Traditional methods of attracting and retaining talent are requiring organizations to rethink their entire business strategy. As companies leverage best practices to build pipelines of qualified and diverse talent, they are also struggling to find ways to keep their existing employee populations engaged. A sense of belonging is foundational to engagement and self-actualization for employees.

Let’s take a look at five areas of the employee life cycle that could be used to create intentional paths to belonging and engagement.

The Preboarding Stage

In this stage, we consider activities, events and points of contact that occur prior to an employee joining a team. This might include how the company’s brand appeals to the prospective employee, the design of the candidate experience or the job posting itself. In all three of these examples, the company can assert inclusion. For example, prospective employees should see themselves in the employer’s marketing material, whether on the company’s career page or creative assets.

The Onboarding Stage

This is the stage where the employee has a front-row seat into both the dominant and sub-cultures that exist within the company. As such, their interpretation of the culture extends well beyond what was shared during the preboarding stage. Ask new employees about their preferred pronouns, create clear goals and expectations with applicable resources to support performance and engage the new hire in cultural competence training. The onboarding stage may vary from one company to the next, but whether the experience commenced after 90 days, six months or even a year, the employee’s transition between stages should be acknowledged by an introductory evaluation or a one-on-one check-in.

The Inboarding Stage

The primary focus of the inboarding stage is to avoid scenarios that cause employees to question the organization’s commitment to their continued success. This is the stage where employees can step up to take on responsibilities that exceed their initial job expectations.

Inclusion activities at this stage might include rotation assignments to give employees exposure to areas outside of their existing role, or career mobility programs that create clear paths from entry level to more advanced career opportunities.

The Offboarding Stage

The offboarding stage occurs when an employee is promoted, transitions to another team within the same company, leaves the company for another career opportunity or retires.

Despite the negative connotations that come with offboarding, employers can still be inclusive when it comes to employee departures. For example, rather than looking at a retiring employee’s departure as a loss to the company, you can find ways to preserve their knowledge. In this way, the employee feels valued for their contributions over the years and the company minimizes disruption.

The Reboarding Stage

One common example of reboarding is when employee returns from maternity or paternity leave — they may need time to readjust back into their role. Another use for reboarding is when companies want to realign staff expectations after experiencing significant changes in operations.

For example, if there are changes in leadership, employees may need to be realigned on vision and objectives. Another example would be if an organization experiences a merger or acquisition. Inclusion in both instances may include offering a diverse range of resources to support the employee’s personal well-being through the transition.

Inclusion efforts don’t happen organically. But the results will ultimately speak for themselves when employees refuse the bait of competitive offers.