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Ultimate Guide to Employee Life Cycle Management: Onboarding to Offboarding

What is the employee life cycle? 

The employee life cycle refers to the different stages that an employee goes through while working at an organization. These stages include:

  1. Recruitment and selection
  2. Onboarding
  3. Performance management
  4. Career development
  5. Manager and workload changes 
  6. Succession planning
  7. Exit and offboarding
  8. Retire/Return

Each stage of the employee life cycle has its own set of challenges and opportunities for HR to manage and optimize. The goal is to create a positive and productive candidate experience throughout their time with the company.

Why is it important to understand and optimize the employee life cycle? 

Understanding and optimizing the employee life cycle has equally important business benefits as studying the customer life cycle.

1. Better Employee Experience

Optimizing the customer experience can lead to increased customer loyalty and satisfaction. Similarly, optimizing the employee experience can lead to increased employee satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty.

2. Increased Business Success

Optimizing the customer lifecycle can improve overall business performance by building good relationships with customers and prospects. In the same way, optimizing the employee lifecycle can also drive business success by improving employee performance and productivity.

3. Better Employer Brand

Optimizing the customer experience can enhance a company's reputation and brand, leading to higher lifetime value. Similarly, optimizing the employee experience can also enhance the company's reputation as a great place to work and improve its ability to attract and retain top talent.

4. Better targeting and personalization 

Businesses use customer lifecycle insights to develop more targeted and personalized marketing campaigns, leading to higher customer engagement and conversions. In the same manner, they use employee life cycle insights to build an engaging and highly productive work environment.

The two life cycles are interdependent and improving one can lead to improvements in the other.

The 11 Stages of the Employee Life Cycle Model

1. Candidate attraction

At this point, the company is thinking about how to attract talent. Let’s look at some examples of what happens in this stage.

  • The company invests in employer branding activities to boost brand awareness among prospective candidates. For example, creating/promoting videos about culture, PR activities, and so on.
  • The candidates may be reading job descriptions from the company, hearing about the company from a friend, stumbling on the company's social media posts, and so on. (Here, the candidate is considering a new job and may be exploring more than one company.)
  • HR and hiring managers draft job descriptions.
  • The company promotes jobs through its careers page, external job boards, vendors, and social media.
  • Companies evaluate the sourcing budget and decide where and how they want to spend it. 

2. Candidate selection /recruitment

At this point, candidates are exploring the company through an application or interview process and it is critical for companies to offer a seamless candidate experience.

  • Candidates fill out applications, attend interviews, and interact with hiring managers. 
  • HR schedules interviews, creates scorecards, gathers feedback, and facilitates decision-making for hiring. 
  • Interview panels evaluate candidates over the phone, video calls, and face-to-face interviews and give their feedback for consolidation. To speed up the process and cut down on interview time, companies might use pre-assessment tests at this stage. 
  • Overall, the company is thinking about creating a smooth candidate experience. They collect feedback from candidates about the recruiting process. 
  • Companies optimize their recruiting process based on analytics and feedback. 
  • Most importantly, they make hiring decisions during this stage. Companies roll out offers to selected candidates and candidates may accept/reject them.

3. New hire onboarding

The goal in this stage is to ensure that new hires are properly onboarded and integrated into the company culture.

  • In the pre-onboarding stage, HR sends out handbooks and other onboarding forms to the employee. 
  • Employees digitally sign and return them. 
  • During the onboarding, the employee shows up for their first day, either physically or remotely. They receive their IDs, network credentials, and company swag to make them feel welcome. 
  • The company is looking at how quickly it can get the candidate to start work (optimize time to productivity) by giving them everything they need. 
  • Organizations use smart AI-driven HR bots to swiftly answer common queries from recruits. So, new hires find everything they need without a hiccup, ensuring a positive candidate experience.

4. Performance management

During the performance management stage, the company evaluates employees’ work and provides feedback to help them grow.

  • Managers have 1-1s with their employees to set and review short-term goals that align with long-term goals. 
  • Managers evaluate the performance of the employees and give them official feedback. 
  • The organization defines what excellence looks like for each role. 
  • The company rewards and recognizes star performers.

The goal here is to help employees improve their performance and ensure they are honing their potential. 

5. Manager changes

New managers come with different management and communication styles and may have different expectations from the team. At this stage, the organization focuses on helping employees get accustomed to the new manager.

  • An organization communicates transparently to team members about manager changes.
  • They enable 360-degree feedback for managers to hear from their team on any challenges they are facing as a result of the move.
  • The organization also gets previous managers, if possible, to help with the transition.

