The good life

In a previous role I had cause to draw up an employee lifecycle. Despite my years in HR up until that point, it wasn’t something that had ever occurred to me to do.

The driving force was an idea to support managers through the various people-related matters to which they needed to attend. The employee lifecycle would provide the structure for a platform containing information and resources that our managers could draw upon on demand.

After a bit of googlising, it struck me that there is no one standard model of the employee lifecycle. I found this surprising as the basics of the employee experience – and the HR functions that correspond to them – are arguably similar across jobs, organisations and industries.

Moreover, some of the models I found were either overly complicated (in my opinion) or they were presented in an illogical manner. In any case they didn’t quite suit my needs, so I decided to draw up my own.

After much thinking and reflection, I realised the employee lifecycle can be distilled into just four main parts: (1) Recruitment; (2) Onboarding; (3) Performance; and (4) Offboarding. Of course the employee experience is more complex than that, but it is within these four parts that the complexities reside.

I call this model the 4 Part Employee Lifecycle.

The 4 Part Employee Lifecycle: (1) Recruitment; (2) Onboarding; (3) Performance; and (4) Offboarding.

While some other models of the employee lifecycle start with “Attraction”, I consider this a subset of recruitment, along with other activities such as interviewing and selection. Diversity may also reside in this part.

Onboarding concerns the bringing up to speed of the new recruit, and it may include a combination of pre-boarding, orientation and/or induction.

Performance is the raison d’etre of recruitment and onboarding. It is the productivity of the employee. In other words, are they doing what they are paid to do, and how well are they doing it?

Offboarding is probably the most under-leveraged of all the employee experiences. While exiting resides here – voluntary or otherwise – so too does succession planning and promotion. An organisation that neglects this part of the lifecycle shoots itself in the proverbial foot.

While the 4 Part Employee Lifecycle is purposefully simple, for many it may be a little too simple in terms of “Performance”. So I propose the subdivision of this part into its own four subparts: (1) Performance Management; (2) Development; (3) Health & Wellbeing; and (4) Retention.

Hence I call this model the 4+4 Part Employee Lifecycle.

The 4+4 Part Employee Lifecycle: (1) Recruitment; (2) Onboarding; (3) Performance; and (4) Offboarding; plus (1) Performance Management; (2) Development; (3) Health & Wellbeing; and (4) Retention.

Performance management would include probation, along with goal setting – KPI’s and behavioural markers – and the dreaded performance appraisal. While performance management has attracted a lot of heat in recent years, my view is that rather than dispensing with it altogether (to the organisation’s detriment), change its nature. For example, I suggest performance appraisals be frequent, short, and feedback rich. There should be no nasty surprises at the end of the year!

Development is complex in its own right; indeed this blog is almost entirely devoted to it. Suffice it to say that in this context, it’s probably best to think of an employee’s development as the totality of their formal development – including training, development planning, leadership programs, career development and talent management – and their informal development – comprising learning (as opposed to training) and performance support.

Health & wellbeing enjoys ever-increasing interest among HR folks, and rightly so as beyond the ethical imperative, an employee who is healthy in body and mind is also productive. I see the usual suspects – inclusion, bullying & harassment, WH&S – in this space, along with personal health initiatives such as pedometer challenges and flu jabs.

And finally, retention concerns the obvious – remuneration and benefits – and the less obvious such as opportunities for growth and career prospects. Engagement may also reside here.

White collar workers communicating in office against window with their colleagues walking around.

A smart man once declared all models are wrong, but some are useful; and I find the 4+4 Part Employee Lifecycle useful because it identifies key parts of the employee experience which we HR folks need to support.

If we look at the model through the lens of L&D, for example, it prompts us to ask questions that are critical to the success of the business:

  • Recruitment – What capabilities do we need to buy into the organisation? Which attitudes do we need to inject to shift our culture? Who can we develop into a future leader or SME?
  • Onboarding – What do we need our new recruits to know and do as soon as possible? How do we support this process?
  • Performance Management – Where are the performance gaps? Why do these gaps exist? Are they due to deficiencies in capability?
  • Development – Which capabilities do our people need to develop? What training should we push? How do we enable our people to drive their own learning? How do we support their performance on the job?
  • Health & Wellbeing – Are our people in tune with their physical and mental health? Are our managers capable of supporting them in this space? How do we shift our culture from one of rules and regulation to one of care and collaboration?
  • Retention – Are our people aware of the wonderful benefits that are available to them? What kinds of work experiences do they seek? Do they have a career development plan?
  • Offboarding – What capabilities do our people need to equip them for the future?

