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When you think of the term "employee experience," are you thinking about an employee’s commute, interactions with co-workers, benefits, organizational culture, or overall job satisfaction? If so, you're on the right track, but there's so much more to understanding the employee experience, from the applicant’s initial interest in the company to the hiring process, employment, and growth within the company to the person’s separation from the company.

Knowing their impact at each step of the employee journey can help companies better understand and ultimately retain their employees. Focusing on those moments also enables you to build an organization that is more likely to attract future employees.

While the employee lifecycle has many steps, the moments that matter are:

  1. Awareness
  2. Attraction
  3. Recruitment
  4. Preboarding and onboarding
  5. Retention and promotion
  6. Development
  7. Separation

Employment starts in steps three and four, but companies must build awareness and rapport with potential applicants to attract new talent – focusing on your brand and your employee value proposition are important at this step.

The employee experience is about ensuring that a company curates moments as the employee moves through the organization's life cycle. Companies need to ensure that these critical moments matter – they're done well and done right.

As Millennials, and more recently Gen Zers, enter the workforce, they want to be treated as individuals, not numbers. What’s important to them often differs from their predecessors, and companies have to figure out how to customize the employment experience for these generations. This is an especially tough transition for large companies that have learned to operate like a well-oiled machine.

As leaders or HR professionals, we must now consider how we can give new employees the best first day. Gone are the days of the "vanilla" onboarding experience. At each stage of the employee journey, we must engage – find out what we did well or what we didn't do well and make improvements for the next group.

Younger generations of workers want to build relationships with their managers. They want to be heard; empathy is essential. Even when managers have to give tough feedback, they want consistent communication, opportunities for professional development, and flexible work environments.

That's why we're seeing a trend in focusing on the employee experience and a shift from the old way of managing to a greater focus on the person. People want that kind of customization for the individual.

When the Greatest/Silent Generation and Baby Boomers came to work, they were often treated like widgets on a factory line and considered faceless numbers. If companies continue with that approach, they risk losing most of their workforce because new hires refuse to be treated that way.

It's hard to change long-standing company processes. Leaders need to listen and understand how we evolve to make a company a desirable place to work, considering everything from awareness to recruiting and onboarding, promotion to exit interviews. We need to listen and gather information at every stop along the way. Employees should share their feedback on their experiences – the good and the bad – and then be as patient as possible while organizations grow and pivot.

When employees leave the organization, we hope it's on good terms: they retire or leave for another growth opportunity that wasn't immediately available internally. We want former employees to recommend us to others; we want them to return when a new opportunity arises.

Focusing on the employee life cycle is essential to ensure success. From creating awareness to providing development opportunities, leaders must strive to elevate every stage of the employee journey to build a strong employer brand, retain top talent, and promote employee satisfaction. By understanding and optimizing the employee life cycle, organizations can create a positive work environment, attract the right talent, enrich and engage their employees, and ensure their teams are equipped with the necessary skills to reach their goals.