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What are employee lifecycle programs?

11 min read
The world’s best employers are using employee lifecycle management to support their employee experience. What is it, and how can you capture employee feedback at every moment that matters?


What is the employee lifecycle?

Every employee goes through a series of stages from the day they see your job ad and apply, right through to the day they leave your company. This is a proven model applied by HR teams around the world known as the employee lifecycle.

It’s typically broken down into 5 stages:

  1. Recruitment– this includes all the steps which lead to hiring a new employee. It starts with the initial job ad, and your website, which should demonstrate what your organisation does, its purpose and brand, and contain your employer value proposition (EVP)
  2. Onboarding– once a new hire starts, this stage is where they get up to speed with the tools, systems and processes as well as get to grips with expectations in the role. As they carve out a niche for themselves and build new relationships, they’ll need training and support – for up to a year if necessary.
  3. Development – an ongoing stage in an employee’s lifecycle, with individual employees developing at different rates and across a variety of competencies. It pays to let employees develop their own professional action plan, encouraging external learning and reward for people who learn in their own time.
  4. Retention – at this stage, employees are fully ramped and integrated into the company and the goal is then to keep them – performing, developing and contributing to the company’s success. Any weak areas in training will become obvious, as will excellent performance, and you will be able to identify people who deserve promotion.
  5. Exit – the final stage of the lifecycle, employees can leave for a whole host of reasons, including retirement, a new position, education or personal reasons. It’s important to part company with employees on good terms – happy ones can become brand ambassadors.

eBook: Employee Lifecycle Feedback

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The benefits of employee lifecycle management

When you analyse each employee’s lifecycle with the same care that you map your customers’ journeys, and act upon the data, you’ll find these significant benefits:

  • Better retention of talent
  • Improvement in brand reputation
  • Easier recruitment of new talent

It’s expensive to build company reputation and replace employees. When you retain your people and your brand’s reputation grows naturally, you can direct resources to other areas of business development.

Designing a lifecycle program

Designing an effective employee lifecycle program needs careful thought and buy-in from stakeholders to return the best possible results and data. Here are the steps you need to take to create a program suited to your organisation:

  • Establish a culture of feedback and transparency: Forward-thinking organisations encourage employees to say what they think through regular feedback surveys throughout their employee lifecycle. Be quick to share the results, favourable or otherwise, for the common interest of improvement.
  • Get executive leaders on board: Empower managers to embrace feedback as an integral driver of enhanced employee experience and organisational improvement. Set them up with analysis tools and dashboards so they can access and understand the data readily and be able to draw up action plans for improvement.
  • Get stakeholder buy-in: Your employee lifecycle program is a substantial project and it will need to involve a lot of people in its design, administration and reporting. Senior HR staff are the ultimate owners of your employee lifecycle program, and your greatest advocates to keep the C-suite on side. HR business partners and regional leads will keep it on track with the managers of different areas. Line managers are the people who will implement action all along your lifecycle program, so it’s essential they are enabled to do that. They are the tier of management that has access to their team’s results, the task of communicating them to the team and helping to drive improvements. Employees – the most important of all –- the people whose lifecycle your program is designed for! Employees’ open, honest feedback from the day they’re recruited to the day they leave drives improvements in your business. They provide your most valuable insight into what it’s really like to work for your organisation. Keep them on side and make every event along their lifecycle engaging, meaningful and relevant.
  • Establish benchmarks is a management tool used for comparing your business’s performance data against the performance data of others. It can be used to look at particular business functions (time, cost, quality, customer satisfaction, employee engagement), the business as a whole or even individual performance. Broadly, benchmarking breaks down into two types: internal:comparing one area of the organisation against another and external: comparing the business to another company; this can be a competitor or an entirely different industry.
  • Have the right tech:Set up a system with the right tech and tools to be able to gather and analyse feedback at every stage along your employee lifecycle. It’s important that your tech platform is scalable so that even if you start small, your program can grow with your business.

