Employee Life Cycle: Understanding the 6 Stages

Every employee is unique. And whether your company is big or small, you're bound to come across a whole range of personalities, skills and motivators. But one universal tool that can be used to visualise the journey a person will take within your company is the employee life cycle.

Business & HR Managers
Jan 2023

Every employee is unique. And whether your company is big or small, you're bound to come across a whole range of personalities, skills and motivators. But one universal tool that can be used to visualise the journey a person will take within your company is the employee life cycle.

Being aware of this cycle can not only help you to understand your employees better but also how to manage each stage, optimise their employee experience and maximise their potential.

Like all life cycles, there does come an end. But knowing how to navigate this natural stage can also help leaders and business owners to build and maintain a strong team throughout inevitable change.

What is an employee life cycle?

The employee life cycle is broken down into six main stages: attraction, recruitment, onboarding, development, retention and separation. The cycle begins as soon as an employee hears or learns of the job opportunity, and continues until their final exit.

While the employee life cycle is typically chronological, some stages can occur simultaneously or be revisited depending on each individual circumstance, i.e. a promotion or change in company strategy. Below is a further breakdown of the stages.

Stage 1: Attraction

The employee life cycle begins the very second an employee is exposed to your brand. It can be long before you even have a job ad open or are considering advertising.

That’s why having (and maintaining) the right work culture and employer brand are key. Whether the rest of the world perceives your company as “a great place to work” or not can impact the attraction stage substantially. According to Glassdoor, 50% of candidates say they wouldn’t work for a company with a bad reputation, even for a pay increase.

Top tips for the attraction stage:

  • Be known for having a great culture – Your employees are your best promoters and employee advocacy is worth gold! With a human-first HR strategy, you can increase your chances of people telling others how great it is to work in your team.
  • Offer a compelling EVP – An employee value proposition (EVP) that clearly outlines the benefits and rewards of working for your company should be communicated frequently through your networks, so it ties in with your brand identity.

Stage 2: Recruitment

The second stage of the employee life cycle is recruitment. And whether an existing role has become vacant or a new position has been created, how you manage the recruitment process can have a lasting impression on prospective employees – whether or not they get the job.

Top tip for the recruitment stage:

  • Be specific in who you are looking for – Ensure that the gap you’re looking to fill has been strategically considered and that your advertisement accurately seeks the skills and personality you’re searching for. Intentional, thoughtful role design can go a long way.

  • Think outside the box – Where would your ideal candidate be? Are you advertising on the right platform? Are there industry events you could be attending?
  • Interviewing is critical - When was the last time you rethought or considered your approach to interviews? Are you implementing too many stages, introducing too many or too few stakeholders, have the panel been trained or briefed on what to look for? How are you positioning and promoting the company - remember, an interview goes both ways.

Stage 3: Onboarding

Onboarding a new member of the team is always exciting. A new employee is filled with optimism and potential, which makes the onboarding stage critical. Research by Brandon Hall Group found that organisations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.

Top tips for the onboarding stage:

  • Have a structure in place – From IT requests to setting up emails, introducing key stakeholders, to setting your performance management or review structure up, following a clear onboarding process will ensure employees feel welcomed and supported from day one.
  • HR policies - Research shows that sharing the HR policies (or ensuring that individuals know how to access this information) creates boundaries at work.

  • Show them the path to success – Identify and communicate the company’s core values so the employee can align and be clear on the goals and direction from the get-go.

Stage 4: Development

The development stage of the employee life cycle is about encouraging professional development, upskilling your employees and providing them with a future career path. This is perhaps the most important stage for your company; research shows that it costs 6 - 9 months salary to replace a full time member of staff. This figure goes up exponentially for technical positions or c-suite.

HumanX are experienced employee engagement consultants. We can help you shape, protect and grow your company.

Top tips for the development stage:

  • Never stop – People at all stages can always be encouraged to learn more and expand their knowledge in different areas, not just new employees. According to the LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development. Employee engagement has also been shown to rise when learning and development are prioritised.

  • Utilise internal mentors – Shared knowledge can be very powerful within a company. Experienced colleagues feel acknowledged when asked to present their learnings to others, and it helps to give new employees support while showcasing an example of career trajectory.

Stage 5: Retention

Retention is a key stage of the employee life cycle. This is where you should focus on keeping your top employees feeling challenged and happy. The risk of a poor HR strategy during this stage is that good employees will feel forgotten about and begin to look elsewhere. An employee experience that is aligned to purpose and values is critical across all stages, but can be taken for granted here when it is most important.

  • Rewards and recognition – Keep accurate records of your employees' ambitions, progress and success, and celebrate their milestones and achievements. If you need help implementing a rewards and recognition system, speak to our employee retention consultants.

  • Seek their feedback (and listen) – If your team is small, seek weekly face-to-face meetings to discuss how they are going or what issues they face. Our HR consultants can also help you to set up a pulse check survey to measure the overall team morale.

Stage 6: Separation

Eventually, employees may decide to move on. Life happens, better offers exist, and even with the best HR strategy, it's impossible to keep everyone. But how the separation stage of the employee life cycle is handled is still important.

Top tips for the separation stage:

  • Have a good offboarding process – Seeking honest feedback and the reason behind the resignation will help you to understand if there’s room for improvement. Just as when employees are entering an organisation, it is useful to set clear expectations of them and of the company at exit.
  • Use it as an opportunity to reassess – If a role has a high turnover or has been tricky to fill, use the vacancy as an opportunity to assess why and what could be done differently.

It can take a village to get every stage of the employee life cycle right, but that’s where we come in. At HumanX HR, we can support you with a HR audit and help you to create a groundwork for growth. Recharge your company with organisation design consultants and human-first HR experts to give your people the power to do what they do best.

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