By 2021, we’ve all been told the benefits of employee engagement; increased productivity, work quality and retaining top talent to name a few. The roadmap to retaining employees and keeping them engaged in both their work and their organisation is an ongoing process and can involve different strategies and techniques depending on what stage they're at within their employment lifecycle; from the employee’s first day to the moment they deliver their resignation. While many organisations can focus on the early stages of an employee’s lifecycle (attracting potential candidates and recruitment) research has shown that ongoing training and development is crucial for retaining employees. Furthermore, an employee’s ‘separation stage’ (when an employee leaves the organisation) can have a positive flow-on effect for attracting and recruiting new employees.
Below, we break down each phase of the employment lifecycle and share some tips on how to ensure employees are engaging with their employer at each phase of their lifecycle, benefiting the company’s productivity, retention rate and future recruitment.
Also referred to as the talent lifecycle, the employment life-cycle represents the total employee experience; the collection of encounters an employee will have with their organisation from the very first day they apply for a position to the day they leave. According to the majority of literature on the subject, these encounters can be grouped into six key phases or steps, as they naturally progress through a company:
The first time an employee will actively engage with an organisation is when they first encounter an open position, often before they even decide to apply for a role. This first interaction can occur in a number of ways. If the potential employee is actively looking for a new role, they might have come across an organisation’s job advertisement through a dedicated employment marketplace like Seek or Linkedin or when researching different companies via online workplace reviews. If a potential candidate is more passive in the job-seeking process, they may have come into contact with the company via Facebook or Instagram or stumbled across their website, especially if the company is well-known or has a strong online presence.
Tip: Compared to the other stages of the employee life-cycle, there is limited control an organisation has over how they attract potential candidates. However, there are a few steps a company can take to maximise their talent pool and engage with potential candidates. Firstly, a company should focus on their branding; does it have a good reputation and is it a desirable and aspirational company to work for? When considering hiring for a new role, a company must consider the desires and interests of prospective candidates; what would they want from a role and what do they need for a positive employee experience? This could be flexible work options, a collaborative team environment, or opportunities to learn and develop their skillset. Once an organisation has considered the desires of their prospective employees, they must then address these desires across all of their touchpoints to ensure this desirability is effectively reaching potential candidates. This includes events, the company’s website and social media. It’s also useful for a company to have a ‘careers’ section on their website to make it easy for eligible candidates to come to them.
Once an organisation has attracted a strong applicant pool, it must then narrow down its selection to bring in the best candidates. This selection process is known as the recruitment stage of the employee lifecycle and includes cultivating and advertising an available role, initial screening calls and conducting job interviews which will ultimately lead to choosing a future employee. An organisation can choose to recruit independently or use a recruitment company, where consultants will utilise their own expertise and vast network to select candidates on behalf of the organisation, and ensure the organisation hires the right person for the right role.
Tips: First and foremost, an organisation must carefully consider how the role they are recruiting for is advertised, in order to ensure they attract the best and most relevant list of candidates to choose from. It would be a waste of time if a local council was looking for a Public Health Officer, yet keep receiving applications from Statutory Planners. To avoid this, an organisation should ensure the job advertisement has a clear description of the role, the experience needed and a full list of responsibilities to help attract the right candidates. The job advertisement should also provide details on the workplace and the available perks of the role, to further showcase the role's desirability.
The selection process involves many decisions; how many interviews you should have, whether any technical tests need to be included, how to screen resumes, what methods you should use to avoid bias and how to do referral checks. These decisions will depend on the specific role an organisation is recruiting for (the seniority level, the responsibilities involved etc.) however, no matter the role, an organisation should always ensure they are being transparent and honest with their candidates. Candidates want and need regular touchpoints with a prospective employer in order to stay engaged during the recruitment process. Organisations should ensure that they are always being transparent with prospective candidates by actively keeping them engaged during the recruitment process. No one likes to be left in the dark or kept waiting, especially when it’s related to something as important as a person’s career prospects. By regularly checking in and updating candidates at each stage of the recruitment process you’ll create a positive impression, which leads to better recruitment outcomes. A big part of this is adhering to timelines; if you’ve said that you’d get back to a candidate before the end of the week with interview feedback, not getting back to them within that timeframe doesn’t indicate that you care and value their time and effort.
Finally, organisations should always be honest when advertising a particular role. If a position involves administrative tasks for instance, don’t make it seem like this is not the case. The job market can be competitive and an organisation might feel pressured to ‘lure in’ candidates, but overselling a role or what an organisation can provide to a potential employee will only result in dissatisfaction further down the track, causing them to become disengaged with the organisation.
According to the workplace intranet software company Interact, most employees will have decided within the first 90 days whether they want to remain at a company. Considering this and the cost of losing an employee within the first year, keeping a new employee actively engaged during onboarding is critical for the organisation’s overall retention and productivity. Onboarding lays the foundation for the employee-employer relationship, and to ensure a smooth transition for the new employee, the onboarding process should involve both formal and informal training, regular review sessions and above all, ensuring the new employee feels supported.
