What is the employee life cycle?

The employee lifecycle reflects the emotional change in your employees over time and the influence this has on their behaviour. The employee life cycle model has six stages, the first is attraction and the last is separation. Arguably, there is a seventh stage, which is advocacy.

The benefits of following the employee life cycle include:

  • Better management of employee experience
  • More accurate allocation of resources
  • Higher retention rates
  • Opportunities for more structured learning and development options

The 6 employee life cycle stages

The employee lifecycle method is composed of six stages. Each stage represents where someone is on their employee journey with you.

The stages are:

1. The employee attraction stage

One way to attract new talent to your company is to develop a strong employer brand. When a company has a great reputation, good news travels fast. Examples of companies who everyone wants to work for include Google, Microsoft, and Adobe. But these companies didn’t achieve a mass following overnight. No, they've been refining and investing in their employee experience and employer brand for many years.

Obviously, given the size of these companies, they do have more money to invest in their people. However, smaller companies can attract local talent by demonstrating their employees are valued and cared for. You don’t need nap pods and onsite spas to do this. Simply meeting your employees’ needs and treating them with the respect they deserve is enough.

Attraction stage tips at a glance:

  • Level up your brand awareness: You can do this by contributing to trade magazines and networking.
  • Create a best-in-class culture: Inspire employees to be brand ambassadors by treating them well.
  • Offer a competitive benefits package: Research what similar companies are offering and try to match them — or offer something similar at the very least.

Employees sitting together during a team meeting or interview

2. The employee recruitment stage

Finding the best talent is a growing challenge for a lot of businesses. More roles require specific experience that few people have and candidates with these sought-after skills are in high demand. This also places even more pressure on HR professionals to deliver both accurate and compelling job descriptions to get the best candidates through the door.

A common mistake organisations make is failing to recognise the potential of asking their current employees for referrals. Often, the people recommended have a proven track record of success at other companies. However, you may need to consider some referrals with caution, as you could unintentionally create a situation where a lot of people in a team know each other personally.

Recruitment stage tips at a glance:

  • Find out what recruitment platforms work best: This may take some trial and error, but if you’re not having much luck with some platforms, consider switching.
  • Be specific when writing job adverts: Don’t be afraid of casting too small of a net, a few good candidates are better than a lot of unsuitable prospects.
  • Include current employees in the recruitment process: This can be either asking for their advice on CVs or inviting them as extra support during interviews.

3. The employee onboarding stage

The onboarding process should always be easy and efficient. After all, you want to make the best impression possible in an employee’s first few days. During the onboarding stage, your new employee should be gently exposed to their role in more detail. At this point, they’ll gain a deeper understanding of how their knowledge and skills apply to individual jobs.

New employees, even ones that appear to be excelling in their first few weeks still need support. So it’s important to outline your expectations early and schedule any follow-ups. Don’t forget, at this stage, you should also describe what your company values are and the behaviours that drive your business forward. When your employees understand how their actions support your goals and mission, they’ll share your vision of success and have a better employee experience.

Onboarding stage tips at a glance:

  • Schedule introductory meetings: These don’t need to be work-related. A good introduction to key team members on a social level will help new starters feel comfortable.
  • Schedule follow-up sessions: New hires can be very adaptable, but don’t forget they may still need help. If they’re left adrift it isn’t a great employee experience.
  • Outline your mission statement and values: Making these clear from the beginning will help them understand the behaviours you value.

Hiring manager smiling while there is an office full of blurry people behind her

4. The employee development stage

Providing your teams with ongoing professional development opportunities increases both job satisfaction and retention. Development can take many forms, ranging from internal training programmes to external qualifications. When you encourage external learning, or take an interest in your teams' career aspirations it shows you value them — which in turn makes for a great employee experience.

Unsurprisingly, employees who receive professional development opportunities are also 15% more engaged than those who don’t.1 Additionally, companies with a learning culture tend to follow the principle of learning early and often.

When employees are stuck in the same role with the same responsibility for too long their motivation wanes and disengagement behaviours increase. But, by consistently topping up their skills, you're nurturing their talent from the beginning, which keeps them focussing on their future career path with you.

Development stage tips at a glance:

  • Understand their current skill set: You could openly discuss development goals in one-to-one sessions.
  • Make learning rewarding: If employees are upskilling in their own time or are studying an internal course, reward them when they complete a milestone.
  • Encourage learning: When employees have some responsibility for their own development, they may engage better with the learning material.

Two female employees smiling at each other during a productive 1-1 employee development meeting

5. The employee retention stage

The retention stage — financially speaking — is the most crucial part of the employee life cycle model. We all know losing talent is costly. A good rule of thumb to calculate how much, is to think about turnover costing a third of an annual salary.2 So, if someone has an annual salary of £45,000, it could cost around £15,000 to replace them.

Why is this figure so high? Well, recruitment fees usually account for a considerable chunk of this amount. But, you also need to think about any downtime between the person leaving and their replacement joining. Not to mention any dips in productivity while the new hire is finding their feet.

It’s during the retention stage when a positive culture begins to earn back the time and effort put into nurturing it. Companies who have the highest retention rates make culture a priority and understand their teams are people, not just employee numbers. Simply put, if you want to keep people working for you, you need to develop an emotional connection with them, not just a financial one.

Employee retention stage tips at a glance:

  • Hire the most suitable people: To prevent new joiners from leaving prematurely, always ensure your job descriptions are accurate.
  • Be open and honest: Companies who actively gather employee feedback, know what their employees value and aren’t afraid of owning their mistakes.
  • Use data and feedback to gauge employee engagement: Measuring employee engagement through things like surveys, as well as getting feedback from them via dedicated sessions or town halls, will give you an indication of how happy your teams are.

