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Investing in Employee Journey Management – 4 Steps to Retaining Critical Talent in this Economy

Employee Journey Management is about investing to engage and align top talent with business outcomes

Dan George
Founder & CEO of Piper Key, a specialist data and analytics consulting firm focused on delivering services that optimize the workforce to HR, Finance, and Operations teams.
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Today’s top talent has options. Barriers to leaving an organization have never been lower – we have remote jobs, the gig economy (facilitated by freelance marketplaces like Upwork), low unemployment, and the highest job demand in years.

If your organization lacks what the talent market demands (hint: job satisfaction), you’re likely to experience higher regrettable turnover. This, in turn, can result in strained operations, thinner margins, and lackluster sales— all at the expense of your customers.

While it’s impossible to tackle each specific barrier of today’s complex talent market, there’s one relatively simple technique that’s driving significant impact – Employee Journey Management. Yet another term in the ever-growing list of HR jargon.

I like that it meaningfully focuses on an individual’s advancement and path. Some might categorize it within the Employee Experience (EX) sphere, yet Employee Journey Management specifies a direction and an active pursuit. Plus, great songs and books talk about journeys, right?

In This Article

Graph of Job Openings: Total Nonfarm/Unemployment Level

What is Employee Journey Management?

Employee Journey Management refers to the systematic and strategic approach taken by organizations to enhance and optimize the overall experience of their employees throughout their entire tenure with the company. I.e. The employee lifecycle.

It involves understanding and addressing the various stages, career milestones, and touchpoints of an employee's journey, from pre-hiring to post-exit, in order to create a positive and engaging work environment.

The employee journey typically consists of several key stages:

  1. Attraction and Recruitment: This stage focuses on creating effective employer branding and recruitment strategies to attract top talent in (as I’ve mentioned), one hell of a competitive labor market.
  2. Onboarding and Orientation: An employee’s first day matters just as much as any other day in terms of value. An efficient onboarding process helps them transition smoothly into their new role and the organization so that they can start contributing in a meaningful way as soon as possible.
  3. Development and Engagement: Supporting employees' growth and development through training programs, mentorship, performance management, and opportunities for advancement is integral to offering a career journey as opposed to a job. It also includes fostering employee engagement through effective communication, recognition programs, and a positive work environment.
  4. Retention and Well-being: Organizations focus on strategies to retain talented employees by offering competitive compensation, benefits, and work-life balance initiatives. Employee well-being programs, such as health and wellness initiatives, support services, and work-life integration policies, are also important during this stage.
  5. Transition and Exit: When an employee decides to leave the organization, this stage focuses on managing a smooth transition and conducting exit interviews to gather feedback. Building positive relationships during this phase is crucial as former employees can become valuable brand ambassadors or potential rehires. This also ties into knowledge transfer and succession planning— ensuring the reigns are left in capable hands with minimal disruption to the business.

Employee Journey Management involves analyzing each stage to identify pain points, challenges, and areas for improvement. Employee feedback is an important component of this. By understanding employees' needs and experiences at each touchpoint, organizations can implement targeted interventions and create a more engaging, satisfying, and productive work environment. This approach contributes to higher employee retention, improved performance, and increased overall organizational success.

A sailboat on open waters with PiperKey logo.

What Employee Journey Management Means for Talent, Human Resources, and Business?

For talent, it means a better path to success. One where the organization commits to the development, advancement, and satisfaction of its workforce. I.e. The expectations of today’s top talent market.

For the human resources department, it is a means of providing a lifecycle, from when a new hire joins the company, to the time when offboarding comes along, that puts employee engagement and employee satisfaction at the forefront at every step.

For the business, an investment in Employee Journey Management results in faster time to productivity, boosts in performance, and increased discretionary effort.

By managing the workforce’s journey, organizations can attain both short-term, QoQ in many cases, improvements in retention and productivity. This also leads to long-term gains in employee value proposition, (EVP), top-line revenue, and EBITDA.

