onboarding

The 8 stages of the employee lifecycle: Definitions and strategies

Appical Team
Wilma Johansson
May 29, 2024
8
min read
Table of Contents
Most people will at some point in their lives look for a job, find a job, work there, and eventually leave. This process is often repeated throughout our working lives. The employee lifecycle model recognizes these various stages as part of a cycle, with different challenges and opportunities in each stage. Let’s go through the steps of this cycle and discover how you can use it to create a positive and productive work environment!

What is the employee lifecycle?

The employee lifecycle, sometimes called the employee journey, encompasses the entire journey of an employee within an organization, from initial contact to departure. During this cycle, there are multiple stages an employee goes through. The stages usually range between 6 and 9, depending on the source. These stages have different characteristics and opportunities within them, and together they make up a cycle that an individual goes through several times in their lives after entering the working world.

Why is it important to map out the employee lifecycle?

At the end of the day, you don’t just want someone to work for you. You want engaged, skilled, and loyal employees who contribute to your company and who speak well of it even after their departure. Being a company where employees feel valued and satisfied contributes to a positive and productive company culture, and reflects positively on your brand.

Here’s where the employee lifecycle can help. By mapping out the employee journey, you can identify moments in the employee lifecycle where staff members feel engaged and disengaged from their work. It will also help them reach their full potential, which leads to better employee experiences, increased engagement, and ultimately, improved organizational performance. However, it’s important to realize that these steps build on top of each other. In the same way that you can’t build a roof without having a solid foundation, you cannot create employee retention, loyalty, and trust from nothing - you have to start building it from the very beginning.

What are the stages?

The employee lifecycle consists of the following 8 stages:

  • Attraction
  • Recruitment
  • Preboarding
  • Onboarding
  • Talent management
  • Retention
  • Reboarding
  • Offboarding

Attraction

Attraction is a key component in any relationship - even between employee and company. The attraction phase starts right from the first point of contact an individual has with a brand or company, whether it’s hearing about it from a friend or seeing a vacancy online. 

In this context, attraction refers to whether an organization or company is perceived as a desirable workplace. After all, while managers must think that an employee can offer a meaningful contribution to the company, the employee must also feel that the company offers a work environment in line with what they are looking for. Attractiveness is therefore important if you want the best candidates to come to you.

Some general aspects that make a company attractive, according to research at Wifor.com, are:

  • A caring company that prioritizes a healthy work-life balance
  • Positive company culture promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion.
  • Possibilities to grow and develop on a professional level.

But keep in mind that even smaller things, such as your marketing strategies and brand reputation affect how attractive your company is perceived.

Recruitment

Along with attraction, recruitment lays the foundation of a potential employee’s experience and sets the tone for the rest of their journey. Recruitment covers the moment when candidates apply for a job until the moment they accept the offer. 

At this stage, some important elements for a successful recruitment process are: 

  • A simple recruitment process to avoid confusion and dropout rates among candidates.
  • A time-effective strategy for screening, sourcing, and interviewing candidates to ensure that you view all potential talent and don’t miss out.
  • Maintaining professionalism by always responding to all candidates, including those who don’t qualify for interviews, to give a good impression of your company and to treat everyone with respect.

In a way, everything your company does publicly is a form of recruitment marketing, but there are certain channels specifically aimed at job seekers you can take advantage of - think of job descriptions, careers pages, hiring platforms, and industry events.

Check out our blog to see what employees really want in an employer.

Preboarding

Once the ideal candidate has been found and selected, the next stage is preboarding. This is the period between accepting a new offer and the first day of work, and typically consists of all administrative tasks that need to be finished before the new hire starts. However, preboarding is so much more than just paperwork. This phase is a good - and important - opportunity to help the employee form a positive connection with the organization and future colleagues early on.

Some tips to form this connection include:

  • Introducing the new employee to the office, team, and company culture and values before their first day. 
  • Keeping in touch with new employees by checking in on them and answering any questions they might have.
  • Preparing the new hire for what their first day will look like, to ease nervousness and keep them up to date.

Preboarding may sound easy, but in reality, there are many tasks to be completed before a new employee’s first day. It can be anything from ensuring that all paperwork is done and that all necessary equipment is in order, to preparing the team and forming an action plan, like a 30-60-90 day plan

One way to optimize the preboarding process is by digitalizing it using an onboarding platform. Having all tasks collected on one platform eases the time planning and resource allocation for managers and HR. This makes it easier for the employee to know what tasks need to be completed before the first day.

