Employee Development

Excelling in every stage of the employee life cycle

The employee life cycle is six stages that span the period from when an employee applies to when they eventually move on from the company. It's an expansive model for HR professionals to outline and optimize the employee experience. If used correctly, the employee life cycle can lead to greater retention, engagement, and development of individuals. This article will break down each stage and explain how you can apply it in your company.

Ryan Carruthers

December 22, 2021

Every organization wants to hire and retain employees, especially the influential and hardworking ones. It's the employees who make or break your company. Are you ahead of the curve with your hires? According to the US Bureau for Labor, many organizations are not; over 3 million US workers leave their jobs monthly. On a broader scale, more than half of all organizations globally struggle to keep their most valuable employees. 

As a leader, you may think your job is done when a candidate signs their offer letter, but it's only the beginning. Want to ensure that they continually feel valued as an employee of yours from day one? This is where the employee life cycle comes in. 

What is the employee life cycle?

The employee life cycle is an HR model used to describe the different stages that employees go through during their lifetime within an organization and how HR can optimize them. The model helps companies understand how employees will grow and change throughout their careers.

The employee life cycle explains how and why HR should support employees. The support starts the first day they meet you when interviewing for a job. It lasts until the day they leave your organization—and may even continue on as they become alumni.

What are the stages of the employee life cycle?

A new hire will go through many steps to become an effective member of your organization. HR and managers aware of the following stages are more able to support employees and ensure they come out on top:

1. Attraction

The beginning of the employee's life cycle starts from the attraction stage. There's been a lot of talk about an employee having a unique selling proposition to stand out from the crowd. Not much has been discussed about companies' unique selling points to attract talent.

Top talent wants to work for companies that are breaking boundaries and turning heads. Companies need to stand out from the crowd to attract talent. 

Advertise what makes your organization different: 

  • Are you open and transparent? 
  • Can you make a case for your support of employee development? 

Maybe your main attraction is an outstanding health plan. Sixty-five percent of employees say they prioritize healthcare for themselves and their family over other perks and benefits. 

2. Recruitment

Having attracted pools of talented individuals, the next phase is recruitment. You want to recruit employees with high potential who would add to your company's value and culture. Hiring for a culture-add is way safer than hiring for culture-fit. 

You want to pay attention to two things–diversity and culture. A study by the University of Michigan found diversity enhances performance better than a homogenous group. On another note, you can consider using a recruitment CRM to further streamline your hiring process, increase hiring speed, and deliver a great candidate experience.

3. Onboarding

Recruiting great talent is not enough to ensure your company comes out on top. The employees you hire are the most important investment any business owner or manager can make. But without proper onboarding, you are most likely wasting your time and money. 

Strategic and effective onboarding improves retention by 25% and performance by 11%. HR and managers need to ensure all those excellent hires turn into thriving teams with the help of an effective onboarding system.

Your employees need to feel more than welcome at this stage. The onboarding stage is also where you share your company's values, vision, and mission with them. Careerbuilder.com shows that 36% of organizations do not have a defined process for this stage. However, according to Glassdoor, great employee experience has improved retention by 82% and productivity by 70%

A great onboarding can lead to incredible results.

4. Employee development

A well-trained and confident workforce is the key to success. A company's most valuable asset is its employees, so offering new skill training should be a top priority for every business owner or manager. Managers can get started by building an employee development plan. If they don’t, the consequences can be severe: 

5. Reskilling and upskilling

Organizations are struggling to retain top performers in their workforce. A PwC study shows that 88% of executives experience higher turnover than normal. Employers are always looking for ways to keep their employees satisfied and productive. One way to help with this goal is to reskill and upskill workers to handle new challenges. 

Organizations and managers need to be open and transparent with their employees—the more open and transparent your company, the better. Transparency inspires employee loyalty and trust—two key ingredients for success. Giving hardworking employees the recognition they deserve has been shown to improve retention. Creating a culture of recognition in the workplace has also improved retention.

