Understanding the Employee Life Cycle: From Attraction to Exit

By Laura Dowling, SPHR on Sep 19, 2023
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For small businesses and lean start-ups, every hire matters. Choosing (and keeping) the right person in any role can do wonders for the trajectory of your business. That’s why mastering each phase of the employee life cycle, from attracting the perfect candidate to leaving them on good terms, is absolutely mission-critical.

In this post, we’ll cover the importance of managing the employee journey, as well as steps for optimizing the employee life cycle at your business. I’ll walk you through the seven unique stages and clue you in on the best tips for achieving your goals in every step.   

onboarding vs orientation

What Is the Employee Life Cycle? 

The employee life cycle is a framework that managers and business owners can use to understand the way an employee interacts with their employer across the timeline of their tenure. Your team members will cycle through stages of the employee journey whether anyone acknowledges the framework or not.

But acknowledging the cycle is valuable: it allows you to grasp the issues that both the employer and employee may experience at each stage, and to develop procedures to meet your (and the employee's) goals as the cycle progresses.  

Why It's Important to Get the Employee Journey Right? 

Each stage of the employee life cycle presents unique opportunities to build a team with the right players, establish mutual commitments and drive sustained engagement and productivity. Even the end of the employee journey, if navigated with care, allows companies to hold on to the great reputation they’ve earned by consistently treating their employees well.

While this post provides a general overview of what to expect, your company’s responses to the unique needs of employees in each of the employee journey stages will differ from employee to employee.  

hybrid work model

The Seven Stages of the Employee Life Cycle 

  • Attraction   

This is the stage in which you’re positioning your company as an excellent place to work. It’s important to put forth all of the things that make your business a strong organization: Your mission, purpose and leadership.

You should also highlight what you can do for employees outside of salary. What kind of work environment do you provide? What is the work-life balance experience at your company? And what sort of benefits and perks do you offer?  

When designing an applicant attraction strategy, keep in mind the kind of talent you want to attract. For example, are your ideal employees digitally savvy, ESG-focused, or do they have a passion for following the rules? It’s crucial to solidify who you’re looking for. Knowing your audience is the first step to crafting a plan to attract them.  

  • Recruitment  

Recruiting is a delicate and sometimes painstaking process. After crafting the perfect job description, putting together an attractive benefits package and posting the details of an open position, you may be flooded with applicants. However, you might face the opposite problem: The perfect person isn’t applying.

In any event, Axcet HR Solutions' state-of-the-art applicant management system can help you streamline the search process.  

Optimizing this stage of the employee life cycle comes down to defining and honing in on your goals for each open position and for the overall make-up of your team. Tracking metrics like offer application completion rate, acceptance rate, and total time-to-hire can help you identify areas in which to concentrate efforts.  

RELATED: 3 Creative Employee Recruitment Strategies That Really Work >> 

  • Onboarding 

Onboarding isn’t just new employee orientation. Rather, it’s the responsive, feedback-filled push-and-pull that occurs as an employee learns what is expected of them and how they can meet those expectations.

You can think of onboarding as a slow ramp-up that encompasses the background processes of learning about a new role and socialization (i.e., where a role fits within the context of the company as a whole). From start to finish, the onboarding process can take up to a year. 

Developing effective onboarding strategies and steps to success for each employee is critical to helping them operate as a part of a cohesive department and within the broader organization. During onboarding, introduce employees to your company’s culture, let them know who they can turn to for help and be sure to set their role’s expectations at the outset (and re-evaluate often).

You can gauge how well your onboarding process is working by tracking metrics like time-to-productivity and new hire satisfaction.  

RELATED: Want Great Employees to Stay? It Starts with Your Onboarding Program >> 

  • Retention 

The retention stage lasts as long as your employee does, so, technically, it permeates most of the employee life cycle. Throughout this stage, focus on keeping employees happy and engaged and helping them grow professionally.

You can boost satisfaction and engagement through the delivery of constructive feedback, recognition of achievements and offering unique rewards, like increased flexibility. The key is to reward the commitment of your team members with your own commitment to their individualized professional success. 

RELATED: Five Effective Employee Retention Strategies 

  • Development 

The development stage is of the utmost importance to both the employee and employer. What is done in this stage translates to whether your employee will stay within the company (reaping a higher return on your investment in their career) or move on to another employer.

To make your development efforts successful, explore mentorship opportunities for your employees, offer them access to coaching and professional development, and consider together which skills they want to learn or improve. A successful development stage looks different for everyone. It may mean a promotion, an advancement into a position of leadership or simply a mastery of an employee’s current role.  

RELATED: A Professional Development Plan May Be What You're Missing >> 

  • Offboarding 

Whether regrettable or not, sometimes, an employee’s tenure has come to an end. Even so, you can still gain value from the offboarding stage. Work with departing employees to transfer their knowledge, delegate ongoing projects to other team members and assign their responsibilities in a way that makes sense.

As a final step, conducting an exit interview can help you make the most out of (and get the most information about) their departure.  

RELATED: How to Conduct an Exit Interview >> 

  • Separation 

When an employee’s tenure is over, whether by their choice or yours, the goal shifts to creating a positive separation. It’s not an impossible task, and you can always reap the benefits of a robust and happy alumni network.

Company alums can serve as an excellent source of referrals and do wonders to boost your business’ reputation.  

RELATED: Attrition vs. Turnover: Unraveling the Difference 

Axcet HR Solutions: By Your Side for the Entire Employee Journey  

From attracting the right candidates to working with you to design an exit interview process that helps your business grow, Axcet HR Solutions is here to assist in all your employee lifecycle improvement efforts. With Axcet HR Solutions, you’ll find that employee life cycle expertise is just the beginning of the benefits you can reap by working with a PEO.

Wondering if Axcet is right for you? Reach out to our consultants today to learn more.

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Written by Laura Dowling, SPHR

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