Employee Lifecycle: How Surveys Can Benefit Key Stages Of Your Employees’ Journey

Philip Cleave
October 26, 2023
Employee embarking on his employment journey

While your customers are essential to keeping the money coming into your business, your employees are just as crucial to keeping those customers happy and attracting new ones.

However, without the ideas, innovation and efforts of staff, it will be very difficult for any organization to stay in business for long. So, it’s just as vital to keep your employees contented as your customers.

Yet from the time they start their employment with a company, to the time they leave, there’s a lot that can happen in between. So, it’s important to do everything you can to keep your staff engaged, motivated and productive while they’re employed with you.

Fortunately, if you’re regularly reaching out and asking your staff for feedback to better understand how they’re feeling, you’ll be in a much better position to make any changes you need to keep them happy and productive in their roles. That’s where the value of employee lifecycle surveys really comes to the fore.

What is the employee lifecycle?

When we refer to the employee lifecycle, we’re talking about the time period between when an employee first notices an organization, joins it and then leaves that company.

It also includes all events, interactions, moments and experiences a staff member encounters during their time with that organization.

What are employee lifecycle surveys?

Employee lifecycle surveys are surveys designed to collect feedback at key moments of an employee’s employment journey with an organization.

Some of the most common staff lifecycle surveys in use today include the onboarding and exit surveys. While in more recent times, some organizations have begun deploying further surveys into this lifecycle mix including anniversary and other scheduled check-in style surveys.

Lifecycle surveys are typically used in tandem with other employee listening methods as part of an organization’s continuous employee listening strategy.

Establishing a listening strategy

When it comes to attracting and retaining top talent, every year becomes more competitive, which is why listening and responding to staff feedback is really important. Yet, according to statistics 83% of staff don’t feel listened to at work, with a further 60% believing their views and opinions are ignored.

Given the fact that many employees believe that their organizations don’t listen to them, contributes to a widely held belief among survey participants that senior leaders don’t know what is going on in their organizations.

Consequently, by implementing an employee listening strategy to listen and respond to employee feedback on a regular basis, it will help organizations to readdress this imbalance.

Ongoing listening

As organizations look to progress beyond their annual employee engagement survey, they’ll typically consider more robust ways of gathering staff feedback.

At this point, they’ll begin to collect employee sentiment at more frequent intervals and look to target this at key points of an employee’s lifecycle journey with their organization.

However, it’s important to add that effective employee listening strategies shouldn’t just stop at surveys. Senior leaders should also be involved and develop skills to listen to employees, while managers should develop the skills to listen to and respond to suggestions from those they directly report to.

Surveys are great for supplementing employee listening campaigns, but they should not be used to replace other valuable conversations, such as performance evaluations and regular one-on-ones.

Effective employee listening campaigns will typically use a mix of employee lifecycle surveys and other, more general surveying methods. Additionally, lifecycle surveys can be targeted around specific events during the employee experience such as new acquisitions, redundancies and more. The trick is to collect feedback from every employee at critical points in their experience and at other times throughout their lifecycle without causing them to experience survey fatigue.

Building listening campaigns

If you’re looking to construct an employee listening campaign, you should build it around your annual engagement survey.

Given that engagement surveys are meant to be broad and to cover several themes, if you’re looking to focus on making improvements in specific areas, you may want to add one or more pulse surveys to your campaign. Because they’re small, pulse surveys are ideally suited to targeting specific areas of your employee experience.

Once your surveys are in place, you can the look to further strengthen your listening campaigns with more targeted assessments. For instance, you may want to gather feedback about a group of leaders using a 360 feedback survey, which may involve reaching out to people who have recently been promoted or gather feedback from those working within a specific department.

Including employee lifecycle surveys to your listening strategy

With regards to employee lifecycle surveys, some of the ones most commonly used by organizations include:

  • Exit surveys
  • New hire surveys
  • Onboarding surveys
  • Anniversary surveys

The first three lifecycle surveys look to measure critical moments in the employee experience, which most staff will only experience once in their employment with a company. And the feedback collected during these targeted assessments will be used to improve the experience for future employees.

