Engagement

Employee life cycle: The 6 stages to map the employee journey.

Learn all about the 6 stages of the employee life cycle, understand why we suggest a redefined model, and learn how to map the employee journey and improve each stage in the life cycle model.
Anders Munk
15 min.

Table of contents

Understanding and getting the employee life cycle right will help you find and retain the right talent for your organization. By comprehending each phase of the life cycle, you can guide your employees through their career goals, increase engagement and extend your organization's employee life cycle.

What is the employee life cycle model?

Before we jump into the employee life cycle model, let's start with getting the difference between the employee life cycle and the employee journey straight. The employee journey is the employee's professional journey in an organization from the time they start looking for a job till they separate from the job. The employee life cycle is actually just an human resources model for describing this process - sometimes also referred to as the HR life cycle. It’s typically broken down into 6 stages. Often employee experience (EX) is also used as a synonym for the complete employee journey.

Overview of the 6 classic life cycle stages.
Overview of the 6 classic life cycle stages.

The model can differ slightly in the number of stages and their characteristics, but you will find that the employee journey often follows the same pattern in most companies.

The model helps organizations visualize each stage of the life cycle. Making it easier for HR and managers to work proactively with different engagement strategies in each stage. As an HR professional, you might, for example, notice your employees thrive in the first stages of the model, but that engagement seems to be lacking in the later stages.

What does the 6 stages of the employee life cycle model contain?

The most widely accepted employee life cycle model consists of the following 6 stages: Attraction, Recruitment, Onboarding, Development, Retention, and Separation.

It's proposed as a linear model where the employee exits one phase before entering the next phase. However, at Zoios, we don't believe this to be the case.

We do agree that Phase 1 (Attraction), 2 (Recruitment), 3 (Onboarding), and 6 (Separation) are linear phases that the employee enters and then exits in an often defined time frame. Phase 4 (Onboarding) and phase 5 (Development), on the contrary, can't be viewed as linear; hence a company's effort to develop and retain its employees has to be seen as a repeating cycle containing a myriad of activities that takes up and downturns, different paths and differs for each employee.

Zoios' employee life cycle model.
Our proposed employee life cycle model.

So we propose an employee life cycle model containing 5 phases that combine phase 4 (Develop) and phase 5 (Retain) into one circular phase containing the following sub-phases: Well-being, Performance, Development, Salary, Promotion, and Maternity. This phase we call The Myriad (referring to a myriad of different activities), and we emphasize that this is a repeating cycle that stops only when the employee enters the last phase (Exit).

In the next section, we will cover each of these phases.

What defines each phase of the employee life cycle?

1. Attraction.

Attraction is the first step in the employee life cycle. It begins even before you have the first contact point with your new potential candidate. This step is about attracting the best talent for your organization and starts with creating the right employer brand.

As an organization, you can do a couple of things to promote yourself as a great workplace and improve talent acquisition.

First and foremost, employees will be looking for a job that fits their interests and level of expertise, but your organization is most likely not the only one that will be offering that job.

This is why employer branding matters. It's your opportunity to differ from your competitors and show why the right candidate should join your company.

Clear value proposition.

Candidates are often intrigued by the history or the vision of a company. Therefore, it is essential to define a strong and clear value proposition not only for your customers but also for potential job candidates. What is the history of your company, and what makes it unique?

Measure the eNPS.

eNPS is a measure on a scale of 1-10 of how likely an employee is to recommend your workplace to friends or family. If an employee scores low, you risk they will talk badly about the workplace. If they score high, they are likely to speak well about your company and promote it as a happy workplace, thereby improving your employer brand. It's needless to say that keeping track of this score is an excellent tool for ensuring your employees help attract new talents to the company.

eNPS
Use eNPS score to attract new employees.

Here you can learn more about eNPS and how to calculate it.

Ensure great employee benefits and perks.

Also, make sure that potential candidates know about the benefits you offer. It could, for example, be medical insurance, paid vacations, and excellent retirement programs.

Show your brand on Social media platforms.