In a similar manner we can look at the model through other lenses, such as technology, process improvement, innovation, or analytics, to ensure they add value across the gamut of HR functions.

6 thoughts on “The good life

  1. Hi Ryan, I like this simple model.

    I’ve developed a much more complicated one for my work with Open Badges in the humanitarian and development aid sectors:

    (It’s a bit more digestible in presentation mode: it builds)

    One gap I now notice in my model is Health and Wellness which, as you can imagine is pretty important in those sectors. They call it Duty of Care.

    So I’ll see if I can cram that into future versions, somewhere around Coaching and Mentoring.


  2. Ryan, while it is the performance bit that is probably the bread and butter of my life. It is the on and off boarding which I fine really interesting and are the areas which really seem to be neglected. Often Onboarding is viewed from that induction and compliance point of view. That what do we need to do to make sure we have ticked all of the legal boxes approach. Offboarding for most organisations is farewell morning tea and an exit interview (providing you haven’t been pushed). In a previous role, we looked really hard at both of these processes’ Onboarding from the preservative of what do we need to do (beyond the standard stuff) to get the new staff member up to speed and effective as soon as possible an doffboarding from the perspective of how can we make this experience as useful as possible, particularly in terms of making the organisation the first pick for reemployment at a later date. Interestingly we found it much easier to get engaged in the on side of the process rather than the off side.
    The other issue here is that often all of these areas are dealt with by different departments or areas, with no one actually looking over all of them and trying to create a holistic approach.

  3. Hi Ryan,
    This is a really useful model. I particularly appreciate the reflective questions for L&D. I agree with you and Paul that offboarding is often handled really poorly and it should be given much more importance.

    Questions I would add to reflection on offboarding would include something like:
    – What do we learn from our employees as they exit about our organisation’s culture?
    – What do we learn from our employees as they leave about our systems, processes, tools etc?
    – What do we learn from our exiting employees about how we manage people?

    Exit interviews can be fraught, especially if the circumstances are undesirable or where the person leaving feels they cannot give an honest reflection. But at the same time, exit interviews are important to show that you respect and value the employee’s viewpoint. In the case where it is a long-term/senior/managerial person leaving, exit interviews are an important measure of good governance.

    Finally, offboarding is an important way of ensuring (as Paul stated) that you ensure good relations with the person departing. You never know when paths might cross again.

    I am reviewing the HR function where I work, and if okay with you, I would love to use your model and questions as a road map in my exploration to test it out.
    – Elizabeth

  4. @Don:

    Excellent! By the way, I’m not anti complex systems, it’s just that for my purpose at the time, a simple model was called for. I see that your model in the slide is necessarily more complex because it relates to the badging of the employee’s journey at key points.

    Thanks for sharing, and I’m glad my model could add some value :)


    Indeed, while I make the point that offboarding is often neglected by the employer, I agree with you that onboarding is too.

    The onboarding process is typically one of telling the new recruit what he or she has already read on the website, plus ensuring they complete their mandatory e-learning modules. The onboarding experiences that are put up on a pedestal usually involve some form of box or pack on the new recruit’s desk. While this is a great start, it’s not enough; yes it’s admirable to make the recruit feel welcome, but they also need to become productive. Case in point – I received such a welcome pack from a colleague (not the employer) and it was awesome; I felt valued by her. The rest of the onboarding experience, however, was a disaster; I felt impotent and useless without an email address, access to the shared drive, wireless connectivity, etc.

    As for offboarding, I would consider it a big plus if the employer did do an exit interview (many don’t). You make a great point about re-employment at a later date, and of course the intelligence obtained through the process could be used in service of the existing employees.


    I’d be honoured if you used my model! I published it to share, and if someone such as yourself can extract value from it, I’m delighted.

    I think those questions you offer for the exit interview are excellent, yet I also wonder about the honesty of the interviewee. While a fool would burn bridges, an ethical professional who has something negative to say should do so constructively. How many among us would rather say nothing substantive at all?

    Adding to Paul’s point about the exit interview being run by different areas, I also wonder if anything is really ever done with the results.

  5. Hey Ryan this is interesting especially because employee is just looked down upon as a resource. Happy that you have chalked out the lifecycle aspect. Suggest you expand the graphic for the other 3 parts too especially on offboarding and onboarding, where would reboarding fit ? I have worked 3 years on 2 occasions for the same company after a brief gap. Their work culture was a powerful reason for me to do so.

  6. Interesting, Amit. I wonder if you have to do your compliance modules again? Lol. But seriously, I suppose reboarding would be a subset of onboarding, whereby value could be added by reactivating LMS transcripts etc.

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