The Employee Lifecycle: How You Can Learn From It

September 29, 2023

There are all kinds of insights you can glean just by taking a closer look at the employee lifecycle of your company.

There’s no doubt that it’s a time of fast-moving change in the workplace, no matter the industry.

As trends like hybrid work and quiet (or loud) quitting spread, it’s not always easy to understand what motivates your talent to stay or go. But what if you could tap into that knowledge?

The employee lifecycle model may be your crystal ball.

In this article we’ll break down the employee lifecycle and examine how it can help you attract and retain the best talent.

Key Takeaways

  • What you do before and after you employ someone is almost as important as what you do during their employment.
  • The type of support that employees require to perform their best changes throughout the employee lifecycle.
  • Focus on a few relevant metrics to better understand your employees’ motivation.

What is the Employee Lifecycle?

It might sound like something out of a nature documentary, but the employee lifecycle simply means the entire journey an employee has with a company

Note that the employee lifecycle doesn’t start on their first day. The concept is intended to capture the different stages of an employee’s relationship with an organization, meaning from the very first twinkling of awareness to long after they’ve moved on.

This idea can have a big impact on the success of your people strategy. If you can develop a good understanding of what motivates people to join, stay, or leave your organization, you’ll have a much better shot at attracting and keeping the best talent.

The Seven Stages of the Employee Lifecycle

The employee lifecycle is a seven-stage journey that begins when an employee first learns about an organization. It includes everything from the hiring process to onboarding, development, retention and offboarding. It even encompasses the employer-employee relationship after an employee departs, known as the “advocacy” stage.

HR pros are like the stage managers of the employee lifecycle. They need to know all the lines, all the cues, and all the exits to create the best employee experience. Let’s take a look behind the curtain!

1. Awareness

Before your employees can even think about joining your organization, they need to know who you are. That’s why the first phase of the employee lifecycle is awareness.

If your company is large or very well-known, this is partially done for you, but you can achieve awareness in a variety of ways. Whether that be through word-of-mouth, posting on job boards, or using social media to boost your brand, get the word out using a variety of tactics.

Name recognition isn’t the only part of awareness. Your organization’s public reputation also plays a role in this phase.

For better or for worse, how the public perceives your organization influences your competitiveness in the labor market. Be mindful to curate a positive employer brand so you’re a leg up even before your candidates enter the recruitment pipeline.

2. Recruitment

The recruitment stage is where both the candidate and company get a chance to size each other up properly.

Carefully think through what this experience is like for your candidates. Prioritize certain aspects such as:

  • Inclusive language. Your job posts should be crafted with a close eye on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA). It’s all too easy for unconscious bias to creep in, which can discourage quality candidates from applying.
  • Clear and efficient application process. Do you really need candidates to fill out a 25-page application form and send a resume and cover letter? A smooth and efficient application process can make a huge difference in reducing friction in the recruitment phase.
  • Objective selection criteria. Your selection criteria should be transparent and fair so that everyone knows what’s expected of them.

Remember, candidates who go on to become your employees will remember this recruitment experience. So start things off on the right foot by ensuring your application and interviewing process is easy and seamless.

3. Onboarding

The big day has arrived: your new employee is starting. So begins the onboarding phase. This is where you start giving introducing your new hire to the inner workings of your organization and is crucial for setting up a new hire for long term success. In fact, a poor onboarding experience can lead to higher levels of turnover within the first one to two years, especially for hourly workers.

Most importantly, you need to provide a unified, well-coordinated team effort to support a new employee on their first day and the immediate weeks to months that follow. Don’t leave them hanging around waiting for information about where they should go or which team they’re on.

Finally, survey new employees at regular intervals to catch any potential gaps in your onboarding process. Act on feedback promptly to ensure your new hires are supported.

Learn More: Employee Onboarding: Ultimate Guide to New Hire Success

4. Development

Even after the onboarding stage finishes the training doesn’t stop. Next comes the employee development stage. While this is considered an individual stage, development is an ongoing process. In other words, it begins when the employee starts at your organization and ends when they leave.

An effective talent development strategy is a win-win for everyone. Your organization reaps the benefits of a skilled and continually advancing workforce, and your staff gets the learning opportunities they crave to grow in their careers.