Employee Journey Management is about making a smart investment to engage top talent, high potentials, and undiscovered performers by developing strategies and incentives that align with outcomes needed by the business to succeed.

A key component of this is the exercise of compiling Employee Journey Maps.

What is an Employee Journey Map?

Employee Journey Maps, also known as Employee Experience Maps or Employee Lifecycle Maps, are visual representations or diagrams that illustrate the different stages, touchpoints, and experiences an employee goes through during their entire journey with an organization.

The journey-mapping process provides a holistic view of the employee's interactions, emotions, and perceptions at each stage, helping organizations better understand and improve the employee experience.

An Employee Journey Map template typically includes the following elements:

  1. Stages: The maps outline the various stages of the employee journey, starting from attraction and recruitment, moving through onboarding new employees, development, and engagement, and finally transitioning or exiting the organization.
  2. Touchpoints: Within each stage, the maps identify the specific touchpoints or interactions between the employee and the organization. These touchpoints can include activities such as job applications, interviews, training programs, performance evaluations, team meetings, and more day-to-day stuff.
  3. Emotions and Perceptions: Employee Journey Maps capture and configure (probably through some automation of an employee engagement tool) the emotional experiences and perceptions of employees at different touchpoints. This can range from excitement and enthusiasm during the onboarding stage to satisfaction or frustration during performance evaluations or career advancement opportunities.
  4. Pain Points and Opportunities: The maps highlight pain points or areas of dissatisfaction that employees may encounter throughout their journey. These could include issues such as poor communication, lack of support, inefficient processes, or limited growth opportunities. Conversely, the maps also identify opportunities for improvement in HR processes, such as enhancing training programs, streamlining workflows and processes, or introducing employee recognition initiatives.
  5. Key Stakeholders: Employee Journey Maps identify the key stakeholders involved in each stage, including HR personnel, managers, team members who work directly with the employee or share a workspace, and support staff. This helps organizations understand who plays a role in shaping the employee experience and where responsibilities lie.

The insight gained from journey mapping can inform the development of targeted interventions, policies, and initiatives aimed at enhancing and better managing the employee journey, increasing engagement, and fostering a positive work environment.

Ultimately, Employee Journey Maps contribute to improving overall employee satisfaction and organizational success based on what today’s talent want if they’re going to stick around.

Putting Your Organization on a Path to Success with Employee Journey Management (In 4 Steps)

Step 1: Commitment to Onboarding

Every journey starts with a plan, a route, dedicated to the destination. Your Employee Journey Maps provide direction on where to strengthen the processes and programs you already have.

You’re probably already aware of the significant impact onboarding has on the time-to-productivity metric. So it’s logical to make a concerted effort to weave hiring, orientation, and onboarding processes together.

Layer in a mentorship program, assigning tenured peers or managers that can track progress and answer questions. It’s essential to foster these relationships early, leveraging the value that connections have on customer satisfaction. These are all relatively low-cost processes and programs with huge impacts on the people who are new to the organization and its culture.

A graph depicting time-to-productivity and other employee lifecycle metrics.

To quote Danny Lee, the Global Leadership Coach and Senior Learning Consultant and Gallup, “When people think about onboarding, on a day-to-day basis they’re thinking about HR, employee handbooks or compliance, or new employee orientation. But onboarding is so much more than that… it’s actually more like a journey than an event.”

Step 2: Personalized Capability Development

Along the route are progress check-in points. Each checkpoint or landmark is an added capability, whether achieved through on-the-job training or learning modules.

Many employees seek to learn new skills; others need a bit more guidance on how to advance their current skill set. Either way, the key takeaway is to begin adding personalization to the journey. HR teams can ensure there is an opportunity to add skills by outlining the path to what’s next, whether it’s a promotion or simply a challenging new project.