In addition, the anniversary survey is taken by each employee annually, but can also be used to provide a regular check of employee morale or sentiment.

Exit surveys

Traditionally exit surveys were used to augment interviews when staff left an organization, to help gather more feedback about the employee experiences of the person leaving.

The thinking here is that exiting employees will typically be more willing to voice their concerns than people staying with an organization. And while there are some things people would never say to another person in a one-on-one conversation, the exit survey provides the confidential space for exiting employees to be completely candid about their experiences.

Components of Exit Surveys

There are typically three basic components that make up the exit survey.

Probably the most critical bit of information to acquire in an exit survey is the employee’s reason for leaving the organization.

While the majority of staff leaving an organization will say they’re leaving to pursue a growth opportunity elsewhere, there are often more factors at play. An effective exit survey will probe beyond a superficial response to better understand the combination of circumstances and causes that led to an individual leaving an organization.

Exit surveys can also be used to gather additional general feedback about exiting employees’ experiences with an organization. This can include questions about managers, team relationships, day-to-day work, training, resources, communication, trust, and much more, to help paint a clearer picture of the experiences of that exiting employee.

In addition to this, open ended questions can be used to get more detailed feedback about an individual’s reasons for leaving an organization, while organization structure and demographic data can be used to better understand trends in different employee segments.

Regret or non-regret attrition

While its helpful to get feedback from every exiting employee, organizations can also benefit from honing in on the feedback of their most talented exiting employees that they would have hoped to retain.

By examining exit data through the lens of regret/non-regret it can help you to clarify the specific reasons you’re losing your most valued employees.

Each exiting employee can be assigned either regret (we would have liked to have retained this employee) or non-regret (we are okay with losing this employee) by either a manager or an HR business partner. You can then use this regret/non-regret criteria as a demographic to better understand the specific circumstances behind the employees you most regret losing.

Retention efforts of high-valued employees can then be adapted based on what you learn, while you can also bring in other demographic data to understand perceptions by job role, department, location, and more.

New hire and onboarding surveys

With regards to lifecycle surveys, new hire and onboarding surveys are often grouped together. Yet, although both survey types address newer members of an organization, they each have different purposes.

New hire surveys are generally administered 15-30 days after an employee joins the organization. And because the employee is still relatively new and could still be involved in the onboarding process, it’s too early to ask questions that help us measure whether their onboarding was effective or not.

In contrast, onboarding surveys are typically issued after a new employee has been with the organization for at least 90 days and are used to ensure the onboarding process was effective.

New hire surveys

The new hire survey is an effective way to check in with a new employee to make sure they have everything they need and is typically designed to measure adherence to onboarding best practices.

When new hires are onboarded, the organization hiring them wants to ensure that their early experiences are both positive and consistent, and that specific things that need to happen are happening.

A new hire survey is subsequently used to help verify that no crucial first steps in that employee’s employment have been neglected.

For example, there are number of things that most new hires will be expected to receive. These commonly include having the chance to meet all their team members, having time set aside to meet their managers, getting briefed on the tools and resources needed to perform their job and receiving job-related training.

Maybe in your organization, you want new employees exposed to company values, or introduced to a mentor, or swiftly working on a career development plan. Whatever your onboarding best practices, a new hire survey is a great opportunity to check in with new recruits to see whether these things are happening.

At this stage, it’s too early to say for sure if these activities have been effective, which is why we also have onboarding surveys.

Onboarding surveys

The purpose of onboarding surveys is to measure the outcomes of the onboarding process, which is why they’re typically issued around 90 days after the hire of a new employee.

The aim of the onboarding survey is to understand how well-prepared new employees are to begin contributing to the organization.

Components of onboarding surveys

There are two primary objectives of any onboarding process:

  1. Enablement
  1. Engagement

There are a number of things that new staff should be helped with to enable them to be effective in their role.

Firstly, they should be equipped with all the tools and resources they need to do their job. They should receive adequate training. They should be encouraged to develop working relationships with their managers and team members. And they should be empowered to make decisions related to their work.

Enablement in the onboarding context means employees feel ready and fully supported to contribute in their new roles.

