How COVID Changed the Talent Lifecycle

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

Richard Branson
Happy team of multicultural employees working together

The workplace has been under constant change since the industrial revolution, but COVID created the single greatest workplace and talent lifecycle shift in history. People were leaving the building–literally–in droves. 

Everything seemed to be on pause.

But as work resumes, Human Resource leaders need to rethink the workforce. In many areas,  the old way of doing things is exactly that. The old way. 

Companies and their HR departments need to review, reassess, and redefine their approach to talent planning, management, and experience.

What Is Meant By Talent Lifecycle?

The talent (or employee) lifecycle is just what it sounds like: the entire span of a relationship between a person and company, from the recruitment process to the employee exit interview.

Plenty of frameworks exist, with most identifying anywhere from 5 to 10 stages. These include recruitment, onboarding, development, assessment, engagement, rewards and recognition, retention, and transition. 

All of these essentially fall under three major phases:

  • Attraction
  • Retention
  • Transition

The ART of talent management? Naturally, most talent management occurs in the second phase, when the employee is actively working in the company.

How COVID Changed Employee Attraction

What might have attracted candidates in 2019 may no longer work in the post-pandemic days.

Rather than simply saying “We’re Hiring!” and posting a job ad, a company needs to ask itself “Why would top talent want to work here?”

Employee flexibility, remote work options, proactive wellness measures, mentoring programs, clearly defined career development, childcare, and DEI policies are all criteria top talent considers when thinking about joining a company.

A company’s reputation is one of the biggest draws for top talent, and without these (and other) practices in place, a company will struggle to attract the cream of the crop.

How COVID Changed Employee Retention

Before the pandemic, the ideas of “employee” and “workplace” had fairly well-defined roles and boundaries.

The pandemic changed that.

The Hybrid Workplace

As office buildings closed their doors, home offices were forced to build theirs. Being forced to work from home is a quite different experience than remote work as a choice.

Some people adapted well, others did not. Some people couldn’t wait to return to the office, others realized they never want to go back.

With a hybrid workplace, a company combines office work with remote work. It gives employees both flexibility and support, and places more focus on what work is done rather than how it is done. Employees enjoy greater autonomy and work-life balance, resulting in a more productive, healthier, and more stable workforce.

Stay Interviews

With employees leaving in record numbers, companies strive to figure out why. One of the ways companies are trying to understand this is through conducting stay interviews.

Stay interviews are one-on-one meetings with top talent to discuss what they like and don’t like about their jobs. They’re similar to exit interviews, except they’re far more proactive in that they address any concerns before an employee considers leaving.

The meetings also highlight the positives of the job, letting a company know what works, which can be used in candidate attraction as well.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policies

During the height of the pandemic in 2020, almost 3 million women exited the US workforce, and the workforce participation rate for women hit its lowest point since 1988. 

COVID forced us to acknowledge that many businesses can survive with a remote workforce. Not only that, they can thrive.

How does this affect workforce diversity?

It means the talent pool is no longer restricted to the population within commuting distance. A company can therefore search more markets with more diverse candidates, as well as more qualified candidates.

Studies have shown that diverse teams are more innovative and make better decisions. But there are many ways a well-devised DEI policy can boost a company’s bottom line.

Mentorship Programs

Money is no longer the motivator it once was. Today’s workers, especially Millennials, are not as motivated by pay as earlier generations. They care about job satisfaction, career development, work-life balance, and company culture. They want a coach, not a boss.

A Gallup report showed that “67% of U.S. employees are disengaged at work, [and] 51% say they’re actively looking” for a new job.

In light of this, the role of mentoring is even more important than before. The positive ripple effects a mentorship program can have throughout the company cannot be understated. Increased employee engagement, lower turnover, and improved employee health (both mental and physical) are just a few of the ways mentorship programs benefit businesses.

How COVID Changed Employee Transitions

It’s been called “The Great Resignation”. 

Employees, particularly mid-career, are resigning in record numbers. Whether due to burnout, desire for more autonomy, or better pay elsewhere, it’s something companies can’t ignore.

How you say goodbye to someone is just as important as how you say hello. It’s typically the lasting impression you’ll make on them.

A company loses two things when an employee leaves:

  • The employee
  • Institutional knowledge

If an employee’s exit is handled poorly, something even more vital can be lost. Reputation.

Gone are the days of thinking it’s a betrayal when an employee quits. By framing an employee’s departure as a transition rather than a resignation, the company remains invested in the well-being of that employee.

And when the transition is amicable, respectful, and encouraging, the employee is more likely to be an advocate for the company, enriching its reputation.

Having a mentorship program in place ensures that the departing employee has already proactively shared their knowledge with others in the company.

Finally, an employee who leaves on good terms, and with encouragement, is more likely to return if a suitable future opportunity should arise.


COVID went from being a state of emergency to simply a fact of life. It gave us the term “the new normal”.

Perhaps nothing has experienced a more profound shift than the workplace and everything that entails. And the workforce is the cornerstone of the workplace. 

The post-COVID workforce may be composed of the same people, but their wants and needs, and expectations have changed. If a company wants to attract top talent in this new era, it must plan for and remain involved in each step of the employee lifecycle.

If you’re interested to see how we can build your mentorship program from the ground up, schedule a demo and learn how we can make your life easier while giving your business a boost.

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