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Every employee at your organization has their own story, a unique journey that has shaped them and affected your company in turn. Understanding these journeys — and how your organization can transform them for the better — is one of HR’s most important responsibilities.
Fortunately, while each employee’s experience is personal, they also have some key similarities. Every story will involve how the employee heard about your organization, how they were recruited and onboarded, why they’ve stayed with your company, and how their time at your organization has changed them. These similarities form the basis of the employee life cycle — a model for understanding the employee experience and boosting engagement across each stage of the employee journey.
What is the employee life cycle — and why does it matter?
The employee life cycle is a framework that HR can use to view the steps employees progress through during their time with an organization. Generally composed of 5 to 6 stages encompassing initial attraction to eventual separation, the employee life cycle model is an excellent tool for solidifying HR’s grasp on how employees engage with their employers at different points in their career trajectory.
HR professionals can use the employee life cycle to ensure team members are consistently engaged and perform at their best. By viewing the employee experience through a holistic, connected lens, they can better determine where their efforts will make the greatest impact, whether that’s overhauling your organization’s onboarding process or reshaping its culture and brand to attract the best talent
The employee life cycle lets HR view the employee experience with the same discerning eye as marketing professionals dissect the customer experience. A customer journey map provides guidance for taking prospects through the funnel from their first interaction with a brand to conversion and beyond, revealing areas where customers drop out of the process and how to address them. Similarly, closely analyzing the employee life cycle shows what factors are negatively affecting the employee experience and how to best engage your entire workforce.
Employee life cycle surveys
The factors that lead to employee engagement are unique for every team member, and they change over time, so you need a way to survey employees at every stage of their journey. With employee life cycle surveys, you can do exactly that. Life cycle surveys provide insight into how employees feel about your company at the key moments of their experience, whether they’ve just been hired, received a promotion, or decided to leave.
With an employee engagement solution that keeps all responses fully anonymized and confidential, your team members will share how they honestly feel about your company. HR and managers can then use this data to both boost employee engagement at your organization and better craft your brand’s image to attract the talent you need.
The 6 stages of the employee life cycle
Each stage of the employee life cycle is a critical part of a team member’s journey at your organization. Here’s a primer on all 6 stages, including how you can improve each and what questions related to each you should ask on your own employee life cycle survey.
An employee’s journey with your organization doesn’t start with the recruitment process. It begins with the first time they hear about your brand. The best employees won’t join a company that doesn’t represent the very best itself. The power of employer brand is very real: 55% of job seekers will stop applying after reading negative reviews about a company, and a staggering 92% of individuals would consider leaving their current job for an opportunity with a company that has a great reputation.
How can you start making your organization somewhere the top talent wants to be? Following these practices is a great start.
Build a culture of recognition
There are few things employees value more than feeling appreciated. Think back to the last time you received recognition at work. Whether it was from a peer, manager, or even a member of your organization’s leadership team, it stuck with you, didn’t it? It’s no surprise that recognition has the greatest impact on employee engagement and organizations that rate their culture of recognition highly are 79% more likely to rate their employer brand highly as well.
Saying “thank you” every so often isn’t going to entice employees to join your company, though. You need to make recognition a part of every team member’s daily experience to build a reputation as an organization that values all employees.
Start by encouraging frequent social and monetary recognition, preferably by adopting an employee recognition platform that’s easy for everyone to use. Organizations that practice recognition frequently are 41% more likely to see improved employee retention and 34% more likely to see employee engagement. Encourage team members at all levels, from staff to leadership, to get involved as well. Recognition programs that include a peer-to-peer component are more effective than those that don’t. And employees remember recognition from managers and other leaders best.
While all team members can provide social recognition, monetary recognition is often the sole domain of HR and leadership. However, you can get every employee involved by adopting a platform with a points-based reward system. Team members can award each other points that they can then redeem for rewards in your platform’s catalog. From gift cards to unforgettable experiences to items they’ve always wanted, employees will love selecting rewards that are meaningful to them — and word of your company’s amazing recognition system will draw in more great talent.
Offer great incentives
Recognition is an incredibly powerful tool, but you need to complement it with equally attractive incentives. These range from the obvious — like compensation, health insurance, and retirement benefits — to incentives you may not have thought of. For example, profit sharing, tuition reimbursement, and even additional flexibility in when employees work and what they work on are all great ways to incentivize candidates to join your company — and to motivate your current workforce.
