Employee life cycle

Employee life cycle in HR: definition, stages & optimization

When a potential candidate turns into an employee, a new cycle begins – the employee life cycle. Each of its stages means new challenges, not only for the person concerned but also for the HR department.

What is the employee life cycle?

The employee lifecycle model may also function under the term „employee journey”. Its stages are the following steps an employee goes through in a company – from when he or she first hears about the company to when he leaves it.

What are the employee lifecycle stages?

Various sources take a different approach to defining the moment when the employee lifecycle workflow begins in a company. Some consider its beginning to be the day when the employment contract is signed – then, de facto, we can already fully call the candidate an employee. Recent studies, however, point out that the beginning of the cycle is the first contact with the company, i.e. interest in the job offer or the company itself.

Following the new trends, let us, therefore, consider that the employee lifecycle phases are:

  • Attraction – creating an interest in the potential employee. This phase should start before the company even posts the vacancy announcement. The attraction consists of all activities that build the employer's brand image (Employer Branding). These will include communication through social media, feedback from former employees, showing the company values, and explaining the company culture.
  • Recruitment process – this is the stage at which the company selects the right candidate. It is also the stage at which the candidate will decide whether he or she wants to accept the offer at all. Therefore, it is an extremely important role for any recruiter to carry out the entire process smoothly while providing candidates with a positive experience (Candidate Experience).
  • Onboarding process – it's the stage at which an employee takes up a position on his own. The HR department plays a key role here, involving employees in the company's life, teaching them what the company's core values are, on which is the company's culture built, and what the further development of the employee's career in the company will be.
  • Development stage – it's a crucial stage – both for the employee and the company. After the onboarding, the employee adapts to the work environment. If the company invests in his development and inspires him to develop further and improve his skills – it will benefit from it. On the other hand, the employee will be more motivated to perform his duties, knowing that his career will develop in this company. Here again, Human Resources plays a key role through proper talent management and employee performance management, as well as planning the development paths of each team member.
  • Retention stage – this stage may be reached by employees who feel a lack of professional challenges or those who don't feel appreciated by the company. HR's task at this stage is to retain employees who contribute the most to the company, for example, through more attractive compensation and benefits or by changing the scope of responsibilities and giving the employee new challenges.
  • Separation stage (offboarding process) – can involve two situations: when an employee retires and naturally ends cooperation with the company or when an employee leaves the company for other reasons. At this stage, the HR department takes several actions to ensure the process goes smoothly and the departing employee part ways with the company in a friendly atmosphere. This positive experience at the final stage of cooperation has a significant impact on the company's employer branding. Among all processes at the separation stage, there are the Exit Interviews. They are used to learn about the employee's experience at the company, as well as succession planning – reorganizing the position and transferring the responsibilities of the departing employee to another person.

What are the employee lifecycle metrics?

HR employee lifecycle management means one thing – constantly looking at the relevant metrics. At each stage, these metrics will be different.

  • Attraction – reviews on job portals, job sites, reviews in social media, the number of applications received per position, and time to hire – help to understand how the company presents itself as an employer.
  • Recruitment – here, indicators such as the effectiveness of recruitment channels, attractiveness of the job offer, quality of applications, cost of hiring per employee, time to hire, the turnover rate for those with one year of experience, cost of turnover, number of job offer rejections, cost of wrong recruitment, candidate experience will be crucial. You don't have to observe them all at once – select them to suit your current needs!
  • Onboarding stage – without proper onboarding, an employee won't adapt to the company's conditions to work efficiently. Indicators for measuring onboarding include time to productivity and turnover of new employees.
  • Development – at this stage, the HR department supervises the implementation of career plans, performs employee evaluations, monitors the achievement of goals, and keeps helping employees. The indicator at this stage is promotion rates, which makes it possible to assess whether employees progress in their professional development.
  • Retention stage – the most important metric here is the retention rate, which tells you how many people stay with the company over a given time, and the engagement rate – the lower the engagement, the lower the retention.
  • Separation stage – at this stage, you need to match metrics with reasons why an employee separates from the company (for example, in a company with a higher average age, you will track the retirement rate). Another helpful metric will be the Exit Interview completion rate, which will help you refine the offboarding process.

The advantages of implementing an employee lifecycle strategy

Why should an employee lifecycle be a priority for a company?

  • Implementing this model is the first and foremost affordable way to visualize the employee journey at a company.

  • The cycle allows the HR department (or the manager in charge) to easily see what stages an employee has gone through and what still awaits him. It makes it easier to plan further career development and set goals to achieve.

  • A good plan for each stage and its smooth implementation make it possible to respond to an employee's current needs at a specific point in his career and improve the employee experience.

  • The employee lifecycle model is about providing a consistent work experience for employees.

  • Collecting and analyzing the data at each cycle's stage allows for more efficient management and a better understanding of employee development.

How to optimize the employee lifecycle

The stages of the employee lifecycle, like all other processes, can be optimized using HR software. How to do it?

  • Attraction – schedule your content that relates to your company's values, and share it regularly through social media. You can use automation options on social media platforms for this – most of them already have a function for scheduling content in advance.
  • Recruitment – automate the recruitment process using the ATS system – create the job ad templates, set up integrations with job portals, and automatically collect resumes in one common database. You'll save the recruiters' time, who won't have to manually fill in data in the system and will always have an overview of the most up-to-date information about candidates. You can also plan the communication scheme using response templates, reminders, interview templates, and surveys or screening tests. It will allow you to ensure that every candidate has the same experience.
  • Employee onboarding – in the HRM system, you can also plan the adaptation process of a new employee, including setting access levels to selected information materials. You can also provide further information through automation of communication by sending emails („Company culture and values”; „Your career development in our company”; „Our existing employees – get to know your new team”; etc.) or informing about the order of training to complete, etc.
  • Development – HR automation using the HRM system at this stage includes, for example, the use of eNPS surveys, planning and executing employee evaluations, setting and monitoring OKRs/KPIs, and performance management. Timekeeping in the system and automated HR requests are also great options.
  • Retention stage – automation can also help you retain employees – by collecting data from surveys, you will more accurately plan development paths, compensation, and benefits, corresponding to the current needs of the team. Overseeing indicators in the system, such as employee age, will allow you to plan succession in key positions in advance.
  • Separation stage – at this stage, automation will help speed up the offboarding process. You can create a communication scheme and email reminders for the next steps, such as completing the relevant documentation, handing over business equipment, transferring responsibilities, etc. You can also collect data from surveys at this stage.


The workforce diversity in a company makes talent management quite a challenge. Clarifying the phases of a company's employee lifecycle, implementing optimization as task automation, and establishing HR metrics will help improve the process. Taking care of team members at every stage of employment allows the company to keep employees' engagement and productivity at optimal levels.

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