Onboarding

Onboarding is sometimes used as an umbrella term for preboarding and onboarding, but on its own, it refers to the new hire’s first day and onwards. The duration of onboarding varies: it can take 3 to 6 months, or sometimes up to a whole year. A new hire may ease into their role at a different pace depending on the role and their previous experience, but still have check-ins their entire first year.

The onboarding process can be subdivided into phases, such as the first day, week, and 30, 60, and 90 days. These are milestones that can be used to set goals for what the new hire is expected to learn during each period.

The onboarding phase is an essential stage for employee retention. In fact, research has shown that 64% of employees are inclined to leave a new job within their first year if their onboarding experience is negative (Hibob). The same research shows that good onboarding programs increase employee retention by 25%, which prevents the costs of replacing employees.

Other benefits of a good onboarding process include:

  • 82% improvement in new hire retention
  • 70% productivity increase
  • Increased employee engagement, with 51% of employees stating that a good onboarding experience would motivate them to go “above and beyond” (Hays).

Investing in employees from the start is therefore a long-term investment, and a good onboarding process should never be underestimated.

Talent management

You’ve successfully onboarded your new talent and they’ve settled into their new role. But wait, it’s not over yet! After settling into their new company, an employee must build their skills to reach their full potential and contribute to the organization. This is the talent management phase.

Some important aspects of talent management include:

  • Clear communication in the shape of regular check-ins and feedback.
  • Goal setting and evaluation to make sure that the employee is developing and reaching their full potential in the company.
  • Motivation drivers such as training programs, mentorships, and opportunities for career advancement within the company.

Retention

Once an employee is onboarded and they’re successfully developing their skills and proving a valuable contribution to the company, the next stage is to ensure that they want to stay within the company. This is employee retention. Retention is important to keep talent within your organization and to avoid the high costs of replacing employees.

To succeed in retaining your employees, the 3 R’s of retention may be helpful. These are:

  • Respect: According to a survey, respect from superiors is the most important factor for workers. Employees who feel respected are more likely to want to stay with a company.
  • Recognition: Lack of recognition has proven to be one of the main reasons for demotivated employees (Reward Gateways). Therefore, make sure to give your employees the recognition they deserve for their skills and hard work.
  • Rewards: It’s not just about the money - even small rewards have been shown to increase employee motivation and loyalty, whether it’s a voucher or other perks.

This blog contains more tips on how to introduce employee recognition in onboarding.

Reboarding

Once onboarded, always onboarded, right? Well, not necessarily. Reboarding concerns employees who return to their workplace after a period of absence, such as parental or sick leave. In these scenarios, reboarding is helpful in welcoming employees back and re-integrating them into their roles and tasks. 

Reboarding and onboarding are similar and share the importance of giving a warm welcome, but the reboarding process focuses more on re-introduction and adapting to the employee’s previous experience and knowledge, while updating them on important changes.

Some important aspects of reboarding include:

  • Preparing the employee for the reboarding in advance, to not overwhelm them on their first day back.
  • Re-familiarizing the employee with their colleagues.
  • Give important updates about changes in structure or work tasks.

Offboarding

All good things come to an end, and employment is no exception. Whether for retirement or other career opportunities, there will come a time when every employee departs. Offboarding encompasses the period between the resignation of an employee to their final departure. Even though offboarding may be the most overlooked phase of the employee lifecycle, there are many things a company can do to ensure a friendly and smooth departure.

A good offboarding includes several necessary steps, but some important ones are: 

  • An exit interview, to gain valuable insights for the company about what you can do to improve employee retention.
  • An organized departure - make sure the knowledge transfer is smooth and sufficient and that access to any accounts connected to the company is revoked.
  • A personalized goodbye in the shape of a gift or handwritten card from colleagues, to make the employee feel valued even as they leave.

Having an offboarding checklist can help with this, to ensure that everything runs smoothly and your employee is given a proper goodbye.

Regardless of the reason for the departure, a proper and good offboarding is important in leaving a lasting positive impression on the employee. After all, an employee with a positive experience of a company is more likely to speak well of it and recommend it to others. This, in turn, will increase the attractiveness of your company. And so the cycle comes full circle, returning us to the starting point of attraction.

Main takeaways

As we’ve learned in this blog, the employee lifecycle consists of different stages with different needs and opportunities. Recognizing and leveraging these stages gives an organization the best opportunities to make their employees reach their full potential while forming a lasting connection with the company.

It is crucial for organizations to assess their current practices in each stage, from attracting talent to offboarding, in order to create an environment that cultivates engaged, loyal, and skilled employees. By investing in the employee lifecycle, companies establish themselves as a desirable destination for talented individuals, ultimately leading to long-term success, increased productivity, and a thriving workforce.

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