Social media platforms are a great way to create and improve your employer's brand. Here you can showcase your company’s core values, visions, culture, and social events like parties, friday bars, or paid company vacations.

Try using different social media platforms. LinkedIn is not the only platform to help you show your employer brand. Alternative platforms like Instagram and TikTok can also significantly affect your employer brand.

2. Recruitment

Recruitment is the first direct contact with a new employee. This phase is about finding and screening the candidates and ultimately finding the one who has the best fit for the position, team, manager, and company.

Get referrals for your colleagues.

You can, of course, search for candidates through traditional job adverts. But also try to use your internal network in the organization and ask your existing colleagues if they know someone they think would be a good fit for the company.

You can also consider paid referral programs, where you offer a monetary reward if an employee refers the right candidate to fill the position. This is a great tool for engaging your employees in helping you fill a position. However, you should beware of a few pitfalls by using this method.

When employees are dealing with a monetary reward, they might be more motivated by the reward than actually finding the candidate with the best fit for the company. This means you must have a well-trained and highly professional recruiting team that can filter the wrong candidates, even though a colleague might have referred them.

Personality and talent tests.

The use of personality and talent tests is increasingly winning popularity. Examples of these tests could be Predictive Index, Gallup's “strength finder” or FirstMind’s talent test.

Talent profile "first mind"
Here you can see Christian's, the CEO of Zoios, talent profile.

These tests are great for exploring how the candidate will fit with the rest of the team and if their personality profile matches the job's tasks. For example, you might not want to hire someone to do your bookkeeping, who hates details, loves creativity, and get energized by exploring new ways to solve problems.

Be honest and transparent.

Honesty and transparency is key in the recruitment process. Let the candidates know they can trust you and that you're not holding anything back because if you are, they will sense it anyways.

Be clear about tasks, expectations, and responsibilities. Set clear expectations for what they can expect from their new job. This will also help you hire a candidate that won't resign quickly because their expectations for the job will most likely match the position if you are transparent and honest.

Ask for feedback.

Don't be afraid to ask for candidates' feedback on how they experienced the recruitment process. It's valuable information that can help you improve and ensure that candidates have a good experience with your company - even if they were not hired.

3. Onboarding.

The next phase of the life cycle is Onboarding. When the candidate with the best fit for the company has signed the contract, the onboarding process starts. Starting a new job is stressful, so remember to provide vital support throughout the onboarding process, which typically lasts between 3-6 months. You should be aware that solid professional skills don't translate into strong social skills, so keep an eye on how your new employee thrives in the office's social environment.

Onboarding survey screen
Here you can see how the onboarding overview in Zoios people analytics looks.

Don’t forget the pre-boarding.

Pre-boarding is similar to onboarding, but as the name indicates it starts before the onboarding process. It’s important because it enables you to start the employee's journey even before they had their first day. This can really help foster loyalty by showing them you are excited to see them at the office. You can for example invite them for at cup of coffe in the office or a team event. That way they meet their new colleagues and get at taste of what they can expect. Also you can send some light readings with a bit of necessary knowledgde, that they will find useful when starting in the new job. Make sure to let them know you are available for questions they might have before they start.

Set clear goals and expectations.

It's essential to be clear about what you expect from your new employee. As you can imagine, it can be very stressful to be placed at a desk without clear goals for what you need to learn and exactly what tasks you are expected to deliver. So make sure to make a detailed plan in collaboration with the new employee for at least the first 2 weeks - preferably the first months.

Have weekly 1:1s in the onboarding stage.

Weekly 1:1s in the onboarding phase are an excellent opportunity to check in with the new employee and ensure everything is running smoothly. It's also a great chance for the employee to ask questions and give honest feedback on how their onboarding is progressing.

Consider a buddy program.

A buddy program can be perfect for establishing a sense of psychological safety for the new employee, as the buddy can help the new employee navigate the company culture.

Buddy program for onboarding
A buddy program can help new employees feel welcome.

Some new employees may be afraid of asking questions for fear of appearing incompetent. A buddy can be a great way to tackle this problem by being available for questions that new employees might not want to ask their superior.