Find out what employees love about your company
It’s hard to sell potential candidates on your organization if you’re not sure why your employees have stuck with it. Once you find out what engages your employees, you’ll be able to double down on it and showcase it to the world. Use an engagement platform with employee life cycle surveys to regularly collect this information from all team members. In the surveys, ask what initially attracted employees to your organization, what they like best about it, and what they think could be improved to enhance their experience.
Market your brand
None of the practices above will matter if you don’t let people outside your organization know about them, so marketing your employer brand is a must. You should start by developing your corporate website and social media presence. This will be many potential candidates’ first introduction to your company, and a poor user experience can sour what would otherwise be a long, productive relationship. Ensure that your online channels are professional and highlight why your organization is an amazing place to work. Engaging in digital marketing efforts, like promoting your brand on social media and communicating with your target candidates on the platforms they favor, is another excellent way to establish your brand as one employees want to join.
The recruitment process isn’t just about evaluating and selecting candidates. It’s also a chance for candidates to get a closer look at your company and decide whether it’s a good fit for them. Hiring employees who align with your culture can positively impact all subsequent stages of the employee life cycle. Try the tips below to develop a winning recruitment process that brings in the right people.
Prioritize diversity when hiring.
Building a diverse workforce starts with recruiting diverse candidates. To prioritize diversity and inclusion when hiring, take steps to avoid any bias during the interview process. You can establish diverse groups of interviewers and train them on how to counteract their own unconscious bias, in addition to subjects that they must avoid during interviews. You should also avoid limiting yourself to only a few recruiting avenues. Instead, educate yourself on all the channels today’s diverse workforce uses, and then use them to engage with potential candidates. Finally, ask questions that reveal diversity of thought in your candidates and prioritize incorporating new perspectives to keep your organization fresh and vital.
Adapt your process for remote recruiting.
Many organizations have already moved most or all of their recruitment process online, but hiring remote employees involves far more than simply adopting the required technology. Employees have varying assumptions when it comes to how remote work functions, so be direct on where, when, and how they’ll be expected to work. Keep the hiring process as communal as possible by including additional team members in virtual interviews. And ensure that you’ve kept your process as thorough as it would be if you were recruiting in person, as bringing in the right people is just as important as ever.
Improve recruitment with employee life cycle surveys.
Employee life cycle surveys help your organization fine tune its recruitment process. Ask new hires what they loved about their hiring experience and what could be improved. You can also take their temperature on a variety of key engagement factors and then see how their feelings change over time, giving you valuable insight into how your organization affects new hires.
Onboarding is that crucial step after recruitment encompassing everything needed to turn your candidate into a high-performing, acclimated employee. Communicating the nuances of the employee’s new position, handling administrative tasks, introducing them to your organizational culture — onboarding involves a lot, and it’s not easy. But it can make the difference between a successful team member and one who struggles and eventually departs early.
Follow these principles when onboarding new employees and you’ll have mastered this part of the employee life cycle.
Make it a continuous process
Onboarding shouldn’t come to a stop after two weeks or a month. While this will likely be the most intense phase of onboarding, imposing any sort of hard stop to the onboarding process leaves employees feeling adrift. Instead, build in aspects of onboarding that continue for at least the first year the new employee is with your organization, like regular check-ins and training refreshers or updates. Maintaining this connection will keep employees on track and engaged for the initial stage of their employment and beyond.
Having a coach or mentor can make all the difference for employees just joining your organization. Whether it’s a manager or simply a more experienced peer, a coach is there to encourage, guide, and support during both good times and bad. So set up a formal coaching program and watch the relationships between your new employees and veterans grow.
Clearly define the employee’s role
It may seem obvious, but if an employee doesn’t know exactly what their role entails, they’re not going to succeed at your company. Poorly crafted job descriptions — or failing to unambiguously communicate the expectations and responsibilities of the new employee — will lead to confusion and frustration. Carefully discuss and demonstrate everything related to the employee’s position, and encourage the employee to ask questions early and often to clarify anything they don’t understand.
