The Importance of the Employee Lifecycle - Hire, Inspire, Admire, Retire
(Originally appeared in the April 17th, 2019 'Across the Board' publication, a Board Director, Board Advisor, C-Level, and Business Newsletter reaching 25,500+ exceptional business leaders in over 65 countries with articles focused on leadership, strategy, and governance topics - sign up here)
Whether an organization is aware or not, their employees follow a life cycle during their employment tenure. For some, the life cycle is planned and deliberate. For others, it is loosely defined or even left to chance. The path, commonly called an Employee Life Cycle (ELC), is an increasingly important component to attract and retain high-performing talent. It helps companies paint a picture for their employees of what is possible within the organization and the heights that they can personally achieve. It also has the benefit of setting the tone and expected behaviors for those currently employed by the organization as well as for future hires that the company will make.
Historically, organizations that lacked a structured focus on their ELC experienced inherently increased performance and reputational risk. For these organizations, the risks were, and likely continue to be, high employee turnover, inability to attract top talent, diminished motivation at all levels, sub-par working environment, and compromised culture. Conversely, companies that made the effort to be innovative and deliberate with their ELC efforts have witnessed a recognizably positive impact on company dynamics and most importantly, elevated culture. Taking the time to communicate the support that can be expected throughout an employee's career can reap a treasure trove of positive benefits. In essence, painting the 'future' picture can help in eliminating employee doubts and show what is possible within the company.
Some organizations erroneously enact formal ELC programs that solely focus efforts on components that affect the bottom line. In these companies, ELC is simply viewed as a means to reduce the company's cost per hired employee. Although this is one component to be cognizant of, it is by no means the only benefit that should be expected of a formal ELC program. A properly implemented ELC program needs to truly span across all phases of an employee's working experience, not just the hiring phase.
Remembering that an organization’s Values have a direct correlation to a company’s Culture at both the management and employee level, we should not forget that this is also true at the Board level. Interestingly, an understanding by all employees AND Directors of their engagement life cycle is important. My work in Board Consulting, executive management consulting, executive coaching, and direct Board experiences have all evidenced that when a person fully understands their professional path and upcoming journey, they are both calmer and more focused on performing their duties, as well as open to taking on additional challenges. Performing duties well, acting calmly, and a willingness to take on additional challenges are all able to be directly linked back to a company’s Values and supportive of the desired Culture.
Hire, Inspire, Admire, and Retire (HIAR) is a great way to look at this ELC process holistically (note that 'retire' can mean both an exit as well as a formal retirement event). Although HIAR is a fairly common life cycle model to reference for ELC and Employee Life Cycle Management (ELCM), it is the detailed planning and actions in each of these steps that makes the difference. Polling and listening to your employees in the process is key.
I recently had the pleasure to listen to Elaine Page present at an event on the topic of 'The Connection Between Cultural Transformation and Strategic Talent Acquisition.' Elaine is the Co-Founder and Managing Principal at The Good Trouble Company, an organization that specializes in building high performance cultures and healthy functioning organizations. She was also the former Chief People Innovation Officer for Northwell Health. Her presentation, referencing Northwell Health's massive cultural transformation and ELC initiative, truly resonated with me as it solidified the links between an organization's formal ELC program, company culture, and the ability to attract & retain top talent. Northwell's initiative focused on sincerely listening to their employees' input, positive and negative, and had a profound effect on the outcome - they solicited input from over 2,000 of their employees to shape their employee promise. As Northwell describes it, "It’s our expression of who we are, what we do, and what we expect of our people. In turn, it also talks about what they can expect from us." Northwell’s motto is not only extremely powerful, but simultaneously resonates at many levels – “We are Northwell Health, and we’re made for this.”
Elaine's presentation led to a thought process on the topic of the Board Life Cycle (BLC). Board Members similarly follow a path that spans from attraction to separation.
For a Board, I view the life cycle approach as twofold. Firstly, a Board of Directors needs to be keenly aware of how their organization, and CEO, is focusing on the end-to-end employee experience (ELC). This allows for Boards to ask the proper questions and for valid conclusions to be formed as part of a robust governance model. The implications for added risk and culture damage are too large to ignore. Secondly, the HIAR process can be applied, in whole or in part, to the overall Board, too. Understanding how a Board is attracting (see Board Pitch Book), recruiting, onboarding, developing, retaining, and rolling-off Board Members (BLC), essentially implementing a deliberate process, elevates effectiveness and creates a positive working Board environment. In essence, the Board is practicing what it preaches. Creating and communicating the professional path matters no matter what level within an organization.
Have you considered your Board's HIAR approach?
Reach out directly to Mark A. Pfister to help form and implement your Board's ideal HIAR model with his 'Board Build - Strategic Planning & Structuring Engagement' offering, or 'Building an Effective Board For Your Company' National Speaking Tour topic.