Employee development can take different, and often multiple, forms. Consider choosing from this selection of tactics to help your workers blossom:

  • Regular performance reviews. A regular cadence of performance reviews and 1:1s is a popular way to assess areas of strength and weaknesses of employees. Performance management software makes this easy to execute across your organization.
  • Individual development plans. Build bespoke development plans for individual employees to serve as actionable roadmaps. This helps remove any ambiguity in how an employee can progress their career.
  • Certification and compliance training. In some cases, you may be legally obligated to keep up with certain compliance or training regulations. If so, this type of development is a necessary part of doing business in certain industries and roles.
  • Mentorships and coaching. Encourage mentorships, either informally or as an official development strategy. Your employees will appreciate the learning opportunities and your organization can hold on to the expertise of more senior staff.
  • Microlearning. For a busy workforce, snackable microlearning courses can be an easy way to offer development opportunities on demand.

No matter what approach you take, the core of any good development strategy is to treat every employee as an individual and help them reach their full potential.

5. Retention

How do you hold on to your great employees? Well, if you’ve put in the work providing professional development opportunities, that’s a great start to the retention phase.

The average cost of hiring a new employee is $4,683 according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), so it makes good business sense to retain staff as long as you can.

Many factors affect retention, but, at a high level, your employee experience is what often makes the difference between an employee staying or leaving.

Focusing on your organization being a great place to work is important, but you should also take the time to understand what employees like (and don’t like) about their experience. This includes conducting exit interviews, stay interviews, and analyzing key HR metrics like first year turnover rate.

If you understand where the bumps are in the road, you’re better positioned to fix them.

6. Offboarding

Of course, that sought-after talent may one day decide to flap their wings and take to the skies.

It’s remarkable how often this can take managers by surprise. But really, you should assume a certain percentage of staff will leave every year. It’s a perfectly natural part of the employee lifecycle that HR managers deal with regularly.

A mistake a lot of companies make in the offboarding phase is to quietly deprioritize the departing employee. This is almost never a conscious decision. It just happens by default as other tasks suddenly seem more important than engaging with someone who won’t be here next month.

But, remember: this could be your final chance to engage directly with them, and you should make the most of it. Seek out their thoughts via an exit interview, encourage a smooth handover process, and celebrate their achievements over lunch. Why?

7. Advocacy

Because the lifecycle isn’t quite finished yet.

Ideally, you want departing employees to have good memories of the time they spent with you. That way, they might put in a good word for you with people you might like to employ in the future. Past employees can be referrals for new ones, and they might even sit in your talent pool to become candidates again.

Their advocacy is the final stage, which leads right back to awareness again.

Analyzing the Employee Lifecycle Model

One of the best ways to learn from the employee lifecycle model is to focus on some key HR metrics. Breaking it down into stages will help you identify which aspects are your organization’s strengths and which could do with a little work. A strategic HR pro will use these metrics to help build out their employee journey map.

You don’t need to track all these metrics right off the bat. In fact, it’s best to select one or two for each stage and take it from there.

  • Awareness: Career page analytics, potential candidate demographics, social media engagement
  • Recruitment: Offer acceptance rate, cost per hire, time to hire, application completion rate
  • Onboarding: Training effectiveness, new hire satisfaction, ramp time (how quickly new hires get up to speed)
  • Development: Promotion rates, training budget, managerial assessment
  • Retention: Voluntary turnover, employee retention rate
  • Offboarding: Employee net promoter scores, exit interview completion rate
  • Advocacy: Follow-up email open rates, registrations to former employee network

Not all of these are going to be relevant to every organization. For example, a large manufacturing firm with more than 5,000 employees will have different priorities than a hairdressing salon with a handful of stylists.

But whatever line of business you’re in, it’s worth taking the time to put your employee lifecycle under scrutiny.

How Attentive Employee Lifecycle Management Can Benefit Your Company

An emphasis on good employee lifecycle management can make a huge difference to your organization. Making just a few simple changes at each stage can lead to a massive boost in employee well-being, engagement, and productivity — not to mention the bottom line.

Paylocity is an all-in-one HR and Payroll software designed with the employee experience in mind. We’ve built our platform to serve every stage of the employee lifecycle. Request a demo to find out more.


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