Steve Goldberg's Analyst Perspectives

The Employee Life Cycle is Dead, or It Should Be

Posted by Steve Goldberg on Mar 23, 2020 3:00:00 AM

Many decision-makers in HR believe the main function of an HCM system is to track and report on the sequence of events that form an employee life cycle. However, this perspective is misguided because it’s centered on transactions rather than experiences.

The “employee life cycle” is a long-standing concept used in HR customer and vendor circles to refer to the common sequence of employee-related events and activities — such as being hired, experiencing a job or title change, a compensation-related action, transferring to another department or business area, getting trained or promoted, going on or returning from leave and exiting the organization. This use of the term reflects a transactional orientation intended to ensure that the organization captures whatever information is needed for all relevant HR processes and systems and for regulatory requirements.


Few candidates or employees view an organization’s HR processes and the efficiency of its HR operations as compelling reasons to join or stay.

The major benefit of this approach is that the employee gets paid correctly and that a record of the employment history is available to those who need it. But will this keep an employee committed to making a difference at a particular organization enough to stay there? Hardly. Additionally, based on my experience as an HR practitioner, an organization’s ability to attract and retain top talent is likely not amplified by its ability to process employee life cycle transactions and events effectively. In other words, few candidates or employees view an organization’s HR processes and the efficiency of its HR operations as compelling reasons to join or stay.

In contrast, employees, particularly those who are highly marketable, usually join or remain at an organization based on the quality of the employee experience, just as customers are attracted to and loyal to brands based on their customer experience. Moreover, an organization marginalizes the potential value of HR technology when it overemphasizes data capture and administrative excellence. I explore these topics and offer specific guidance in my analyst perspective, “A Superior Employee Experience: A New Business Imperative.”

Rather than thinking about individual employee life cycle events, I recommend organizations think in terms of the employee journey — that is, what the employee needs at key moments to enrich the work experience and strengthen his or her commitment and engagement (and thus, his or her impact on business success).

Here is a practical framework for thinking about the employee journey. This framework reflects my view on common employee journey stages. It’s important to note that after the first two stages, the other stages of the journey are rarely sequential and stages can be repeated at any time. Additionally, all of these stages do not necessarily occur for every employee during their tenure in a particular organization or even throughout their career.

Stage Name
Major Focus
1: Socialization Get to know teammates and colleagues

2: Immersion

Dive into the job, though not necessarily with all the requisite competencies and proficiency levels.

3: Acculturation Adapt to and integrate with company culture.
4: Development Pursue ways of improving skills and impact.
5: Alignment Be more prepared to excel in the job and confirm alignment with company culture.
6: Validation Confirm that the right organization was joined and the right job taken.
7: Excellence Strive to be at the top of one’s game at work.
8: Ownership Act and think like an owner of the business.
9: Exploration Feeling like there’s more out there, but not sure what.
10: Resolution Outcome from exploration; commit further or leave.


When an organization is evaluating and procuring new HCM systems, one key step in the evaluation process should be to determine how the system supports what employees are going through and trying to achieve at different points in their employee journeys. For example, during onboarding, an HCM system should offer more than workflows around completing required forms. It should facilitate both socialization and immersion, the former by making relevant introductions and meaningful personal connections, and the latter in a myriad of ways including helping to ensure that the employee understands priorities.

Later in the employee journey, when an employee might feel stagnant in his or her role or perceived career path, the system should make it easier for him or her to explore alternative roles and paths and should also suggest learning or other actions to help achieve goals. Finally, the system should support managers in their efforts to be more effective and better advocate for team members by helping them tailor their approach to each employee’s situation, goals and challenges.

By using an employee journey lens and deploying systems designed to support this approach to people management, organizations and their line managers, the true stewards of HCM, will be in a much better position to achieve their strategic HCM and broader business goals. This includes being able to discover and track employee goals, engagement levels and attitudes (during check-ins, from surveys or even from AI-enabled sentiment analysis) and to proactively address and support employee needs. A flexible data model and workflow engine is certainly part of what organizations will need for this, but organizations should seek more from HCM systems. These technologies should guide and prescribe best actions for both managers and employees. And any HCM system should personalize as many aspects of the employee experience as possible.

Steve Goldberg

Topics: Human Capital Management, employee experience, candidate engagement

Steve Goldberg

Written by Steve Goldberg

Steve is responsible for the Human Capital Management (HCM) research and advisory services practice. He guides HR and business leaders in leveraging their workforce for competitive advantage. He guides HCM technology vendors on the market of buyers and where their applications and technology can have maximum impact. Steve's uniquely diverse HCM experience spans over 30 years, including HR process and HCM systems practitioner leadership roles, heading up product strategy for one of the most respected HCM application vendors, and operating his own global advisory practice. His expertise areas of coverage include HRMS, Talent Management and Workforce Management, with specialized focus on recruiting, learning, performance, compensation and payroll. Prior to joining Ventana Research, Steve worked as a corporate VP in HR at UBS/Swiss Bank Corporation and Huizenga Holdings, product strategy leader at PeopleSoft and Unicru, and was also VP and Research Director at Bersin & Associates. Over 35,000 HR professionals and business executives have been informed by one of Steve's presentations on HCM, or have read his published work. Steve holds an MBA in Human Resource Management from University of Buffalo School of Management and a BBA in Industrial Psychology from The City University of New York.