6. Workload and responsibility changes

The employee's workload may change due to various factors like team change, promotion, organizational interventions, and so on. At this stage, the organization wants to help employees settle into their new roles and start performing without any hiccups. They help iron out any challenges that stand in the way.

  • The organization communicates the reason for the workload change.
  • They give clarity on what is expected from the employee. They also offer help to prioritize tasks based on the new workload.
  • If the new workload involves new skills, training and mentorship are also offered to the employee.
  • Employers use smart HR bots like Amber to run real-time, milestone surveys to understand their employees' sentiments at this point in time.

7. Career development

At this stage, employers support employees in identifying and pursuing opportunities for career growth and advancement within the organization.

  • Organizations identify internal job openings for internal promotions/growth opportunities.
  • They provide mentoring and coaching and encourage employees to take on new roles and responsibilities.
  • Managers help employees create clear career development plans, set goals, and chart a clear path to achieving them. This helps employees take ownership of their professional growth and advancement.

8. Succession planning

Organizations plan for the future by identifying and developing potential leaders.

  • Managers and leaders track the career progression of employees, including promotions, job changes, and new responsibilities, to identify potential leaders and high-potential employees.
  • The organization facilitates managerial/leadership training to groom employees into good leaders.
  • Employees attend leadership training and feel enabled and empowered for future growth.

The goal here is to groom employees for future roles while also giving them a sense of growth.

9. Exit and offboarding

Organizations want to give leaving employees a smooth offboarding experience and be open to any insightful feedback from them. After all, they may return or end up as ambassadors or customers of the company. Interactions that happen at this stage could look like this:

  • Organizations talk to leaving employees to understand their intentions of leaving.
  • They try to sort out pressing issues and see if they can retain the employee.
  • HR sends out exit forms to fill out and formalities to finish for the employee before leaving. 
  • Besides exit interviews, organizations use other means like exit surveys to gather feedback from leaving employees. This gives them a safe place to share their honest feedback.

10. Retirement

The retirement stage is the final stage of the employee’s life cycle, in which the employee has reached the age of retirement or reached the end of their working life. This stage involves planning for the employee's retirement, including benefits, pension, and other support. HR helps the employee with the needed information and formalities.

11. Boomerang, the returning employee

The employee life cycle is not always linear. Employees may move back and forth between stages depending on their circumstances and the organization's needs.

Such "returning employees” or boomerang employees are individuals who leave an organization and then return to the same organization at a later date.

Boomerang employees can bring valuable skills, experiences, and perspectives to the company. Around this stage,

  • Organizations keep communication lines open with exceptional alumni for future opportunities.
  • They fast-track the interview process since they already have a history with the candidate.
  • Organizations fix any issues the employees had at the firm before. 
  • They try to understand the renewed skills and expertise of the employee and put it to good use in their new role.

Having boomerang employees is beneficial as they are already familiar with the company's culture, processes, and systems. It reduces the need for training and orientation. They come with a sense of loyalty and commitment to the organization, which enhances retention and engagement.

Embracing Diverse Perspectives in the Employee Life Cycle Model.

While the employee life cycle model provides a structured framework, it is essential to consider diverse perspectives to ensure inclusivity and fairness. Here are a few aspects to consider:

Diversity and Inclusion: Organizations should strive to create a diverse and inclusive work environment, where employees from different backgrounds and experiences feel valued and respected. McKinsey's Diversity Matters report found that diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their industry peers.

Equitable Career Opportunities: Ensuring equal access to career advancement opportunities for all employees is crucial. Organizations should provide training and development programs that address any existing disparities in skill gaps and empower employees from underrepresented groups.

Flexible Work Options: Organizations that offer flexible work options, such as remote work or flexible schedules, can attract and retain a diverse talent pool. According to a survey by FlexJobs, 65% of employees believe they would be more productive working remotely.

Employee Engagement: Actively involving employees in decision-making processes, soliciting feedback, and recognizing their contributions can contribute to higher employee satisfaction and retention rates. Research by Gallup shows that engaged employees are 21% more profitable than those who are not engaged.

By considering diverse perspectives and embracing inclusive practices, organizations can create a supportive and productive work environment that fosters growth, satisfaction, and retention throughout every stage of the employee life cycle.

The impact of remote work on the employee life cycle  

With remote working options taking over the work world, they definitely pose some new challenges in managing the employee life cycle. Here’s a quick look.

1. Recruitment

Remote work options enable organizations to attract talent from across the globe. This means they also need to be equipped to attract global talent through global branding activities, virtual interview processes, and so on.

2. Onboarding

Remote employees may require a different onboarding process, with a focus on setting up their home workstations and getting acclimated to remote work from tools and technologies.