Furthermore, a buddy can show the new employees around the first day and introduce them to other colleagues. Also a buddy can help the new employee with questions where they might not be able to find the answer in the employee handbook.

The onboarding is a shared project.

Even though the buddy program and the earlier mentioned initiatives can greatly help the onboarding phase, it's important to be aware that the onboarding is a shared project between all employees. It's crucial to create a culture of inclusion where new employees quickly feel welcome for them to thrive and start performing.

4. The Myriad (development and retention).

When the employees leave the onboarding phase after 3-6 months, they enter the phase we have chosen to describe as The Myriad concerning the myriad of activities that employees will experience in this life cycle phase.

This phase is often divided into two phases (development and retention). But this division also implies that the development phase has to end before the employee can enter the retention phase.

We have chosen to make this division not only because we believe this phase is highly repetitive but also because most employees will experience this phase very differently, opposite to the former phases that often follow a standard pattern and therefore give most employees a similar experience. For example, many recruitment and onboarding processes are very standardized, but the rest of the employees journey in an organization often differs alot depending on factors such as promotion, maternity, development etc.

When employees enter this phase, their career and journey through the company will take different paths. We have therefore chosen to include 6 sub-phases in the Myriad phase; hence it allows for a more precise description of the employee life cycle. The sub-phases are as follows: Well-being, Performance, Development, Salary, Promotion, and Maternity.

The myriad life cycle stages
The myriad consist of many repeating subphases.

As you see, these sub-phases are tightly tied with development and retention, and is an important part of talent management in any organization. The reason retention is not explicitly mentioned is that great retention is the result if you succeed with the sub-phases.

So the point we want to emphasize is that retention is not the goal. Thriving and performing employees are the goal, and if you succeed, you will undoubtedly get a great engagement rate.

Managers  can work effectively with the subphases through 4 different conversations.

You can work with the subphases in several ways, but a great method can be to schedule regular conversations with the employees. We recommend that most managers have these 4 different conversations with their employees.

Do frequent check-ins.


The first conversation is check-ins on tasks to ensure they have the guidance, support, and information they need to do their job. Try to ask open questions like:

What can I help you with?

or,

What do you need from me to complete your task successfully?

Avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or a no, like can I help you with anything? The spontaneous answer to this question will often be no, even though the employee might have something they could use the managers support with.

These check-ins should be weekly or more often.

4 conversations that supports the Myrias stage
Try to use these 4 conversations to support the Myriad stage.

Talk about well-being.


The second conversation is well-being conversations, where you touch base on whether the employee is thriving in their position or not, what could be improved and how they feel in general. It can be a good idea to have these conversations monthly, so you can follow the development and review agreements you made at the last meeting. Don't talk about projects and tasks unless it's highly necessary or is related to the employees' well-being concerns in any way.

Help your employees draw a development plan.

The third conversation is development conversations, where you dive into the areas where the employee would like to improve, and you explore ways of making a suitable and realistic plan to accommodate everyone's needs and wishes. The manager gives honest feedback and offers input on where and how the employee could improve and increase performance.

It's important to listen to the employee's wishes, and make sure to create a development plan they find realistic and exciting. Try to work with setting clear goals that the employee can work towards. It can also be great to offer further training with seminars, online courses, or mentorship programs. Make sure to show your employees that you take their career development seriously.

Try to have these conversations quarterly.

The yearly salary conversation

The fourth conversation is the salary conversation that the majority have once a year where you discuss compensation. You all know this one, but it’s a big part of the employee experience - especially if the conversation is managed poorly. Consider how the employee experiences this conversation and try to see it from their point of view.

5. Exit 

All good things comes to an end, and eventually, the employee will leave you. The keyword here is to end the relationship on a good note. The best case scenario is that the employee will promote your company and strengthen your employer brand by telling about how great a time they had working for your company.

Conduct exit surveys.

It's crucial to understand why the employee left. Maybe the employee went to pursue new career paths, that's totally okay, and there is nothing you can do to control that.

Zoios people analytics exit survery overview.
Here you can see an example of how exit survey data is displayed and how it offers valuable insights into the exit stage.

