Back Close Menu

Employee Life Cycle: The Complete Guide to the 7 Stages

March 22, 2023

Your business's employee life cycle might be the most important insight into your success. Understand, master, and influence each stage of this journey to take control of your company and better shape its future. 

Employees are every business's number one asset. You can always make more money, find more customers, and build more products, but employees have minds of their own. They're an invaluable, finite resource, and with unemployment hovering around record lows, it's becoming increasingly difficult to fill open positions (much less replace tenured talent). 

Employees come, stay, and go. The better you understand each stage of this pilgrimage at your business, the more know-how you'll possess to make it a positive and mutually beneficial experience.

Below, we'll break down everything you need to know about the employee life cycle and why it matters to your business. We'll go into detail about each stage of the employee life cycle and help you make a plan for proactively influencing your employees' experiences every step of the way.


What Is the Employee Life Cycle?

The employee life cycle maps your employees' journey at your company. It details how employees find, join, grow, and leave your company throughout seven different stages:

  1. Attraction
  2. Recruitment
  3. Onboarding
  4. Development
  5. Retention
  6. Separation
  7. Advocacy

Most businesses are familiar with customer journey mapping—the employee life cycle is the equivalent exercise for your workforce. Once you better understand your employees' journey through your company, you can better identify what's working and what's not.

For example, when an employee leaves after just six months, you might be able to pinpoint a problem during their onboarding process or a lack of attention given to retention. Or if a tenured employee leaves with a sour parting, you might want to look closely at the separation stage in your employee life cycle.


Why Does the Employee Life Cycle Matter?

Studying your business's employee life cycle and designing strategies to improve it take time and attention, but they're worth the investment. Employees can make or break your business, and they're harder to replace than capital, products, or technology.

Here are a handful of reasons the employee life cycle needs to be leadership and human resource's top priority:


  • Retention: The average employer spends an average of $4,000 and 24 days hiring a new worker, expenses that could be avoided if you better retained your talent. And that figure doesn't even take into account lost expertise and time spent onboarding new employees. Understanding and influencing your employee life cycle can keep your workforce around longer, decreasing costs and increasing productivity. 
  • Engagement: Engaged employees have better productivity, retention, customer engagement, and profitability. The development and retention stages of the employee life cycle focus on engaging your employees and helping them find a place to grow at your company. 
  • Culture: Expectations of company culture get candidates in the door, and realised company culture keeps them around. Great company culture leads to lower turnover rates and higher productivity. Monitoring your employee life cycle helps you understand if your actual culture lives up to the vision.


The 7 Stages of the Employee Life Cycle

Every stage of the employee life cycle is important—none is greater or lesser than another. The employee life cycle isn't just here for you to look at, understand, and admire. Your end goal should be to influence it for the better.

Below, we'll walk you through the seven stages and techniques you can employ to influence each phase.


1. Attraction

Your employee's first stage is awareness and attraction. First, they need to learn about your company, and then they need the desire to join it. During the attraction phase, candidates learn about your company's culture, mission, vision, perks, and benefits

Your goal shouldn't be to attract as many candidates as possible—it should be to attract the right candidates. Narrowing down your candidate pool from the get-go puts less strain on your hiring team and ensures the right employees fill the right chairs.

Be realistic and set the right expectations with your company page and job descriptions. Don't over-promise and make sure you can deliver. This will help ensure new employees come in with the right mindset and avoid disappointment on all fronts.


2. Recruitment

The recruitment stage contains everything from the application process to interviews to the offer letter. Track your applications, interviews, job offers, and acceptance rates to monitor the effectiveness of this phase.

Optimise your HR team's recruitment process by asking for employee referrals. When your employees vet candidates for you, they take the hard part out of the process and hopefully ensure a better culture fit. Plus, the connected employees will now create an additional tether to keep them with your business. 


3. Onboarding

The onboarding experience encapsulates everything that happens from when your candidate accepts the job offer to their first day at work to ultimately the time when they feel comfortable and in a flow in their new role—sometimes, that can be a few weeks, and other times it can be as long as six months.

