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Understanding the employee life cycle

Last updated

15 July 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Shawnna Johnson

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The process of employing someone new, from when they start looking for a job to when they begin working for your company, involves several stages. This is known as the employee life cycle.

By understanding what those stages are, the unique challenges of each, and how to maximize them to best meet the needs of employee and employer, you will create a happier, more fulfilling, and more productive workplace.

In this article, we will look in detail at the six major stages of the employee life cycle.

1. Brand attraction

This first stage of the employee life cycle begins before you've even made a job posting. Brand attraction represents how potential employees feel about your company. When you make a job posting, will they want to work for you?

Brand attraction can be improved in the following ways:

Defining your employee value proposition (EVP)

First, ask yourself why anyone would want to work for you.

Your EVP is similar to the value proposition for your products or services. When you know what existing customers find valuable about what you offer, you have something for marketing and development teams to promote to attract new customers.

Similarly, by knowing why employees want to work for your company, and why they stay, you can foster more of that environment and highlight it in job postings to attract top talent.

Company branding

Similar to value propositions, the need for branding applies to potential candidates as well as people who have already applied.

Companies that attract the best candidates will have a thorough Careers section on their website. They'll put their EVP in a prominent position, along with testimonials from existing employees.

The Careers section markets your company to potential employees just as a landing page does to potential customers.

Fostering employee testimonials

To get those nice employee testimonials for your Careers page, you have to give employees a reason to write them.

The experience of potential employees depends on how you treat your current members of staff. A company with a reputation for being difficult to work for will get fewer applicants.

Gather feedback from your current employees and highlight it on your website in the form of testimonials or even short videos.

2. Recruitment

The second phase of the employee life cycle lasts from when potential applicants first see your job posting to the moment they're hired. This is likely the first time a potential employee will meet anyone from the company face to face, making it the first real opportunity you have to make a good impression.

The factors below will impact the recruitment phase.

Job analysis and planning

Have you ever read a job posting and been left wondering what exactly the job entails? One of the reasons for such low-quality job postings is the failure of the company to properly identify the role and its responsibilities.

Before writing a single word of the job posting, take the time to understand:

  • What the employee will be responsible for

  • The expectations of the job

  • What’s required to do the job successfully

Then, you can more effectively communicate these aspects and tailor your job search more specifically.

Creating compelling job postings

With a comprehensive list of requirements and expectations in hand, you've already got the basis for a good job posting. But a list of tasks and qualifications won't sell the job.

In your job posting, just as on your Careers page, you have to highlight why someone would want to work for your company and what they might achieve by doing so. Sell yourself as an employer just as you would a provider of products or services.

Proofread the copy a few times to ensure it's well written, clear, and attractive to a candidate.

Screening and selection

This is the part of the recruitment phase when you begin to shortlist and interview candidates. This is also when potential employees will meet you for the first time.

When interviewing employees, be sure to ask questions that accurately assess their skills in relation to the job. This will not only help you to find the most qualified candidate but will also set expectations for the employee.

Take the time to get to know them as a person to gauge how well they'll fit in with the company culture. Don’t miss the opportunity to ask them why they applied for your role. This will give you a good insight into your EVP.

Making the job offer

Once you've decided to hire someone, you need to close the deal. Getting the ideal candidate means offering them a competitive package. This starts with an attractive initial offer but may include negotiations if the would-be employee doesn't find the offer satisfactory.

This should be done as quickly as possible, for the sake of the employee and your company. You don’t want to lose your ideal employee to a competitor before you secure their employment.

3. Onboarding

While the recruitment process is the employee's first proper impression of your company, the onboarding process is their first impression of working for your company. It also sets them up for success or failure during their time with you.

A proper onboarding process sets expectations and prepares the employee for the road ahead. Factors to consider include:

Welcome and orientation

The onboarding process should create a warm, welcoming atmosphere for new employees. It sets the tone for employee experience in the remaining phases of the employee life cycle. A dull onboarding experience that treats the employee like a cog in the machine will impact their perception of the company going forward.

During the orientation, take time to introduce the company's values and culture and make it interactive and interesting. This keeps employees aligned with the goals of the business.

Setting expectations

The job posting stage provides an extensive list of requirements and expectations. The onboarding process is the perfect opportunity to expand upon these.

Employees should go into their first working day fully aware of what the company expects from them and how those expectations will be measured. Inform the employee of the metrics that will be used to evaluate their performance, and provide them with resources to improve in the areas being measured.