On the other hand, the employee may have left the company because of bad work culture, management, or work-life balance. This is valuable information; you should do your best to collect this information, either through exit interviews or surveys.

Nurture the team's morale.

When a colleague leaves, it will affect the other employees, and there is a risk it can hurt the team culture, and in the worst case, it can make other employees consider if they should leave the company. Therefore, it's vital to encourage morale and positivity in the team. So make sure to highlight that the remaining employees have a future and development opportunities in the company.

Why mapping the employee journey is crucial.

Now that we have the employee life cycle model straight let's examine why this even matters. So the employee life cycle model describes how the employee journey is from the employer's perspective. This is great, hence giving you an overview of the initiatives and opportunities you provide for the employee in each step of the life cycle.

But when it comes to mapping the employee journey, it's all about understanding how the employee experiences each step in the life cycle. So mapping the employee journey is not about listing what happens in each stage of the life cycle; it's about taking the view of your employees and understanding how they feel in each stage.

How to map the employee journey.
Mapping the employee journey gives you a valuable overview of each of the stages in the employee life cycle.

For example, you might have great processes for setting goals in the onboarding stage and think everything is fine. But these goals may be too ambitious or ambiguous and make your new hires feel stressed or uncomfortable.

By mapping the complete employee journey, you will create a strong visualization of the critical touchpoints and therefore be able to work proactively to improve each of the stages that might be lagging behind. In other words, it’s a crucial step in successful succession planning.

Remember to include your employees in the journey mapping.

It's absolutely essential to include your employees in the process of creating the journey map. They  will provide with the data you need to map the journey and byt Including them you  also show your employees that you care about their well-being. Of course, this is only beneficial if you actually take action and make improvements; if you don't take their feedback seriously, it will for sure create dissatisfaction among your employees; hence they will feel you don't care.

Measure your progress in creating a great employee journey.

As soon as you have a clear overview, you can also measure your progress and make sure you are improving. It's crucial to follow up on your initiatives and ensure they have the desired effect. If not, you are just groping in the dark.

Ultimately this will lead to better performing, more satisfied, and engaged employees. The derived effect of this will be a high retention workplace, and who does not want that? Check out the graph below to get an indication of the monetary effects of high retention. You can also read the blog about "The true cost of hiring a new employee for your company".

The cost of hiring employees
It can be very exspensive to hire a new employee.

How you can map the employee journey and improve the stages of the life cycle.

As mentioned, journey mappings ask: what is the experience for our employees? The experience is not the process that happens for the employee in the organization's systems and so on. For example, they apply for the job, get hired, have weekly 1:1s, and have one yearly salary interview. This is not mapping the employee journey!

Get our journey mapping template for free.

Don't know how to get started with employee journey mapping? Our journey mapping template makes it easy to get started.

Get the template now

Think about the stages from their perspective - what are the challenges they might face? Don't be afraid to include the emotions your employees might feel in your journey map.  What is it like to be promoted? Is it an unsecure feeling or a confidence boost? How does the first week at their new job feel? Do they feel welcomed or a bit frightened?

If you need help mapping the employee journey you can download our free employee journey mapping template above.

This is how to use a journey mapping template
Here you can see how to use our journey mapping template.

Be aware of what stages or touchpoints are important in your organization, and pay particular attention to these when you create the map.

Use these 7 tips when you map the employee journey.

To help you get started with the journey mapping, we present 7 points of awareness you should pay attention to in order to succeed with the mapping. This will undoubtedly make it easier to create the right strategy for creating a better employee journey.

Decide on you why

Always start by asking yourself: Why am I mapping the employee journey? There is no correct answer, and the answer will differ from organization to organization. So what would you like to understand, and why would you like to understand it? Maybe you want to know why your onboarding process seems to be lagging behind, or you might want to improve your retention.

If you skip this step, you might end up with the wrong focus and move in the wrong direction.

Understand the journey from your employee’s perspective.

It’s crucial in succeeding with employee journey mapping. If you cannot view the journey from your employee's perspective, creating an employee journey map makes no sense.

Try to ask questions like how do the employees feel when….