6. Off-boarding

Even as they're leaving—through retirement, being let go, or pursuing other opportunities—you must have an off-boarding process in place for your employees. When a person is off-boarding from their job, it's essential to support them and make the transition smooth for both parties involved. There are a lot of adjustments to be made, and some guidelines will pave the way.

Concerning employees who jump ship, as a manager or HR, you should try your best to seek their genuine reasons for leaving. It would help if you also asked them for reviews of what it is like working for your organization. Answers to questions like, "Would you refer others to work with us when in a position to do so?" should hint at what they think of your organization.


Why the employee life cycle is more important than just onboarding

The employee life cycle has a lot more to offer than just onboarding. A well-thought-out hiring process will take into account the whole span of an individual's career with your company. This way, an employee can be successful from day one and maintain their happiness and fulfillment throughout their job life cycle. 

Hiring is hard—and then there's retention.

The employee life cycle is more than just onboarding. It doesn't just get employees up and running; it helps with retention. It's providing them with roadmaps and assisting them in setting goals for the different phases in their careers. You're providing opportunities for personal development within your company culture.

Millennials are looking for more than just money and stability; they want to work in an environment with a shared purpose, values, and mission. Companies that offer a sense of belonging, purpose, and culture attract global talent.

Replacing an employee is costly—more so if they’re highly trained workers or executives. The cost could run between 16% - 213% of their annual salary. To lower the cost of turnover, invest in retentions strategies. And having effective retention begins with a strategic employee life cycle. 

Managers and leaders need to know there are a lot of variables that affect how employees feel at work. According to Neil Bedwell at Degreed's LENS 2021 conference, the #1 reason employees quit their job is not money but emotional well-being. 

Neil Bedwell presented "The Human Side of Business Transformation" at Degreed's LENS 2021 conference

The takeaway? The employee life cycle is more than just training and raises. It’s about how employees feel at work—their value and belonging.

When employees feel stuck in dead-end jobs, it can discourage them from trying new things feeling any loyalty to their current company. Creating detailed career ladders and frameworks to define the standard skills required for each position empowers employees to move to the next level of their careers. Providing this framework is a great way to improve retention.

Treat employees like customers and inspire loyalty.

Fifty-four percent of US workers leave their jobs because they feel they aren't valued. This is why knowing about the employee life cycle propels your company beyond just proper and effective onboarding. When employees sense they are no longer valued in an organization, they tend to jump jobs.

Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer, the co-founders of HumanityWorks, argue People Leaders need to think of their employees as customers on an HBR IdeaCast episode. Leaders who fail to do so will see the departure rate rise exponentially over time. Cohen and Roeske-Zummer also contributed an article to HBR outlining the why and how behind treating employees like customers

What’s more, a Gallup survey shows that only 25% of the US workers claimed to have received recognition for their work in the last seven days. A lack of appreciation can lead workers to quit their jobs. The same survey reported that they are twice likely to do so next year. To tackle The Great Resignation, build employee recognition into the daily, weekly, and monthly life cycle your valued workers need.

Level up every stage of the employee life cycle.

At every stage of the employee life cycle, organizations and managers can level up through mentorship programs for their employees. Mentorship is an effective way to improve employee morale and engagement. Mentors help new employees learn about the culture and feel more connected. There are many examples of mentorship programs where employees find someone they look up to or someone who’s “been there before” and can help them in their career path.

Despite the value mentorship provides throughout the entire employee life cycle, too many companies hope that mentorship will happen informally. This is a mistake. 97% of employees with a mentor say it’s valuable, but studies show that in the average organization, only a third of employees have one. 

Leaders need formal mentoring programs to meaningfully enhance their employee life cycle and increase retention. To check out how to start a formal mentoring program check out our guide and download our whitepaper on the best practices for running mentorship programs. If you follow the steps outlined in these resources you’ll be well on your way to building a stellar employee life cycle and company.

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We draw these best practices from the first-hand experience of program managers like you and our own expertise. This white paper is a comprehensive guide that will be your roadmap to building a world-class mentoring program.