Planning your lifecycle program

  • Set your goals:An effective employee lifecycle program is always goal driven: attracting and recruiting the best quality candidates, onboarding them quickly and efficiently, developing their capabilities, keeping them for as long as possible, and getting useful feedback when they leave. Once everyone understands that their feedback is targeted to make improvements, and has purpose, not measurement for measurement’s sake, you’ll get greater buy-in and accuracy.
  • Prioritise for the greatest impact:focus on those measurements that have the most impact, such as the greatest ROI for the business or alleviating the most troublesome pain points identified by employees. For example, where your staff retention is good, it’s unlikely you’ll need a lot of investment in exit feedback; instead, maybe focus on streamlining your recruitment processes.
  • Decide how often to survey:Many employee lifecycle stages are triggered automatically by events, such as first day at work, training completion or exit. The development and retention stages are less clear-cut, so you’ll need to decide how often you want to survey your employees. Will you stick with the traditional annual employee satisfaction survey, do it every six months or offer a quarterly pulse survey? You may also wish to build in touchpoints specific to your employees; relocation or parental leave, for example.
  • Choose who to survey:Will you survey all your employees? Or just a sample? If you go for a sample instead, bear in mind that you need at least 5,000 employees in your organisation for effective sampling.
  • Choose a start point to roll out from:employee lifecycle survey programs are substantial, and many organisations will not be ready to implement a full program immediately. You’ll need to work within your means, the feedback culture of your workplace and gauge readiness for change. A natural place to start is with onboarding, where surveys at key milestones can pinpoint any new employee issues. Get this right and it sets a positive tone for the employee’s whole journey.

Employee lifecycle surveys and KPIs

The various key performance indicators (KPIs) at every stage in the lifecycle are how you demonstrate its value to leadership, and link your HR initiatives with your company’s core financial or operational metrics. But how do you improve the KPIs at each stage? You’ll need to collect employee feedback at every stage and analyse it as a holistic data set. You can map out the experience for employees from interview to exit and identify the relationships between the different activities at each stage.

5 stages of the employee lifecycle

  • Recruitment:Make sure your employer brand is true to your mission, vision, and values, and your organisation has a good reputation. This is your employer value proposition (EVP) and you can showcase it in your in your recruitment materials. Listening to social media, checking job sites such as Glassdoor and acting on feedback is essential to inform this. Ask candidates for feedback, using pre-hire surveys on the job ad, and application and interview processes.
    • Metrics: Time to hire, cost per hire, offer acceptance rate, quality of hire, hiring diversity, candidate experience.
  • Onboarding: ‘Ramp time’ is the time between hiring a new employee and the point at which they become productive. It makes sense for this to be as short as possible and training to be efficient and effective. Onboarding and training surveys will identify where new hires found the process easy or difficult.
    • Metrics: Ramp time, new hire engagement, training effectiveness, new hire turnover (how soon they leave).
  • Development:How productive an employee is, how they interact in a team, how they are trained and promoted are all aspects of their development.
    • Metrics: Sales figures, training costs, productivity, 360 feedback, always-on feedback, promotion rates (are enough employees being promoted?), training feedback.
  • Retention:Happy, satisfied employees are more likely to stay with the organisation, minimising staff attrition. It’s essential to run regular engagement surveys to gather employee feedback, and even more essential to act on the findings. Beware of over-surveying, leading to survey fatigue, though.
  • Exit:You’ll probably get your most honest feedback at the exit interview, a vital, but too often fudged stage in the employee lifecycle. You use this stage to understand why people are leaving the organisation so you can step in to make improvements in the retention stage to reduce your attrition rate. Conduct exit surveys in a professional manner to demonstrate you’re still listening and caring; insights gathered here can resonate across all the lifecycle stages and provoke action.
    • Metrics: exit survey, employee turnover.

eBook: Employee Lifecycle Feedback