Tips: Many organisations can get confused between onboarding and orientation. Orientation will usually occur during an employee’s first week and focuses on an initial introduction to an employee’s new role and the organisation itself. However, onboarding is a much more thorough process that should last the first 6 to 12 months of an employee’s life cycle. It starts with pre-boarding, which is the period from when an employee signs their employment contract to the first day of employment. During this process, it’s important for an organisation to keep in regular contact and engage with their new employees. Things like adding them to team group chats, company events and sending them relevant and practical information can make them feel included and more prepared for their first day.
During the onboarding process, it’s also important to have regularly scheduled feedback sessions between the new employee and their manager in order to establish how well they are settling in and giving them the opportunity to raise any concerns or issues they are having. This will give the organisation the chance to resolve any problems early in the employee-employer relationship before an employee can feel resentful.
Because onboarding plays such an integral role in an employee’s loyalty to an organisation, Public Sector People has created a dedicated after-care program as part of our recruitment services, which focuses
on making that transition process for new employees as easy as possible. Our consultants remain in constant contact with both the candidate and client in the initial six months of a candidate’s new role to determine how they’re both finding the experience, establish if there is any constructive feedback to pass on and cooperate closely with the client’s induction and performance review process. This makes sure we are putting the candidate in the best position for ongoing success.
The development phase of the employee life-cycle is essential, not only in motivating and encouraging an individual employee but also in improving the organisation’s productivity through progressing an employee’s abilities and skillset via training. The more advanced an employee becomes in their abilities, the better they can perform their job and consequently contribute to the organisation. The development phase is also intrinsically linked to technology. In this day and age, it has become imperative for all employees to keep up to date with all of the digital tools available to them, especially with so many of us now working remotely and depending on technology to connect with each other more than ever before.
Tips: There’s a common misconception that learning & development is an expensive initiative for a business, however, there are many cost-effective methods an organisation can use like peer coaching and mentoring, which relies on an organisation’s own talent to showcase their particular skill set or expertise with the greater team. Organisations can hold weekly sessions, in which a team member who has expertise in one area, can share this knowledge with their colleagues and encourage peer-based learning. Not only is this a cost-effective strategy for the business, but research has indicated that it's also great for fostering employee engagement and innovation within a company.
It’s also important to remember that besides ‘formal’ training needs, employees have personal development goals they want to achieve. Perhaps they'd like to work more on their leadership skills or their assertiveness, so factoring this in when developing an employee’s learning and development plan is important. Asking an employee about their learning and development goals during the recruitment and onboarding phase will help identify these personal development goals and gives an organisation more time to prepare and customise their learning and development strategy to best suit the individual’s learning needs.
The retention phase of the employee life-cycle focuses on how to build and develop an employee’s commitment to their role, their team and their organisation. By the retention stage of the life-cycle, the novelty of a new role has well and truly worn off and employees can start to feel stagnant and disengaged. To counteract this, organisations should invest in activities that recognise employee accomplishments and demonstrate how much they value their employee’s commitment to the company.
Tips: Interestingly, in research carried out by Professor Ian Larkin of Harvard Business School recognition given in a singular context like 'top salesperson' or 'perfect attendance' contests awards, for example, can have a detrimental effect on productivity. This is because no two people are motivated in exactly the same way and therefore they shouldn’t be recognised or rewarded in the same way. Instead, experts encourage offering a range of recognition tactics across the organisation and not just focusing on financial incentives.
Some alternate ways to recognise employees could involve focusing on creating shared experiences, where an emotional bond between an employee and their organisation is strengthened through celebrating employee anniversaries and asking employees to join in on celebrating noteworthy corporate achievements and business wins. Organisations can also look into certifying aspects of a company’s curriculum or support an employee’s professional certification opportunities. By actively recognising and encouraging an employee’s desire to learn, an organisation is able to demonstrate how much they value the employee’s contribution to the business and that they see their potential.
The final stage of the employee lifecycle focuses on how to manage an employee’s departure from an organisation, whether they’re dismissed, retire or leave to seek new opportunities. Many organisations underestimate the importance this phase plays within the employment cycle, thinking that a departing employee will no longer be relevant to an organisation. However, ‘happy leavers’ (employees that leave their organisation on good terms) can be a great source of new hire referrals and are more open to work or partner with the organisation in some capacity in the future. This is especially important to consider within the public sector, where a significant proportion of workers are employed on a contractual basis. Having employees who finish their contract feeling positively about the company increases the likelihood of them wanting to work with that same council or organisation in the future when other projects occur.
Tips: There are a few things to keep in mind for maintaining engagement with employees at this stage including:
Utilising effective offboarding processes like exit interviews and feedback mechanisms, so that the organisation can learn why an employee is leaving and improve/rectify any processes that have caused that employee dissatisfaction. It also demonstrates that the organisation again values the employee and is sad to see them leave.
Creating and maintaining alumni channels within the organisation so that they can easily stay in touch and reach out to valuable employees who have left, perhaps even sharing particular job opportunities, if the relationship with alumni employees is particularly strong and the job in question showcases an organisation’s growth and development.
If you’re looking for advice or more information on the employee life-cycle -especially the first three stages- Public Sector People specialises in attracting, recruiting and transitioning the right candidates to the right roles within the public sector. Reach out to our team of consultants today to help ensure you’re engaging with relevant candidates; from the first day, they interact with your company, to their onboarding process.
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