Taking it a step further, organizations can employ Workforce Planning, anticipating in advance the future skills that are needed to achieve your strategic initiatives. Align and prioritize these future skills with people or talent pools, incentivizing these groups to take the initiative and have the full support of leaders. With skills-anticipated workforce planning, top talent receives new skills and the business retains its workforce while gaining the internal knowledge and skills it needs to compete in the market.

Step 3: Advancement in Capacity

If the journey is worth taking, there’s going to be a difficult part, and this is it— training managers to get involved by building the capacity in their schedules to lead people.

The inherent conundrum with people managers is that many were promoted because they displayed considerable competency as individual contributors. Yet, once in charge, they were never provided the proper tools or skills to lead others.

Aside from the obvious requirement for managers to take leadership training, the greatest impact here is actually embedded in company culture. Managers need the cultural support of their organization to allocate the proper time to lead their teams. The most common mistake is to expect managers to continue the same task-related work they were doing as individual contributors.

When analyzing the most successful organizations, managers that actively seek to lead teams see boosts in performance. This is due in part because team members are able to advance their knowledge (T-V Shaped Employees) across adjacent areas.

A depreciation of what defines a T-shaped and V-shaped employee.

Developing their teams, providing opportunities to test limits, and guiding people to persevere— this is the checklist for success. Culturally, managers need to understand that advancing their team is not a risk to their job, but an accolade on their resume.

When managed by a supportive leader, people become motivated to achieve because they know the next level is a pull upward. Intrinsic only to a few, becoming a supportive leader (ensuring they have the capacity/time) is a skill learned through experience. One of the best ways to gain experience is by volunteering to be a mentor (circle back to Step 1).

Step 4: Technology Acceleration

From the compass to the sextant to GPS, explorers have exploited technology to go farther, faster. Why not accelerate your journey with technology too?

In past organizations, I’ve had the pleasure of working with employee experience software that synchronize everything I’ve mentioned above into seamless experiences. The tools are specifically designed to be effective tools for managing the employee journey. Your typical HRIS might have all the modules, but many lack a logical user experience (UX). This isn’t the field of dreams. In order for people, managers, and teams to leverage the technology, it must be intuitive, dare I say a little fun.

TLDR: The 4 Steps to Retaining Critical Talent

  • Step 1: Commitment to Onboarding - Weave hiring, orientation, and onboarding processes together. Layer in a mentorship program, assigning tenured peers or managers that can track progress and answer questions.
  • Step 2: Personalized Capability Development -  The key takeaway is to begin adding personalization to the journey. Know the future skills you need and align incentives for your talent and managers to take the initiative.
  • Step 3: Advancement in Capacity - When managed by a supportive leader, people become motivated to achieve because they know the next level is a pull upward. Ensure it’s culturally acceptable for managers to allocate the proper time to guide talent.
  • Step 4: Technology Acceleration - Leverage specific employee journey management platforms to accelerate the adoption and proliferation of these valuable programs.
Dan George
Founder & CEO of Piper Key, a specialist data and analytics consulting firm focused on delivering services that optimize the workforce to HR, Finance, and Operations teams.
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Dan George is an award-winning HR, People Analytics, and Workforce Planning expert. His experience spans across many industries and roles in Fortune 100 enterprises and growing mid-sized companies that seek to better manage the performance and output of their talent. Dan’s unique skill set uses components of data science, process transformation, and storytelling to unite leaders and develop executable strategies that drive competitive advantage.

Dan began his career in Human Capital consulting at Accenture, where he spent nearly seven years integrating systems to create innovative solutions. Following his MBA, Dan built and led Bridgestone’s people analytics practice, designing, and growing the team from concept to reality. Dan was the Chief People Officer at JumpCrew, a sales and marketing outsourcing firm, and is currently the Founder & CEO of Piper Key, a specialist data and analytics consulting firm focused on delivering services that optimize the workforce to HR, Finance, and Operations teams.

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