First impressions matter. Think of onboarding as a first date. If it goes well, you'll likely have a second date. If it doesn't go so well, the relationship probably isn't going to last.

Put yourself in the new employee's shoes and try to provide everything they need to be comfortable. That might be sending them a document before their first day with details on parking, dress code, the layout of the office, typical arrival times, local places to eat, and contact information if they need assistance.

It could include job expectations for the first day, week, and month. You might even assign new hires an onboarding buddy to give them a tour of the office, take them out to lunch, and introduce them to other employees. 


RELATED: Onboarding New Employees: 13 Steps and Onboarding Checklist

4. Development

The development stage is where the new hire grows into their role. They gain experience, learn new techniques, master the position, and expand on their talents. They might evolve from an entry-level role into a management position or transition from one team to another.

While it's the employee's responsibility to develop and push their career, it's the business's obligation to provide those opportunities. That could be through education reimbursement, certifications, training, mentoring opportunities, or career progression that stretches the employee.

Keep these statistics in mind:

  • 86% of professionals said they would change jobs if offered more professional development opportunities.
  • Employees with opportunities for professional development feel 15% more engaged.
  • Employees with professional development opportunities have 34% higher retention.

5. Retention

Perks and benefits get employees in the door, but development, opportunities, and recognition help them to stay. The first four stages of the employee life cycle have a huge impact on retention, but there are other factors that play a role, too. These include:


  • Recognition and appreciation
  • How your company gives and receives feedback
  • Leadership changes
  • How your business responds to challenges
  • Culture evolution
  • Promoting from within or hiring externally
  • Compensation increases


Implementing a recognition program can help your employees feel seen and appreciated. You might recognise employees based on performance, tenure, milestones, feedback, or social recognition.

Also, consider conducting stay interviews on a periodic basis. Stay interviews are intended to help prevent unnecessary turnover. Rather than waiting for an employee to leave before asking them what you could have done differently, ask them before they even think about leaving.

Ask questions like:

  • Is there anything you dread about your job? If so, what?
  • What keeps you working here?
  • Is there anything you wish was or wasn't a part of your job?
  • Do you feel you’re adequately recognised for your efforts?
  • Is there anything we should change, add, or remove from our office space?

Improving your retention rates isn't an overnight process. It involves a lot of steps along the entire employee life cycle, especially the following stage: separation.


RELATED: 8 Tips for Creating a Successful Reward and Recognition Strategy

6. Separation

The separation stage is when the employee eventually decides to leave your company. That might be after six months, six years, or at the ripe age of retirement. Regardless of how successful your company is (or what it does right or wrong), all employees eventually reach the separation stage—it's how you treat this phase that'll impact the relationship and your company's reputation.

Separation isn't always a bad thing, but it can become one if an employee leaves on bad terms and problems aren't resolved before their exit. Take the opportunity during the separation stage to interview your exiting employees to learn about their experiences:


  • What went well?
  • What went wrong?
  • Is there anything that would have helped them stay?
  • How was their relationship with their manager?
  • Did they find enough career opportunities here?


Learn everything you can from these employees so that you can make changes for the better. Resist putting up a defensive front. Accept the feedback (good or bad), show empathy, and wish them the best on the next step in their journey. 


7. Advocacy

Ideally, separation isn't the end of your employee's life cycle with your company. If everything goes right, they'll hopefully play an important role in advocating for your business. That might be through purchasing your products, referring friends or family, or even leading new candidates to your door. 


Improve Your Employee Life Cycle With Terryberry

Your employee life cycle isn't set in stone. You can make changes to every stage of the journey to improve your employees' experiences and better your business—and we can help.

Partner with Terryberry to help with each step. Our recognition program and wellness challenges can enhance everything from your recruitment to your retention strategy. Want to see how? Schedule a demo with our team to get a hands-on walkthrough of the platform.


Leave a Comment