Include employees beyond new hires
Onboarding isn’t just for new hires. Many transitions within your organization call for onboarding, and neglecting these employees can leave them feeling lost and unable to adjust. Employees coming back from parental or medical leave, transitioning from part-time to full-time, or even rejoining the company after a stint elsewhere need help getting up to speed and reorienting themselves.
The challenge of retaining an employee begins as soon as they are hired. It’s on your organization to earn your team members’ trust and prove that it deserves their continued loyalty day in and day out. Thankfully, many of the best ways to boost employee retention are the same as those your organization should already be prioritizing to attract and recruit talent. Practicing recognition, developing a winning culture, and focusing on the quality of team leaders are all effective ways to boost retention.
And of course, asking the right questions in your employee life cycle survey is important as well. You can measure your progress on retention by asking employees whether they see themselves at your organization in five years or whether they’d recommend your company to a friend seeking work. You can also get data on the retention factors discussed above through employee life cycle and pulse surveys to see whether you’re successfully prioritizing the things that drive retention at your business.
The development stage of the employee life cycle includes everything that helps your employees mature within your organization, from advancing in their career to learning new skills. This is the part of the employee life cycle that can take your organization to new heights. Professional development is a win-win, empowering your team members to achieve things they never thought possible while fostering a workforce that delivers for your customers every time.
Developing your workforce affects every other part of the employee life cycle as well. Your employees are far more likely to remain with your company if it tangibly demonstrates its investment in them, and every employee wants to join an organization that supports their growth. Even employees who decide to move on from your business will always remember what you did to help them on their way, and they’ll look to repay the favor however they can.
Workforce development begins with a continuous learning approach that views each day and task as a chance to improve a skill or discover something new. Empower employees to pursue development opportunities, whether that takes the form of reimbursement for a seminar or covering the cost of tuition for an advanced degree. You should also encourage knowledge sharing within your organization through coaching and regular meetings where employees can share their hard won experiences. And providing recognition to those who achieve their development goals will keep your employees motivated to learn.
You should also consider adopting helpful technology like a learning management system (LMS) — a platform that facilitates the management and delivery of online training materials in a variety of formats. It allows your employees to access it from anywhere and pursue development wherever and whenever makes sense for them. Your organization can then track their progress and analyze whether your development objectives are being met. An LMS also provides for an individualized learning experience, allowing you to customize courses and even set up learning paths to help employees learn as they prefer.
Your organization should do everything it can to ensure valued employees will stay with your organization until retirement. But many will, for one reason or another, decide to continue their careers elsewhere at some point.
However, an employee’s departure doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Instead, view it as a learning opportunity — and a chance to turn your former employee into a lifelong advocate for your company. Change your perspective and start treating the goal of the offboarding process as helping the employee take the next steps of their career journey with dignity and confidence. You’ll find that this approach will pay regular dividends for your organization for years to come. And the data you gain from surveying departing team members will help you keep optimizing the entirety of the employee life cycle.
Taking control of the employee life cycle
The employee life cycle is an amazing tool, but trying to get a grasp on each stage can be overwhelming. Thankfully, there are solutions available to assist HR and managers in improving the employee experience.
It all starts with listening to your employees and acting on their feedback. Achievers Listen™ is an always-on, flexible voice of the employee solution that’s focused on action. Grounded in workforce and data science, the Listen suite leverages employee feedback at each moment of an employee’s journey inside the organization to give senior leaders deep visibility into their organization’s health, HR professionals the insight to see problems and opportunities, and leads managers to take real-time action.
After you’ve got a grasp on the employee life cycle at your company, you’ll want to start impacting it for the better, and recognition is the best way to positively affect every stage. Achievers Recognize, an award-winning employee recognition platform, makes showing appreciation to others a seamless, enjoyable part of the everyday work experience. Customers who use Achievers Recognize are:
- 54% more likely to give their culture of recognition a high rating than customers of other technology providers.
- 2.5 times more likely to see increased employee retention.
- 36% more likely to see an increase in employee engagement.
- 3.6 times more likely than customers of other providers to give recognition multiple times each month.
- 33% more likely to rate their employer brand higher than customers of Achievers’ competitors.
Take control of the employee life cycle by trying a free demo of Achievers Listen and Recognize today!