Learn everything about keeping your employees engaged and invested in your organisation with our talent retention handbook

6. The employee separation stage

People leave organisations for many reasons. They may have outgrown their role, relocated, or retired — to name a few. Either way, it’s up to management and the HR department to ensure their departure is as smooth as possible. Leaving a company is a significant employee experience, so you should treat your employees on their notice period the same as everyone else.

During this time it’s also important to collect honest feedback in an exit interview. Taking steps to understand why someone is leaving and making their last few weeks with you as pleasant as possible will protect your organisation’s employer brand.

If the person leaving is a valued team member, you may have to support their team during this difficult time. Depending on how they feel, you could get the team involved in the hiring process. Doing this shows you value their input and trust their opinions on potential candidates.

Employee separation stage tips at a glance:

  • Conduct an exit interview: Usually, employees are very honest when they're leaving, so use this time to understand why they want to move on.
  • Stay positive: If a valuable employee is leaving, don’t panic. You’ll find a replacement, just don’t rush the process.
  • Support the team they leave behind: It’s natural for team morale to dip when a valued employee has left, so make an effort to offer them your support.

Woman smiling after a pleasant exit interview


Some people consider advocacy as the seventh stage of the employee life cycle. However, because the person has already left your organisation, we consider it to be a separate entity entirely. That’s not to say it’s any less important than the six stages of the employee life cycle — because it is. When someone advocates for your organisation long after they’ve moved on, it shows you have a strong employer brand and fantastic company culture. Advocacy is obviously an incredibly important part of the recruitment process as it’s what attracts people to your organisation.

Why is the employee life cycle important?

The employee life cycle model is a highly effective organisational method that — when followed correctly, can transform your entire employee experience. What makes it so good is that it segments your employees into different groups depending on their individual experiences and time spent at your company.

Employee life cycle management has the potential to not only benefit your people policies, but also your learning and development strategies, criteria for promotions, and much more. Collectively, it influences all aspects of your culture and makes your organisation a more rewarding place to be — which attracts new talent and keeps retention rates high.

Tools to manage the employee life cycle

Fortunately, many tools can make your employee lifecycle strategy a success. Firm favourites among many organisations are employee experience programs, especially full-service solutions that take care of multiple experience touch points.

With Perkbox — our global employee benefits and rewards platform, your employees have access to:

Perks and benefits

Perkbox has over 9,000 perks, discounts, and deals your employees can benefit from all year round. What’s more, our perks packages are global meaning your international colleagues can use them too. A competitive benefits package affects multiple stages of the employee life cycle, in particular the recruitment and retention stages.

Perkbox benefits include employee shopping discounts

Recognition and reward

No matter what stage of the cycle your teams are in, recognition matters. Someone who’s in their first week or fifth year wants to feel valued and Perkbox is a fantastic tool for showing appreciation. From the Perkbox app, your employees can recognise each other on the go and tie each recognition to company values. This not only encourages peer-to-peer recognition but also keeps your culture alive and well no matter where your teams are based.

Perkbox employee recognition and rewards hub

Culture and communications

When employees feel like they’re always the last to know anything, it can negatively affect their experience. To prevent this, Perkbox keeps all of your comms in one easily accessible place. From policy updates to town hall recordings, the visual cards support a variety of attachments. Create unique cards from scratch or use helpful templates when short on time.

Perkbox employee benefits platform user interface

Wellbeing support

Wellbeing is an integral part of the employee life cycle. It influences how your employees think, in addition to their behaviour and productivity. Perkbox work with leading wellbeing industry figures to develop content that doesn't just address physical wellbeing, but also social and emotional too. The app includes energising workouts, calming meditations, and short sleep stories. Everything employees need is available 24/7.

Employee accessing a workout via the Perkbox employee wellness hub

Enhanced administration features

Having a robust reporting model, or software that can facilitate essential organisational HR demands is something every business should have. Fortunately, Perkbox integrates with leading Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) integrations, including Workday and Lattice — streamlining both the onboarding and offboarding experience. Other enhanced admin features, such as Single Sign-On (SSO) also provide hassle-free login to our platform.

Employees enjoying harmonised benefits thanks to Perkbox admin features

Retain and attract employees with the right strategy

An employee’s journey with you should always be an enjoyable one — from their very first day to their last.

And, at the heart of every great experience is a healthy company culture, which is guided by the employee life cycle. Organisations who realise their employees change with time are closer to meeting everyone's needs on an individual level than those who aren’t. Of course, forming company policies on a person-by-person basis is impossible. But, the employee life cycle model can help you understand what different employee groups need to thrive.

Learn how Perkbox can help you plan around the employee cycle

The employee life cycle: your FAQs answered

What are the six stages of the employee life cycle?

The six stages of the employee lifecycle are: attraction, recruitment, onboarding, development, retention, and separation. However, some people add an advocacy stage after separation. People in the advocacy stage continue to speak fondly of their previous place of employment, despite leaving.

When you know what stage of the cycle your employees are in, you can deliver a better employee experience. Why? Because employees in different stages of the cycle value and want different things. Organisations who understand this, often benefit from a stronger company culture and higher employee engagement as everyone feels valued.  

How can the employee life cycle be improved?

How is the employee life cycle measured?

Create a culture to be proud of with Perkbox

Perkbox helps you create a culture of appreciation, celebration and communication — no matter where your employees are.

  • Enable peer-to-peer recognition on a company wide-feed
  • Send reward points to employees that they can claim on anything they want
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