The concept of the employee lifecycle (ELC) has been around for some time now. However, as a learning and development (L&D) community, we often forget to provide training aligned with business goals across all phases of the ELC and, as a result, miss out on an opportunity to align our training programs with business needs.

The “What”

Before we can understand how to optimize the employee lifecycle, we need to understand the concept. While there are many (more and less complicated) definitions, this is the simplest for our purpose:

“The employee lifecycle model is an organizational method used to visualize how an employee engages with the company they are a part of. There are six stages involved in this model: Attraction, Recruitment, Onboarding, Development, Retention, and Separation.”

The “Why”

L&D professionals gain significant momentum and impact by aligning their trainings to the ELC, which is entrenched in every organization, whether consciously or not. By viewing all positions in a holistic, end-to-end manner, the employee experience becomes seamless and integrated. In addition, providing the context, support and resources required to develop the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) of employees in every step of the ELC means companies gain productive, engaged employees, which leads to improved employee retention.

Offering ongoing development that’s clearly aligned to the ELC helps to recruit quality talent — companies are more appealing to potential employees when they demonstrate a clear commitment to employees’ personal and professional growth. In addition, the ELC gives structure to the training offering by keeping employee objectives and business alignment on track.

The “How”

This section will provide some practical guidelines on how to align your L&D offering with the ELC. However, it is vital to remember that, in principle, our L&D approach should always be a continuous process of exploration, discovery and development, regardless of where the employee is in the ELC.

Attraction and Recruitment

L&D should focus on assisting the business and stakeholders to provide clear and concise job descriptions/position profiles with relevant competencies and skills required for specific jobs, which will be used to advertise but also onboard candidates. L&D should also provide examples of L&D successes and how they have contributed to career development, which can be used to build the employer brand.

In addition, L&D can offer internships and pre-employment training, as well as provide free resources to help candidates understand the 3 R’s of employment: roles, responsibilities, and risks. The most effective channel for this is eLearning, as well as online testimonials from existing employees and guidance from senior leaders, which can be done through articles, podcasts or videos.

During the recruitment phase, L&D should support hiring managers and recruiters by developing competency-based interview resources, providing training for target audiences on a continuous basis, as well as sharing eLearning opportunities for hiring managers to refresh their skills in preparation for the recruitment process.


Onboarding is a key and often neglected component of the ELC — it is an entire process by which new employees acquire the skills, knowledge and behaviors that will permit them to become effective contributors within an organization. A recent study concluded that employees are 69% more likely to stay with a company for at least three years if they experience great onboarding. This is an area where L&D can shine, as onboarding is essentially a learning process.

A good onboarding process follows a consistent strategic plan rather than just “whipping something up” every time someone new comes along, which means it should be repeatable to ensure that everyone has the same key information to reach their full potential. If utilized effectively, onboarding increases engagement and improves speed to full productivity, thereby generating business growth.

Onboarding signals to new employees — when they are at their most receptive to your organizational messages — that they are valued and wanted.

While how to create an effective onboarding process is a topic for another article, at minimum, learning leaders must partner with human resource (HR) leaders to ensure a smooth onboarding experience for new hires. L&D, specifically, can provide a solid onboarding framework, utilizing the best in learning design to offer resources and experiences that optimize organizational knowledge transfer and a sense of belonging. In addition, L&D plays a key role in monitoring the quality of the process, to ensure consistency of experience.

Development and Retention

While retention has many levers, offering development opportunities is key and is where the L&D professional leads, ensuring that employees continue to grow throughout their tenure. While each situation and organization is unique, there are a few key options that would fit most situations, although this is certainly not an exhaustive list:

  • Talent marketplace participation.
  • High potential and high performer programs.
  • Leadership development programs.
  • Mentoring and coaching.
  • Career-pathing and optimal succession planning.
  • Careful use of recognition to drive the desired behavior.
  • Organizational design and organizational development.


The ELC has a natural end occurring for a variety of reasons. Regardless of those reasons, the “offboarding” stage normally includes exit interviews and evaluations, which tend to be conducted by the employee’s direct manager or an HR representative.

However, an often overlooked role of the L&D department is to provide mechanisms to ensure effective knowledge transfer, specifically the process whereby the departing employee can record, share, or distribute their knowledge, skills, and behaviors with the organization or their replacement. In the long run, this alleviates organizational knowledge loss and completes the employee lifecycle, with departing employees still contributing to the development of the organization.

The L&D professional has an essential role to play in preparing their organization for the future by ensuring effective learning takes place. One underutilized lever in this process is understanding and utilizing the employee lifecycle to achieve more effective learning outcomes, by using an existing process to amplify impact.