An agile, dedicated workforce acts as the battery that powers your business, giving it the fuel it needs to accelerate and grow.
If your employees are burning out, working inefficiently, resigning shortly after being hired or departing on bad terms, your company loses out on growth potential as it works to replace and repair these inefficiencies.
Understanding the employee lifecycle from recruitment to exit, as well the motivations and needs of your people throughout each of its different phases, is the first step toward cultivating an employee experience that promotes retention, engagement and productivity. While the onus is on employees to show up, engage and perform to the best of their abilities, it’s up to the organization to ensure that they have the tools and environment to do so throughout the employee lifecycle.
L&D consistently ranks as one of the most effective tools for fostering engagement. From an employee's perspective, the opportunity to learn and advance incentivizes engagement and increases contentment. From an employer’s perspective, L&D delivers a more engaged workforce who’s happy to be there, which increases productivity, retention and, ultimately, profits.
Let’s take a closer look at the phases of the employee lifecycle and how your company can maximize the contributions and returns of its workforce through L&D.
What is the employee lifecycle?
The term employee lifecycle refers to the entirety of a worker’s tenure with your organization. This also denotes the stages that are inherent to most employee experiences, starting with the time before a worker is hired and ending with their separation from the company. Each of these stages represents an opportunity to analyze and improve the employee experience for maximized contribution and performance.
Employee lifecycle phases
Common phases within the employee lifecycle include:
In this phase, your company is actively seeking out ways to attract prospective employees.
During this phase, the job candidate enters into formal communications with your company. This can include sub-phases such as initial contact, the interview process and the final job offer and negotiation.
This time period immediately follows the recruitment stage. During onboarding, the new hire is integrated into the organization through various learning and training processes that introduce them to their role, as well as the company’s structure, values and mission.
Once a new hire has completed onboarding, they enter a prolonged development phase. During this time, employees should have access to a variety of learning and development opportunities that keep them engaged and help support their advancement. Employees may experience upward or lateral mobility at your company as a result of their learning efforts and improved performance.
This phase is built on the work of recruitment, onboarding and development. Retention efforts last for the duration of an employee’s time at your company and focus on keeping talent as long as possible. The better the experience an individual has in the previous phases, the more likely they are to be engaged and stay with your organization.
While turnover is something you seek to avoid, it’s still inevitable. Employees either stay with a company or separate, whether voluntarily, such as retirement or resignation, or as a result of termination.
Whatever the case, you’ll want to gather critical feedback on their employee experience. Even more importantly, close out their time at your company on the best terms possible, regardless of the cause of departure.
An employee’s experience throughout their time at a company drives their view of the organization and, for good or for bad, influences what they will say to others when they leave.
People trust the words of a former employee far more than other recruiting channels, and a ringing endorsement of your organization can go miles in effective recruiting. Likewise, a negative take by a former employee can throw up red flags for potential hires, making them think carefully before applying or accepting a job offer.
How to maximize the employee lifecycle through learning and development
Attraction and recruitment
You can use L&D to enhance your employer brand and give you a competitive edge when it comes to attracting and recruiting new talent.
The numbers make the case:
- Opportunities for learning and career development rank as a top five motivator for employees considering a job offer.
- More than 90% of employees said they’d stay at a company that invested in helping them learn. Conversely, when companies fail to offer compelling L&D, people leave (or don’t join the company in the first place).
By highlighting L&D opportunities across key recruitment marketing channels (as well as during the interview process), you communicate your organization’s commitment to career progression and professional growth early on, moving the needle on job acceptance rates.
Taking a proactive approach to L&D at the onboarding stage sets employees up for success from day one. Use this critical window of time to introduce new hires to the continuous development opportunities available to them. Your onboarding curriculum can encourage employees to start thinking about their career goals from the get-go — and what learning will help them get there.
Additionally, a positive onboarding experience gets employees excited and ready for their jobs. It’s where new hires get introduced to company culture, expectations, systems and processes. Without this foundational training, employees don’t get a good understanding of their role and they’re more likely to leave their job early.
Without access to developmental opportunities, workers can stagnate in their roles, which may cause them to become disengaged and underperform. On the other hand, merely offering L&D opportunities is not enough to drive meaningful results (for the employee or your business).
An effective L&D strategy requires taking a comprehensive approach that meets the needs of everyone in the organization, through all types of learning. A continuous learning model of training, formal education, mentorship, on-the-job learning and external learning all have a place in a strong program.
Done well, L&D also allows you to build an internal talent pipeline for key roles. Not only does this help to proactively address the future talent needs of the company, but it directly enables career mobility for employees. Having the ability to see tangible career outcomes that result from engaging in learning is a key motivator for workers.
Retention, engagement and L&D go hand-in-hand. Engaged employees are more productive and more likely to stay with the company longer, and opportunities for learning and development directly correlate to engagement and positive employee experience.
Workforce education, in particular, encourages retention because employees pursuing a certification or degree through your program have an incentive to stay to finish it. But the additional ripple effect of learning opportunities on retention comes from a workforce who believes their company cares about them and is invested in their success and development.
Even though L&D has wrapped for employees departing the company, it’s a critical touchpoint to gather feedback on the company’s learning opportunities, which can then inform future initiatives. Also, employees who had a positive experience with your company can later become advocates of your organization and help refer future employees.
Employee lifetime value and the employee lifecycle
Now that you're familiar with the stages of the lifecycle and how learning fits into each one, let's talk about measuring impact.
Looking at employee lifetime value (ELTV) is a common way to measure the impact of learning on business initiatives. ELTV estimates the financial value othat an average employee brings to an organization throughout their time there.
Early on, employee value is negative, because they’re being onboarded and not yet producing work, but already being paid. As they move up to speed, companies see a bell curve of productivity, innovation and growth, with a decline in this when moving toward their departure.
Any successful efforts in maximizing the employee lifecycle directly impact ELTV. For instance, when an employee enrolls in a company-sponsored education program, it typically leads to better engagement, satisfaction, and advancement opportunities, while addressing skills gaps and filling the pipeline with qualified workers who stick around. With ELTV, this cascade of effects from workforce education can be translated into quantifiable data that can make a strong case for your future L&D initiatives.
The employee life cycle and beyond
Employees require care, resources and nurturing at each stage of their development to maintain a positive trajectory in both performance and engagement. When organizations invest in L&D, they are investing equally in their employees’ futures and in the long-term health of the organization itself.