3. Performance Evaluation

Performance evaluations may need to be adapted to the remote work environment, with a focus on outcomes and results rather than physical presence.

4. Communication and Collaboration

Communication and collaboration may be more challenging in a remote work environment, and companies may need to invest in additional tools and technologies to support these activities.

5. Career Development

Career development may need to be reimagined in a remote work environment, with a focus on virtual training and development opportunities.

6. Workplace Flexibility

Remote work-from-home organizations may offer even greater flexibility in work arrangements, such as part-time or flexible scheduling, which can impact the employee lifecycle.

7. Mental Health and Well-being

Companies may need to focus more on employee mental health and well-being in a remote work environment, where employees may experience isolation and a lack of work-life balance.

8. Technology

Technology may play an even greater role in the remote work environment, with employees relying on technology to perform their jobs, communicate with colleagues, and access training and development resources.

Designing HR strategies for your Employee Lifecycle

Every organization is different and so are its employee life cycles. So go in with the right tools, leverage data, and commit to continuous improvement.  Keep in mind that your employee life cycle strategy is the roadmap to solving some of the biggest challenges in your employee life cycle. 

1. Assess current practices impacting your employee life cycle

Evaluate your recruitment, onboarding, performance, career development programs, succession planning initiatives, exit and offboarding processes, and other HR practices. You need a people analytics tool that can translate people's behavior, activity, and sentiments into actionable insights.

At the end of your evaluation, you will even have data to show you the different employee life cycle trends. For example, your data might tell you that your organization does great in performance reviews but struggles to onboard remote employees effectively

2. Use data and feedback to identify areas for improvement

Identify gaps and inefficiencies in current practices and areas where the organization can better support employees throughout the life cycle.

Continuing with the example we discussed before, this step might tell you that managers of the sales team in particular are struggling to onboard their new hires effectively.

3. Set clear goals and objectives

Set goals that are aligned with the organization's overall strategic objectives. The goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

Again, considering our example, in this step, you can set a goal that looks something like this: Improve onboarding completion rates in sales teams by 70% in Q1 through digital onboarding kits.

4. Develop a plan of action

Based on the goals and objectives set, the next step is to develop a plan of action. This plan can include specific actions and initiatives that the organization will take to improve employee experience and support throughout the life cycle.

For our example, this could be creating a digital onboarding kit. This kit shows the new hires what to do in the first 30 days. Additionally, you can also plan to measure the onboarding completion and satisfaction rates before and after the intervention to measure its effectiveness.

5. Implement the strategy

After developing a plan of action, the next step is to implement the employee life cycle strategy. This includes putting the plan into action, communicating the changes to managers and employees, and providing the necessary resources and support to ensure the success of the strategy.

For our example, this could mean asking managers to distribute the onboarding kits on time. HR can make it a part of the HR onboarding checklist. Additionally, managers can be asked to block time on their calendars for quick one-on-ones with the new hires to check in on their progress.

6. Measure and optimize for success

The final step is to measure and evaluate the success of the employee life cycle strategy. This includes tracking and measuring progress against the goals and objectives set, gathering feedback from employees, and making adjustments as needed to ensure that the strategy is effective and achieving the desired results.

In our example, this would mean identifying key new hire onboarding metrics to drive, setting up a tracking tool and deciding who will be the DRI for the goal.

Employee life cycle strategy is an ongoing process and requires regular review and adjustments to be truly successful.

Metrics that matter at each stage of the employee life cycle

Understanding and defining the key metrics at each stage of the employee life cycle is important to identify the scope for improvement and effectively measure success. These metrics vary depending on the stage of the employee life cycle and the specific goals and objectives of the organization. Here are some examples of key metrics that can be used at each stage:

1. Recruitment and selection:

  • Time-to-hire: The time it takes to fill a position from the time the job is posted to the time the new hire starts
  • Cost-per-hire: The total cost of recruiting and hiring a new employee, including advertising, recruiting, and training costs
  • Applicant-to-hire ratio: The ratio of applicants to the number of hires
  • Offer acceptance rates: The ratio of offers declined by the candidates to the total number of offers extended by HR

2. Onboarding:

  • Time-to-productivity: The time it takes for a new hire to become fully productive in their new role
  • Retention rate: The percentage of new hires who remain with the organization after a certain period
  • Satisfaction survey: Surveys of new hires to gauge their satisfaction with the onboarding process

3. Performance management:

  • Employee engagement: The measure of engagement and commitment that employees have to their work and the organization
  • Productivity: The output or the result an employee produces in their role
  • Attendance: The number of days that employees are absent from work

