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November 15, 2023
March 1, 2024

Mapping the Employee Journey

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With the Great Reshuffle (Resignation? Redeployment? Reincarnation? Whatever you want to call it) still in full swing, creating a workplace that is attractive to apply to, engaging to work at, and rewarding to stay at is more important than ever. Companies need to be prepared to take care of their employees from the start—including everything from onboarding to professional development to compensation.

This doesn’t have to be intimidating, though. In fact, there’s something called the employee experience journey that encompasses each employee’s experience at your company; and the best part is, we’re here to help you plan this journey! So strap in and get comfy—let’s see what goes into creating an employee journey map.

What Is the Employee Journey?

Put simply, an employee’s journey is every step of their tenure at your company. Broken down even more, here are the five stages of each employee’s journey:

  1. Recruitment
  2. Onboarding
  3. Retention
  4. Development
  5. Separation

Each of these stages has multiple components and keys to them, but we’ll dive into the details in a bit. Just know that you need to make plans for each of these stages, and each stage needs to be personalized at least a little. After all, no one follows in someone else’s exact footprints for a journey, right? 

In much the same way, each of your employees will have a unique journey at your company, whether they stay for six months or six years. At the very least, you need to make specific plans for each position/department in your company—after all, an HR profession is going to have different development opportunities than an entry-level programmer. (We’ll dive into this more below!)

Now let’s look at each of these stages a little more closely to see what each means and how to plan them.

1. Recruitment

The recruitment stage begins as soon as a potential employee looks your company up online or sees a job listing. Here are some questions this first impression needs to answer:

  • How does the employee feel about your company right off the bat?
  • What sort of social posts or marketing material can they access? What messages do they see?
  • Is the job listing they’re reading grammatically correct and informative?
  • Do you have a plan for the interview process nailed down?

One of the keys to this step is your online presence. Your website needs to be professional and informative, your social posts should be fun and engaging, and you should talk about your values and show them in action. Another good idea is to get as many Google, Glassdoor, or Indeed reviews as possible so that potential employees see that other people like working there.

The other key for your recruitment stage is the hiring and interview process. What does this look like for your company? Do you have clear, informative job listings? Are jobs easy to apply for? Who will interview each candidate? When and how will you contact them? When an employee applies for an open position, they should have a clear understanding of what the job will be like, what your company is like, and what to expect in the coming days and weeks.

2. Onboarding

If recruitment is the first impression, onboarding is the first real taste of your company that employees get. Think of it like ordering food at a restaurant: recruitment is when you see a great plate of food and decide to order it. Onboarding is when it arrives steaming at your table, and you get to take your first bite. For your employees’ sake, that first bite needs to be delicious!

Good onboarding can increase retention by 50% and boost productivity by 62%. Unfortunately, only 12% of employees believe their onboarding process was satisfactory. Here are some questions to ponder as you work to improve this stage:

  • What does the employee’s first day look like? Do they go through training for benefits, company policies, or their responsibilities?
  • Is their desk or workstation completely set up for them?
  • Do they have clear guidelines and expectations for their job right from the start? Do they know why they’re there and what they should be doing?
  • What does their first week and month look like? Are they ignored after their first day?

Onboarding should be a process, not an event. In other words, make sure this stage of each employee’s journey covers at least their first few months (SHRM suggests onboarding last the first year!). After all, 40% of employees quit soon after they start a new job, and another 10-20% quit within the first year. That’s not a symptom of a bad employee or a bad fit—more often than not, it’s inaccurate expectations and bad onboarding.

3. Retention

This stage isn’t a sequential step that follows stage two and comes before stage four—retention is a stage that spans the entire employee journey from beginning to end. This doesn’t have to be intimidating, however. Here are some questions to think about:

  • Do employees feel valued and appreciated for the work they do?
  • Does your company culture encourage fun, excitement, and collaboration? Is it supportive and inclusive?
  • Does your company have strong values? Do employees know how their work contributes to those values and to the company’s success as a whole?
  • Are employees compensated fairly and with benefits that they want?

One of the best ways to retain employees is by making sure they feel valued, and one of the best ways to do that is through employee recognition. With the right recognition program, you can celebrate employee birthdays and service anniversaries, make holidays special, and even recognize employee life events and moments that matter. And, of course, recognize employees for their hard work and work accomplishments. Recognition has a ton of amazing ROI, but suffice it to say employee recognition and rewards should be a huge part of your retention stage.

  • Pro tip: The number one reason employees quit is not feeling valued by their company. Awardco makes it easy to show value in a personalized, immediate, and effective way, for both in-person and remote employees.

Value-driven work is also a big part of why employees stay. When a company has values and a vision that aligns with an employee’s, they’re much more likely to stay. So what are your company values? Do you exemplify them? Do employees know how their work contributes to the company’s mission?

