulse surveys. These are designed to “check the pulse” of the organization with short feedback questionnaires sent out more frequently than the standard annual engagement survey. 

Taken quarterly or even monthly, pulse surveys can effectively pick up on areas of dissatisfaction such as pay, benefits, or recognition. You then have an opportunity to act upon the feedback, showing employees their views are valid and important to the company.

In some cases, organizations have found “stay interviews” to be an effective means of understanding individual motivations and what might cause specific employees to want to leave. Stay interviews are more proactive than exit interviews as they aim to prevent a valued employee from leaving in the first place.  

Focusing as much effort on retention as on recruitment can make for a happier and more engaged workforce while boosting your organization’s profile as an employer of choice. 

Stage 6: Separation/Exit

The sixth and final stage of the employee lifecycle is when an employee exits the organization. This can happen for many reasons, such as resignation, redundancy, or retirement—and may be voluntary or involuntary. But despite your best retention efforts, the employee lifecycle must come to an end at some point.

It’s important to remember that not all separations are negative. Some employees may simply hit a ceiling, where the organization offers them no room for the level of progression they’re ready for. In these cases, they have little choice but to move on. However, bear in mind these could be “boomerang employees” who will return if the right opportunity becomes available later on. 

Making the offboarding process as smooth as the onboarding process helps to ensure former employees maintain a positive perspective of the company. Departed employees can be regarded as ambassadors, sharing their positive experiences with prospective new recruits. This in turn can help with attraction, and thus the cycle begins again.

Conclusion

As a degree of turnover within companies is inevitable, the employee lifecycle can be seen as continuous, with each stage having an impact on the next. Successful attraction progresses to recruitment, followed by onboarding. Onboarded employees need to be developed, which in turn aids retention. Nevertheless, despite your best efforts, separation will occur—but it is not always a negative thing. If the stages are executed well, your employees will maintain a positive view of your organization throughout their journey, which will boost your company’s branding. 

People-oriented organizations should invest time into mapping out and constantly reviewing the stages of the employee lifecycle, to ensure employees have the best possible experience at each stage.