4. Career development:

  • Employee development: The number of training and development opportunities that employees have access to
  • Employee retention: The number of employees who remain with the organization
  • Employee satisfaction: Surveys of employees to gauge their satisfaction with the opportunities for career development

5. Succession planning:

  • Succession readiness: The degree to which the organization is prepared for leadership transitions
  • Employee retention: The number of employees who remain with the organization
  • Employee development: The number of training and development opportunities that employees have access to

6. Exit and offboarding:

  • Exit interview completion rate: The percentage of employees who complete exit interviews
  • Return rate: The percentage of employees who return to the organization after leaving
  • Time-to-fill: The time it takes to fill a position after an employee leaves

7. Retirement:

  • Retirement rate: The number of employees in retirement age
  • Pension plan participation rate: The percentage of employees who have enrolled in the company's pension plan
  • Employee satisfaction: Results of employee satisfaction surveys

8. Boomerang employee metrics:

Boomerang employee metrics refer to the metrics that measure the rate at which former employees return to work for the organization.

Boomerang metrics help organizations understand why employees left and what factors may have influenced their decision to return. This information can then be used to improve retention strategies and to create a more positive and supportive employee experience.

Examples of boomerang employee metrics include:

  • Return rate: The percentage of former employees who return to work for the organization after leaving
  • Time-to-return: The time it takes for a former employee to return to the organization after leaving
  • Reasons for return: The reasons why former employees choose to return to the organization

Returnee satisfaction: Surveys of former employees who have returned to gauge their satisfaction with the return experience.

Optimizing your employee lifecycle with employee feedback

The best way to optimize your employee life cycle is by giving them a voice in the improvement process. So go ahead and get their opinions, sentiments, and ideas for betterment. 

Here's a 7-step plan on how you can do that. 

Step 1: Develop a clear plan for collecting and utilizing employee feedback. This includes identifying the specific areas of the employee lifecycle that you want to focus on, as well as the methods you will use to collect feedback (such as surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one meetings).

Step 2: Create a culture of open communication and trust. Employees feel comfortable providing feedback when their feedback is taken seriously and used to make meaningful changes within the organization.

Step 3: Regularly collect feedback from employees. This can be done at regular intervals (such as annually, semi-annually, or quarterly) to ensure that you are staying up-to-date on employee perceptions and concerns.

Step 4: Use feedback to identify areas for improvement. Analyze the feedback you receive to identify patterns and common themes. Use this information to develop action plans for addressing specific issues and improving the employee experience.

Step 5: Communicate the changes and improvements. Make sure that employees are aware of the changes that are being made as a result of their feedback and how it will affect them. Keep them informed and engaged throughout the process.

Step 6: Continuously monitor and evaluate. Continuously monitor the employee experience and evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts by collecting feedback regularly. Use this feedback to adjust and improve your approach as needed.

Step 7: Recognize and reward employees who provide feedback. Encourage employees to give feedback by recognizing and rewarding those who provide it. Showing appreciation for their input will help build trust and encourage more employees to give feedback in the future.

Tools for every stage of the employee life cycle

There are plenty of tools and techniques available for organizations to support employees throughout the employee life cycle. Here's a quick peek into the foundational tools for the employee life cycle tech stack.

1. Recruitment and selection:

  • Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
  • Pre-employment assessments
  • Behavioral interviewing techniques
  • Background and reference checks

2. Onboarding:

3. Performance management:

4. Career development:

  • Career development plans
  • Mentoring programs
  • Job shadowing opportunities
  • Professional development programs

5. Succession planning:

  • Succession planning software
  • Job shadowing opportunities
  • Leadership development programs
  • Talent management systems

6. Exit and offboarding:

7. Retirement:

  • Retirement planning workshops
  • Pension plan enrollment and administration
  • Retirement counseling
  • Retirement transition support programs

If you are choosing tools for employee life cycle management, pick a smart AI-driven HR chatbot that can cover your employee life cycle management needs end to end. Additionally, just look at the integrations the tool has. The tools you pick have to make life easier for everyone, especially your employees. So if your tool integrates with tools like Glassdoor, Slack, WhatsApp, Workplace, and so on, that’s an advantage you want to have.

Key Takeaways:

  • Employee life cycle management is key to business success because every business is a function of its people and their productivity. Employee life cycle management helps you understand what drives your people and then creates interactions that motivate and inspire them to succeed along with the business. 
  • The world has all the advanced tech you need to create a competitive employee life cycle management strategy.
  • With the right data and insights, creating a productive and desirable employee life cycle is doable. 

Take a step towards improving your employee life cycle today. Talk to us if you need the support of an expert. May the odds (and evens) be in your favor!