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 myriad experiences within the lifecycle, there are seven 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 strategy is important, the seven stages you should know about, and how to get started creating a strategy to improve your employee experience management.

What is the employee lifecycle?

From the moment a potential employee becomes aware of your company to the moment someone moves onto their next role (and hopefully speaks kindly about their time working for you), every milestone and micro-experience – including what employees think, learn, feel, and see – is part of the employee lifecycle. 

In other words, the employee lifecycle is the sum of all of the moments spent at your organization. And 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 employees.

Why is designing an employee lifecycle strategy important?

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 have a positive impact on metrics like employee engagement, retention, and productivity.

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

  • Uncover insights to design and execute better experiences at each stage of the lifecycle, 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 do better.

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

What are the 7 stages of the employee lifecycle? 

Whether someone works at your organization for ten weeks or ten years, every person you hire goes through the employee lifecycle. 

This journey can be segmented into seven stages:

Stage 1: Brand attraction

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

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

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

Stage 2: Recruitment

From job ads on social media to the day-of interviews 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 stage, you should not only represent your employer brand as a great and fulfilling place to work (i.e. speaking to your company culture on a job requisition) 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

Stage 3: Onboarding

In this stage, employees get up to speed with your organization’s systems, tools, and processes, as well as the expectations and duties of their new role. 

When a new employee experiences an efficient onboarding process, they’re able to translate their initial enthusiasm for their new job into a commitment to achieving their goals and objectives as well as a meaningful connection to the organization.

Stage 4: Development

An ongoing stage in the employee lifecycle, 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 the chance to continuously expand their skill sets.

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

Stage 5: Retention

At this stage, employees are fully ramped and integrated into your organization. 

As such, organizations want employees to continue performing, developing, and contributing to the company’s success. And while there are many ways to boost employee retention (and engagement), organizations should start by simply asking employees what matters most to them – and taking action on that feedback.

Stage 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. 

At this penultimate stage of the employee lifecycle, you also want to leave a lasting, positive impression on departing employees. Stage 7 reveals why.

Stage 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 whose exit experience is positive are nearly three times as likely to recommend their former organization than unhappy or neutral ones. [1]

Conversely, unhappy departing employees can damage your employer brand (hint: that’s what we talked about back at stage 1), impact your ability to recruit top talent, damage your customer brand, and more.

That makes getting this final stage of the employee lifecycle right so critical.

Tips for how to get started creating an employee lifecycle strategy

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

Not sure where to start? Here are three simple tips:

1. Map your employee lifecycle

Start by fully mapping out the employee lifecycle at your organization, using the above stages as a framework.

Then, consider variables like: 

  • How does the average employee learn about your business and start working for your business? 
  • 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 employee sentiment and feedback throughout the lifecycle. 

Detailed employee surveys at each stage of the employee lifecycle will give employees an opportunity to present you with critical 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.

These metrics 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 take action? Start gathering feedback and understanding your employee lifecycle with Delighted eNPS. You can send 250 surveys for free in Delighted’s 7-day trial or jump right into a FREE plan and send up to 1,000 surveys in minutes.


[1] Qualtrics