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Planning the employee lifecycle: take a fresh look at changing expectations

Published on 27 April 2021

Planning the employee lifecycle: take a fresh look at changing expectations

Even if your organisation has a leading employee lifecycle, there’s a strong chance this will need to adapt in response to the pandemic. As you are reading this, there’s a good chance you are keen to improve and develop your approach. Organisations have never been more concerned about their culture and corporate values and how these will translate into a new virtual or hybrid environment. However, many organisations still suffer the same challenges and still approach them in the same way, creating and embedding the culture and ‘the way things are done around here’. Those slick corporate videos, value statement and those inspirational posters on the walls will mean nothing if employees don’t follow or believe in them.

Classic issues to address

These are some common pitfalls to avoid and you can see more about this in the box that shows this across seven stages of the employee lifecycle.

  • People agree full-time terms, then after 16-weeks put in a flexible working request, which HR agree.
  • People can’t wait to get off the phones and rotational patterns, and work in the back-office where they aren’t as closely managed.
  • The team who onboard, all used to work on the phones and couldn’t wait to work standard Monday to Friday shifts and use expressions like “the shifts aren’t too bad” when describing the rotational patterns.
  • Development time is essentially process and system changes updates, personal development happens by accident.
  • People have been known to leave and then return on multiple occasions, being allowed to behave in the same way each time.
  • There is big disconnect between the corporate culture video and the actual performance culture.

You may relate to some (hopefully not all) of these. Don’t sit there with your head in your hands, worried there is no way to change. These are classic mistakes, and I’m sure many will remain. In truth, however, we can all prevent these from happening and now is the perfect opportunity to do so. Above all, please don’t add to this list with comments like: we introduced this during the response to COVID-19, and 2+ years later still have the legacy! Or we introduced ‘hybrid working’ without properly considering what this meant!

Problems flow across the lifecycle

Turnover and absence problems often start before recruitment if you aren’t clear why you stand out as an employer and focus on numbers not the talent you need. Do you have a consistent approach that makes good use of time? Do you review the success of different methods? Do people really understand what it will be like to work with you (eg working patterns, culture)? Learning and development needs to be joined up, aligning to all stages of the cycle. However, often it is still full-time classroom sessions. Do your people own their own learning? How could you use coaching and Knowledge Management to make better use of time and grow people more effectively?

This links to your measures of success. Is time-to-competency a key metric? Can people progress incrementally? Engagement and retention are problems when we don’t analyse why people join, stay, or leave – or when 1:1s become one-way or inconsistent, even just a box to tick. Two-way feedback is key, not just an annual survey. Career progression only works when embedded into regular leadership meetings and reports, as part of a robust framework.

The starting point for change is the organisation values and strategy. Why does the business exist and how will it achieve its goals? This is an important first step for everyone to understand as it will explain why not everything that we want to do is possible. For instance, it may go directly against the broader vision of the company. Our Strategy Pyramid is a very useful tool for this work, as can be seen in the previous article and by watching that module in our Learning Academy. You will also need to understand the budget and how much this will cost, as well as how much cost you will avoid. The next key stages of the life cycle need to be designed in tandem. I split this into four sections:

Attraction & recruitment

A huge amount of time and money can be wasted on this, as organisations recruit based on current availability of people and not on identifying the right people. Ideally, you will have a waiting list of talented people waiting for the opportunity to join you, knowing you are the organisation that will support their career. You don’t have to be the organisation who are always recruiting – unless this is your strategy and most cost-effective way to operate. Your working patterns need to be part of the attraction & recruiting process as great working patterns will mean people want to work for you. Being clear during this phase, even before the interview/recruitment stage means people who cannot fit-in with your working arrangements know early on.

Onboarding & development

With the offer accepted you now need to prepare people for the start of their journey. This should start before day 1 of onboarding training. Their preparation should also feel more than completing forms. A common mistake, when designing shifts for new starters, is to focus so much on demand coverage you neglect the importance of development and other offline time. Make sure your working patterns supports this time. Development needs to be treated as critical not an afterthought during quiet times.

Your working patterns may need to be adjusted during initial induction. However, be cautious not to change them too much. If someone is coming in to work specific hours, you don’t want them to a) find it so awkward they can’t work the hours, or b) get used to the Monday to Friday for 6-weeks so it’s hard to adjust to the previously agreed hours. Also, consider how part-time hours can be supported during induction.

The role of the induction training team and team leader can become more of a mentor or coach to help people embed using on-demand bite-sized learning57 modules. A key step is to create a culture in which people own their own learning and development training is much more ‘pull’ than ‘push’, with people accessing updates on system and process changes through the knowledge management system and digital workspace, rather than in briefings or emails.

Engagement & retention

Everyone is different, yet too often we treat everyone the same. Create a flexible framework of principles which engages everyone, allowing for freedom and creativity. Consider different ways of working, considering variances for remote/virtual working compared to office based. Engaging working arrangements can make a huge difference. We’ve seen people complete learning & development programmes, or 1:1s in their own time, when they have the working patterns to suit them.

Understanding retention is crucial. It is not uncommon to have disengaged employees with long-tenure, so it’s important you understand their motivation (or lack thereof). Regular dialogue will help you and them to distinguish between job satisfaction and life satisfaction. Irregular, and unstructured “chats” can promote a focus on the most recent problems, or longstanding issues and only act as a sounding off.

Career progression: what does this mean?

There will come a time when people need to move on, whether this is an internal position or to a new organisation. This requires a strategic framework for progression, as we see at FIS for instance, that is engaged with top down and bottom up. A clear workforce strategy, organisation wide, means there will be time for the development activities needed and people will move roles because they want to, not because of the working patterns or the things they happen to know at the moment.

The most important aspect is to remember this is a cycle, it will need a regular review against a set of broad and balanced success metrics. The last 12-months have demonstrated more than ever how much can change, so it is important that we reflect the changes in our plans. Be very careful with any contract alterations, ensure these are timebound and have formal reviews. Above all else don’t make headline news for your business, e.g. We will always be a hybrid business, without thinking through the detail.


Learning is at the heart of everything we do at The Forum and we would love to join up some of you pioneering work in this area, or others looking to learn from best practice. As always, I’m interested in listening to your challenges, concerns, questions and comments, so please do not hesitate to contact me. If you are interested in learning more, one of The Forum’s 6-month virtual Assisted Learning Pathway (ALP) explores Scheduling and Wellbeing. We also offer a Leadership ALP, for analysts and managers looking to network and develop at that level. For more information, just let me know.

Author: Phil Anderson

Date Published: 27th April 2021

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Author: Leanne McNamee

Categories: Library, Planning & Resourcing