A second goal of the onboarding process should be the engagement of new staff. It’s not sufficient for new employees just to be able to do their jobs, they should want to do their jobs.

Onboarding activities should be designed with these outcomes in mind. If the onboarding survey shows that either enablement or engagement is low, the onboarding process should be adjusted and improved.

Anniversary surveys

With the inclusion of anniversary surveys, you can add a continuous listening element to your listening strategy.

Work anniversaries are often a time when employees reflect on numerous occasions spent working for a company. But they also give organization’s the opportunity to congratulate staff on reaching that milestone, while reaching out to them for feedback through an anniversary survey.

One of the biggest benefits of using staff anniversary dates as a trigger to survey your employees is that these dates will be typically spread throughout the year. This means that at any one time you’ll be reaching out to different employees, who will be at different seniority levels and working in different departments. It also means they would be likely to be a fairly representative cross-section of race, gender, tenure, age and more.

By simply surveying those who have had an anniversary during a particular month, the organization would be collecting what would resemble a random sample of that organization. So, each month you would be collecting a sample of feedback that you could potentially use as a barometer for measuring overall morale in your organization.

Anniversary survey best practice

When it comes to best practice advice, anniversary surveys are best kept simple.

Before designing an anniversary survey, you should ask yourself “what sort of data would I want to collect on a monthly basis?”

For many organizations, best practice is typically limited to ensuring only a few questions are asked, which often includes an employee net promoter score question and an open-ended comment-based question.

Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)

Anniversary surveys can be used to provide a monthly indicator of the wider morale in an organization, as opposed to a deeper picture of the employee experience.

Subsequently, the eNPS can provide a rough, but reliable indicator of general employee morale.

By gaging the loyalty of your staff with the following question, the eNPS can help give you a sense of morale levels throughout your organization.

On a scale of zero to ten, how likely is it that you would recommend our organization as a place to work?

Open-ended text questions

Open-ended questions are a valuable inclusion in any survey. However, they can be especially useful in a lifecycle survey, by helping to give you a better sense of how the respondent is feeling.

Historically some open-ended questions in surveys have tended to encourage a positive or negative slant such as:

“What did you like about your experience? or “What did you not like about your experience?

However, with a more neutrally worded question, the survey respondent has greater flexibility to express their own sentiments in the response, such as in the following question:

“Please describe your overall experience of working here.”

You can then use tools such as sentiment analysis, to quickly analyze a range of answers to this question and identify which ones were positive or negative. Sentiment and comment topics can then be aggregated by the month, quarter, or year, to provide a rich source of information about how to improve the employee experience in your organization.

Avoiding survey fatigue

With potentially quite a lot of different surveys moving around to measure employees’ experiences at different stages of the staff lifecycle, it’s important to be aware of and able to avoid survey fatigue. Essentially, survey fatigue occurs when survey participants either become overwhelmed by the volume of survey requests, the number of questions in surveys, or they become bored or disinterested by the survey’s content. So, if you’re to avoid survey fatigue and declining participation rates among your own employees, you need to ensure they see some benefit to taking your surveys.

To start with, your surveys need to cover actionable parts of the employee experience that matter to employees. You also need to display significant interest in your employees’ feedback and take some meaningful actions on what they present, if staff are to continue seeing the benefits of taking your survey.

Final thoughts

We hope you found this blog useful.

If you’re yet to establish a staff lifecycle survey program, this blog should give you a good overview about what to include. Alternatively, if you’re already using some lifecycle surveys, this should give you some ideas about how to maximize your survey program to get the best out of your employees.

Ultimately, staff are at their most contented and productive when they feel fully appreciated and listened to. So, if you’ve not already devised a listening strategy and an employee lifecycle survey program to support this, now’s the time to get going with it.

Deliver the best experiences for your employees’ journey

Obtaining, analyzing and acting on the survey feedback you receive from your employees on their journey with you is vital to keeping them happy, productive and wanting to stay with your organization. But you also need to be delivering consistently positive experiences for them too. Yet, you’ll only be able to get the best results when you’re using the right survey tools.

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