The Employee Life Cycle: Success In 6 Stages

employees discussing the employee life cycle model

The progression of staff through the employee life cycle is almost as inevitable as the changing of the seasons. But, why does this matter for organizational success?

In this article, the employee life cycle allows HR leaders to help employees realize their full potential. On the flip side, being aware of the cycle also helps companies be aware of, and manage employee turnover risk.

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What is the Employee Life Cycle?

The model for the employee life cycle is used to represent the various stages that an employee goes through as they engage with their company. There are six distinct stages at play here: attraction, recruitment, onboarding, development, retention, and separation.

What Are the Stages of the Employee Life Cycle Model?

the employee life cycle model uk

As mentioned above, there are six key stages that exist in the employee life cycle model. But, there are also some additional stages worth noting. Here is the full picture: 

AttractionThe very second a potential applicant is exposed to your employer brand.
Recruitment The process and experience of how someone goes from applicant to employee.
OnboardingHelping employees understand and blend in with your corporate culture.
RetentionKeeping employees around and satisfied with relevant rewards and recognition.
Career Development Helping employees get better in their roles through a variety of initiatives.
Seperation The process of what happens when an employee inevitably decides to move on.

1. Attraction

Your relationship with an employee doesn’t start the moment they arrive at the office. It doesn’t even start when they sign a contract or apply for a job. It starts the very second they are first exposed to your brand. 

That’s why great HR leaders know that instilling the right corporate culture is critical. If you use the cultural web model to understand corporate culture, as we explain in this blog post, it’s possible to see how organizational structures, systems, rules, stories, and symbols influence the way employees interact with each other.

The next step is to showcase this culture to the rest of the world! Prospective employees will have chosen you for many reasons: including salary, job title, and job fit. But they will also have chosen to apply because your brand resonates with them.

Here’s our complete guide to employer branding to always leave a lasting first impression.

Key Tip: Attraction Phase of the Employee Life Cycle

Endorsements from current or former staff members are priceless. That’s why GlassDoor is so popular. But savvy future employees will also check out your equality and diversity policies, approach to mental health at work, policies on maternity leave, and factors you’re your attitudes to overtime, sick pay, unpaid leave, and even work-life balance (if you make this information available publicly).

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2. Recruitment

The next stage of the employee life cycle is recruitment. This is important whether you do this the old-fashioned way or use tools to help you manage the recruitment process.

That’s because how well you treat prospective employees during this journey (even the ones who don’t get the job) will influence their perception of your company forever.

Key Tip: Recruitment Phase of the Employee Life Cycle

  • Advertise the position on multiple platforms to entice a wider spectrum of candidates. The fewer media platforms you use, the narrower your chance of reaching great candidates. Going wide is great – but don’t forget the value of your internal talent pool who might be looking for a promotion or a sideways step – and consider the importance of employee referral programs.
  • Make your job adverts effective. A great job advert does more than list individual core attributes and skillsets. It entices people. Make sure you outline the available benefits – from medical cover to staff discounts and even days off to volunteer.

3. Onboarding

It’s natural to be excited when you start a new job. There’s a sense of optimism and potential. That’s why this is the ideal time to make people feel welcome, safe, and ‘at home.’ 

Getting this right will help new recruits feel like they have the potential to make their mark on the organization.

Onboarding is about helping new employees blend in with your corporate culture and truly become part of the team. One way to do this is to make sure you’re identifying and communicating company core values

A good onboarding process for new employees also goes a long way!

Key Tip: Onboarding Phase of the Employee Life Cycle

    • Make sure there’s a regular appraisal system. A good staff appraisal can help get the best out of your team. While it might be too soon, right in the first few weeks, to think about measuring performance already – the system should be introduced so employees know what’s expected of them, and how they will be rewarded for excellent work.
    • Show them a clear path to success. One of the secrets of a successful performance management cycle is that they help align employee goals with business goals on a short and longer-term basis. 
    • Share your company values, vision, and mission. For example, at Personio our values include customer empathy, ownership, transparency, team spirit, social responsibility, and fun.

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4. Retention

This is a key stage of the employee life cycle. That’s because once employees have been with a company for a while, there’s a real risk that employers might start to take them for granted. 

That’s why it’s important to address thorny issues such as rewards and recognition as soon as possible. Then, over time, it’s important to make sure employees know what to do to help achieve their goals, as well as what HR needs to do to keep accurate records of their ambitions, progress, and success.

Key Tip: Retention Phase of the Employee Life Cycle

5. Career Development

Once employees are settled and happy it’s also worth considering how strategic professional development can help you get the best out of your employees.

Key Tip: Career Development Phase of the Employee Life Cycle

  • Offer a buddy system. When experienced colleagues share their knowledge, this allows the effective dissemination of both corporate culture while giving new employees support, access to a trusted advisor, and a go-to-point for asking those questions that seem stupid (but usually aren’t).
  • Encourage people at all stages to learn more. Whether it’s internal or external learning: conferences, seminars, and ‘lunch-and-learns’ keep employees up to date with new trends while expanding their knowledge. If they can share their learnings with the rest of the team and make improvements based on new knowledge, it’s a win-win for all!
  • Sponsor or subsidize courses for those who show promise if the budget allows for it. Nothing shows a company cares for its staff more than investing in their training, education, and learning.

6. Separation

Eventually, employees decide to move on. At this stage of the employee life cycle, there are many factors at play. For example, former employees might move or look for career opportunities that they can’t get at your company, they might retire, go off to work for themselves, or even be enticed away by a rival company.

At this stage, reflection is essential. Having a good offboarding process helps you understand where there is room for improvement in the employee experience (it’s probably the time you’ll get their most honest opinions). It may also bring up key considerations about how you formulate employment contracts or gardening leave policies

But don’t forget: the separation phase of the employee life cycle doesn’t just affect those leaving, it affects those left behind. Helping them feel like they’ll be supported, even when the team member is gone or giving them the opportunity to be involved in the new recruitment process (if applicable) can help ease the pain.

There’s another way of looking at a beloved employee’s departure, too:

Try thinking of them as brand advocates, even if they’re no longer employees. If it fits your culture, you might want to send them cards or emails during the festive season, continue to invite them to corporate functions, or reach out to them when you’re hiring for new roles to ask them if they know people.

That way, employees become ‘graduated alumni’ of your organization. If they remember you with fondness and kindness, the relationship can continue for many years!

Why Is The Employee Life Cycle Important?

Even if investing in the employee life cycle sounds like a lot of unnecessary planning and implementation to you, it’s still worth it. 

Every phase of an employee’s journey with a company provides an opportunity to improve the employee experience. Even if the learnings along the way aren’t positive, they’re opportunities to make a new employee’s lifecycle better, richer, and more rewarding.

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