Finally, and let’s be honest, employees need money. The compensation strategy you use is a huge reason why employees either stay or leave. Offer competitive salaries. Give benefits that employees actually want. Promote wellness programs and offer as much flexibility as possible. These sorts of benefits will go a long way in making employees want to stay.

4. Development

Once employees have gotten off to a good start with recruitment and onboarding, and they are excited to stay for the long haul with your retention strategies, it’s time to show them that you value their loyalty and their time—it’s time to help them develop. Professional development shows employees that you care about their future and their success. It’s a great way to keep employees engaged AND make your employees better. What could be better?

Around 92% of employees think professional development opportunities are important. And when employees have those opportunities, they have a 34% higher retention rate. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you have structured performance reviews to help employees see what they’re good at and where they can improve?
  • Are managers trained to have performance review, raise, and promotion conversations?
  • Do you offer any sort of development opportunities such as conferences, training, or classes?

Employees need to feel like they have things to work toward—no one wants to feel like they’re at a dead-end job. So ask each employee what their goals are, what they want to get better at, and what they like doing at work. Help them set goals for the next six months, one year, and five years, and then help them accomplish what they want to. Plan promotions that they can work toward. These steps are great for helping employees know they’re valued at your company.

5. Separation

Yes, you even need a plan for when employees either quit, are let go, or retire. Skipping this step is like ending an awesome vacation with a delayed flight—you don’t want to ruin a great experience right at the end, right? So what can you do to make separation effective for both parties?

  • Do you have well-thought-out exit interviews, and do you have ways to implement changes based on exiting employees’ feedback?
  • Do you have plans to celebrate anyone who is retiring?
  • Do you offer letters of recommendation to those who are looking for a new job?

Your main goal is for employees to leave on a high note. Are they quitting? Congratulate them on their new opportunity! Are they retiring? Celebrate that awesome accomplishment! Are you letting them go? Explain the reasoning and be open and supportive.

A second goal of this stage is to learn more about how employees feel about your workplace. When employees are leaving, they’re going to be much more honest about what they like and what they don't, and this is the perfect opportunity to make plans to improve. Seriously consider any feedback you’re given and see what kinds of adjustments can be made to make your remaining employees happier.

What Can You Do Today to Map Your Employee Journey?

Sitting down to plan out every aspect of the employee journey can be overwhelming, so what can you do today to get started? Here are a few steps to begin with.

Segment Your Employees

Group your employees into segments that share similar job responsibilities or career paths. This makes planning the journey easier than if you tried to plan one for each individual employee. Once you have these segments, create employee personas for each one, including:

  • Goals
  • Expectations
  • Challenges
  • Measures for success

Once you know what each segment will expect, what they need to succeed, and what their goals might be, you’ll be well on your way to making the perfect journey map.

Create and Visualize the Journey for Each Segment

Brainstorm and plan each of the five stages for each segment you create. What is the interview process like for your sales team segment? What sort of development opportunities will your marketing team segment appreciate?

  • Pro tip: It’s obvious that you’re going to need to actually talk with your employees about this. Ask them about what’s important to them, what they want to learn, and what their onboarding process was like. Build your plan around the people who you already have—your current and future employees will benefit from it.

You should identify and plan for the moments that matter for each segment. Look at birthdays, service anniversaries, and the like. You should also plan out what touchpoints are needed for each segment, such as performance reviews or one-on-ones. 

Once you have a general plan, try your hand at visual employee journey mapping. Whether that’s with sticky notes on a wall or a digital template, being able to see your map will make it much more manageable. (It’s like a pirate’s treasure map; it’ll be easier for you to find the X that marks the spot if you can see it!) Here are a couple examples and templates you can look at:

  • A step-by-step guide to build your own journey map
  • A great example of an employee-powered journey map
  • Three templates to get you started
  • Pinterest ideas for inspiration

Implement and Ask for Feedback

The only way you’ll know if your employee journey map and your employee segments work is by implementing your newly structured plans and getting employee feedback. Are they happier with onboarding? Do they feel more recognized and appreciated? Do they see an upward path for growth? This feedback will let you know which stages are good and which need some improvement.

Your employee journey map should continually evolve as expectations and abilities change!

Find Your Map to Pirate’s Treasure

Just as a map makes hunting for treasure much easier, an employee experience journey map makes an employee’s tenure at your company much better. A map gives them the tools, guidance, and goals they need to really feel comfortable and succeed at work, and it also helps the company show appreciation and provide benefits that will mean the most.

And when employees are valued, motivated, and engaged, and companies are value-driven and employee-centered, well…we’d take that over real buried treasure any day.