For example, how do they feel when they apply for the job? How do they think when they get new responsibilities? Etc.

Understand the employee's perspective
Make sure understand how you employees experiences each stage in the life cycle model.

There are emotions involved everywhere. Employees don't just go from 1 stage in the life cycle to the next stage. From accepting the offer to entering into onboarding can evoke emotions. Maybe the salary negotiation was stressful or didn't go as the employee might have expected. So again, I would like to emphasize how important it is to include emotions in the journey map.

Use the data you have and collect new data.

Some organizations might have tons of data they can use for mapping the employee journey. They often have collected this data through various HR or people analytics systems.

If you don't have this data, you should not end up in despair. You might not have the complete dataset you need. But try to consider how you can collect this and then focus on the data you already have.

If you need help collecting more data on the employee journey, you can start looking at a people analytics platform to help you collect and analyze the necessary data.

Gather feedback in a way that encourages honesty and trust.

If you don't have access to people analytics or automatic survey tools, you will have to invest substantial time in collecting and analyzing the data.

You can start by doing qualitative interviews where you try to understand how your employees feel in each life cycle stage. It's about the hard truths, so don't be afraid to hear them. Also, remember to do the interviews in such a way that you encourage honesty and trust. Try to ask open-ended questions, so you don't bias your employees. Don't go: I heard you are not thriving - is that because…? This will probably not get you an honest answer.

Zoios can help you collect the data you need.

At Zoios, we help you measure the 8 drivers of well-being and show you the change over time in each stage of the employee life cycle model. We also give you monthly updates on the movement in the eNPS, which is also a great indicator of the well-being in each stage.

Data collection for the employee life cyce model
Here you see an overview of well-being data from the people analytics platform Zoios.

Even though you don't have access to these tools, you can still begin mapping the employee journey. For example, you reach out to managers and ask for honest reviews on specific areas of concern you might be interested in. It's not optimal, but it will be better than no data at all.

Be aware of when in the employee life cycle people start to quit. This can be an excellent indicator of which stage you should spend some extra time mapping.

What were the original promises that were made?

Consider the promise you made when you hired your employees. Make sure to check if you have lived up to these promises. Pay attention to feedback like: I wish it were different, or I wish others understood the brand image. If you hear a lot of these, it indicates that you didn't live up to the promises.

Also, words like frustrated or disappointed should catch your attention. Make sure to get back to the employees and ask them to tell you what they expected and what they heard you promise.

Make sure to take action.

When you ask people for feedback, they expect you to take action. So, you must make good use of the feedback you get and create a plan. If you don’t, it destroys the trust.

For example, a typical problem could be that employees feel they attend too many unnecessary meetings that could have been just an email. And if you don't take action on this after being told, it will create anger and frustration.

Therefore, come back to the employees after collecting feedback and tell them what you're going to do and how you will do it. Make sure you highlight that creating the best employee experience is a shared project, and you hope that everybody will participate in this.

People taken action
Don't forget to take action when you get feedback.

When you get your employees to work together with you on this, it will snowball, and more employees will come and join in if they feel action is being taken and they can see improvements. So remember to build the journey map with the employees and treat them in a way where you know they will tell the truth when you ask them. Don't forget to prioritize your initiatives. What is most important right now, what can be easily fixed, and what might be time demanding to improve?

The employee journey is not the same for every employee

When mapping the employee journey, many HR professionals may say, "great," we will make a journey map that fits all employees. But employees are very different, and one map probably won't fit all employees in the organization.

Create employee personas
Not a single employee is the same.

A way to get around this can be to use employee personas and map the journey for the typical 2-3 employee personas you see in your organization. This can be a great way to narrow down the employee journey and get more specific. Try to think about each persona's goals and pains. You can also make this from a D&I perspective if this is important to your organization, or think about how the journey might look for a person who "grew" up in your organization and how it looks for someone who comes from the outside.

Are you ready to map the employee journey?

If not, please reach out; we will love to help you get started using our employee journey template. We hope this will make it easy for you to design a better employee experience. Also feel free to share if you have any ideas on how to design the employee journey.

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