Initial training

A big part of any onboarding process is training the employee to do their job. Most employees will come into the role with the basic requirements met, but they will not know specific company policies and procedures. A software developer, for example, may be highly proficient in the tools you use but won't be familiar with your particular codebase, coding style, and development cycle.

During this part of the phase, be sure to assess where the employee is at so you can get them where they need to be during the training process.

4. Development

Training doesn't end when the employee finishes onboarding. The next stage of their employee life cycle is the development phase. This is when they acquire new skills and experiences that will help them advance in their career.

An employee who feels their career has stagnated will likely seek a change. Make sure they see a path forward.

Assessing development needs

Very few employees excel at every aspect of their jobs. Even those that do may need to gain other skills to keep pace with a changing workplace.

The first step of career development is understanding in which areas an employee is lacking so you can make plans for improvement in those areas. Mastering current skills is important before taking on additional skills.

Performance metrics and reviews, as well as interviews with coworkers and management, can help identify these areas.

Creating development plans

Once the areas for improvement are recognized, give your employee an identifiable path to improve. This involves setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals so they can track their progress and have something solid to work toward.

Any training programs should be designed with the specific needs of the employee in mind. This saves vital resources like time and money but also helps to keep the employee engaged with the training.

Training and learning opportunities

It's a good idea to always have learning resources available for those employees who wish to take advantage of them. This could mean providing reimbursement for relevant college courses or creating an e-learning platform where employees can log in and learn job skills for free on their own time.

Training in soft skills, such as communication, makes for excellent online course material, but job-specific technical learning could be made available as well.

Providing regular feedback

A person can't improve if they don't know they need to. Regular feedback will let the employee know where they excel and where they are coming up short.

This feedback should be constructive; it's meant to help the employee, not make them feel bad about themselves. Just as with the development plans, this feedback should include SMART goals the employee can use to improve their performance.

5. Retention

Good employees have a lot of opportunities available to them in the job market. Great ones might even be actively recruited – head-hunted – by competitors.

Efforts to retain good employees must be a part of their life cycle with your company. Let’s look at some ways to achieve this.

Competitive compensation

It probably goes without saying that compensation plays a major role in how satisfied someone is in their job.

All things being equal, employees are going to work for the company that pays the most. They may be willing to take a reduction in pay if everything else is exceptional, but it's a good idea to provide a compensation package in line with your competitors.

Understanding needs and expectations

We've talked a lot about the employee needing to understand your expectations, but that's a two-way street. This doesn't mean the employee becomes the boss and gets whatever they demand, but you need to be aware of the factors that impact employee satisfaction at your company and in your industry as a whole. This way, you'll be able to proactively address those issues and keep employees happy.

Creating a positive work environment

The worst jobs aren't the ones where the work is hard; they're the ones where the work environment is difficult. When conditions are needlessly uncomfortable, both physically and mentally, employees are likely to seek greener pastures.

Providing an environment that's physically comfortable for employees is the first half of the equation. The second half is a management team that cares for employees and quashes intra-employee strife quickly and compassionately.

Career growth opportunities

Compensation for the job the employee is doing is important, but compensation for the job they could be doing is what you're ultimately competing against. If they feel they can advance further in their career at a different company, they won't stick around in their current job even if it pays competitively.

Creating a clear career path and helping employees take the steps necessary to advance in their careers will give them an idea of what future compensation may look like.

6. Exit

All employees leave eventually. If you're lucky, it's via retirement after a long, productive, and happy career. Sometimes, it's because a better offer comes along or life circumstances force a change in their life. Whatever the reason, their exit from the company completes their employee life cycle with you.

There are elements to be attended to in these final days. Just as with onboarding, the way an employee leaves your company can have an impact on your employee value proposition.

Knowledge transfer

When an employee leaves, you don't want knowledge that is required by the company to go with them. Any information that needs to be passed on to potential replacements should be taken care of before the employee's exit.

Be sure to make a comprehensive list of any required knowledge the employee may have, and facilitate the knowledge transfer well in advance of their departure.

Managing offboarding

Some aspects of the offboarding process are frequently neglected. For example, you may have remembered to get company keys back from the employee, but did you remember to remove their access from the software products you use?

Properly offboarding an employee requires coordination with your IT and HR departments so that all necessary technical and legal requirements are fulfilled.

Exit analysis

Unless the employee is retiring, you can learn a lot about why they chose to leave. An exit interview can help identify problems in your company that reduce retention rates.

By using this information to improve conditions for the remaining employees, you may prevent the next one from leaving and retain more of your top talent.

In addition to the exit interview, HR departments should regularly monitor employer review sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed for employee feedback.

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