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You’ve likely heard the saying, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” And while the saying may not be referring to the employee lifecycle, the sentiment certainly rings true within the workplace.

The employee lifecycle is the journey employees embark on when they first join your organization and lasts through to when they leave (and sometimes beyond that). While there are a myriad of experiences within the lifecycle, there are 7 major stages – and understanding the stages is key for experience improvement.

Here’s a closer look at what the employee lifecycle is, why designing an employee lifecycle is important, the 7 stages you should know about, and how to develop a strategy to improve your employee experience management.

What is the employee lifecycle?

The employee lifecycle model is used to identify the various stages an employee goes through during their engagement with your company. The 7 stages include attraction, recruitment, onboarding, development, retention, exit, and advocacy.

Collectively, the employee lifecycle is the sum of all the moments spent at your organization: from when an employee becomes aware of your company to when they move on to the next company (hopefully speaking kindly about their time working for you) and every moment in between. 

By understanding the employee lifecycle, organizations – and HR teams and leaders, in particular – have an opportunity to measure and improve all those micro-experiences for their workforce.

Why is it important to design an employee lifecycle strategy?

When organizations design employee lifecycle strategies, they are able to understand the moments that matter most, how those moments impact the employee experience, and what to do to positively impact metrics like employee engagement, retention, and productivity.

By designing and implementing an employee lifecycle strategy at your organization, you can:

  • Uncover valuable insights to design and execute better experiences at each lifecycle stage, including formerly unseen experiences. 
  • Find out which stages of the employee lifecycle work well and apply those insights at other stages to meet employees’ needs.
  • Fix bad experiences more effectively. Capturing feedback throughout the employee lifecycle helps reveal why you haven’t met employee expectations – and what you need to do to better support your staff.

Having a better understanding of the employee lifecycle can also improve how you hire employees, retain them, and even how those employees remain productive and add value to your organization.

What are the 7 stages of the employee lifecycle? 

Whether a team member works at your organization for 10 weeks or 10 years, every person you hire goes through the employee lifecycle. 

This journey can be segmented into the following 7 stages.

1. Brand attraction

If you’ve ever made a purchase and thought, “Wow, this product is great and so is this company. I want to work for them.” – then you’ve experienced brand attraction. 

Organizations that build strong brands to attract customers can also translate that magnetism to attract new employees. 

We consider employer brand attraction the first stage of the employee lifecycle and a stage to get right if you want to win the recruiting war for talent.

2. Recruitment

From job postings on social media platforms to the interview processes with your team members, this stage includes all the steps that lead to hiring a new employee and any aspect that impacts the candidate experience. 

In this phase of the employee lifecycle, you should not only represent your employer brand as a great and fulfilling place to work (i.e., speaking to your company culture in the job description), but you might want to ask candidates about their experiences to know if finding and interacting with your company made for an easy recruitment process.

Some questions may include topics such as: 

  • Length of their recruitment process
  • Communications with the recruiter and/or hiring manager 
  • Satisfaction with the interviews themselves

3. Onboarding

In this stage, employees undergo training to learn your organization’s systems, tools, processes, expectations, and duties of their new role. 

When a new employee engages with an efficient onboarding process, they can translate their initial enthusiasm for their new job into a commitment to achieving their goals and creating a meaningful connection to the organization.

4. Professional development

An ongoing stage in the employee lifecycle, professional development pertains to the activities organizations conduct to train and develop employees. 

Employees develop at different rates, and as they do, they’ll discover new interests. Be sure to offer employees opportunities to continuously expand their skill sets.

This stage will also include milestones or annual events, such as role changes, promotions, employee performance evaluations, and career conversations.

5. Retention

At this stage, employees fully integrate into your organization. As such, organizations want employees to continue performing, developing, and contributing to the company’s success. 

While there are many ways to boost employee retention and engagement, organizations should start by simply asking how employees feel about their work, what matters most to them, and taking action on that feedback.

6. Exit

Every employee will leave your company at some point – whether it’s their choice to retire, move to another employer, or make a life change. Finding out why employees leave is an opportunity to improve and develop the employee experience for current and future employees. 

Our advice? Always conduct exit interviews with departing employees. Those who are leaving may be more candid and honest – revealing truths and insights you can take action on. 

Near the end of the employee lifecycle, you also want to leave a lasting, positive impression on departing employees. Stage 7 reveals why creating an effective offboarding process is a critical step in employee lifecycle management.

7. Advocacy 

From social media posts about your company to real-life conversations about your brand, employee advocacy is everything your employees do and say that represents what it is like to work for your company. 

But what about former employees? Have you thought about what they’re saying after they leave your company? 

Research shows that employees with positive exit experiences are nearly 3x more likely to recommend their former organization than unhappy or neutral ones. 

Conversely, unhappy departing employees can damage your employer brand (hint: that’s what we talked about back at stage one), impact your ability to attract new hires, and damage your customer brand. 

That why it’s critical to get the final stage of the employee lifecycle right.

How to develop an employee lifecycle strategy

Now that you understand what the employee lifecycle is, its importance to employee attraction and retention, plus the 7 stages at which you should gather feedback, it’s time to start creating your own employee lifecycle strategy. 

Not sure where to start? We’ve provided three simple tips below.

1. Map your employee lifecycle

Start by fully mapping out the employee lifecycle at your organization, using the 7 stages as a framework. Then, consider variables like:

  • How does the average employee learn about your business and start working for you? 
  • How do they grow and develop? 
  • What’s their main reason for leaving?

2. Utilize surveys to capture employee feedback 

Next, you’ll need objective analytics tools to help you capture variables related to sentiment throughout the employee lifecycle stages. 

Detailed employee surveys at each stage of the employee lifecycle will give employees an opportunity to present you with honest feedback about your organization. For example, you can use an employee Net Promoter Score survey, or eNPS survey, to learn how likely an employee is to refer another employee to your organization.

Metrics from employee lifecycle surveys will allow you to pinpoint potential problems, identify strengths and weaknesses, and brainstorm possibilities to improve the employee experience in the future.

3. Prepare to grow your survey program 

Delighted provides an ideal turnkey solution to launch an employee experience program and quickly gather actionable feedback. 

Once your organization becomes accustomed to surveying, you can gradually expand your employee experience (EX) management program and mature into the Qualtrics Employee Experience suite of EX solutions – including 360 performance feedback and feedback for the most resource-intensive and impactful experiences, like hiring and onboarding.

Ready to get started? Jump into eNPS surveys here, or capture employee feedback across the employee lifecycle with Delighted’s HR survey templates.