Top Three Must-Know Onboarding Trends for 2018

Lilith Christiansen, SilkRoad
All Posts

{Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Lilith Christiansen, VP, Onboarding Solutions at SilkRoad and author of Successful Onboarding.}

Organizations used to think of onboarding as the automation of paperwork – a “set it and forget it” approach focused on ensuring all the new-hire documentation was completed in a timely fashion. But nowadays, in an increasingly competitive talent landscape, where employees determine whether to stay at a new job within their first six months, onboarding must play a much more important and expanded role focused on employee activation and retention.

With that idea in mind, I recommend a strategic and systemic approach to onboarding utilizing the “Four Pillars of the Onboarding Margin” which include:

  • Cultural mastery
  • Interpersonal network development
  • Early career support
  • Strategy immersion and direction

Working within this framework, organizations can build successful, strategic onboarding programs that move beyond simple automation, to a full-fledged program for aligning employees with business goals to keep them engaged, activated and positively impacting the bottom line. To get started, consider SilkRoad’s top three must-know onboarding trends for 2018:


The real onboarding opportunity is in engineering the experiences that enable new hires to acclimate to company culture, understand opportunities and expectations, master the firm’s strategy, build valuable relationships and skills, create new value for the enterprise and begin to develop their careers within the firm. To do so, organizations need to figure out the business processes and experiences to which a new hire is exposed, determine which have an impact on success or failure, distinguish which of these make sense to try to influence and which the new hire or hiring manager alone can more efficiently address, and then design an approach for exercising that influence.

In other words, a strategic onboarding program must be personalized to the individual being onboarded and their specific needs. The program must account for their role within the organization, their prior experience, their current skill levels and, ideally, their personality.


Luckily, some key components will carry across the onboarding experience – every employee needs to learn about their team, the company culture, how to complete certain tasks, etc. Each employee will need to be part of significant conversations about the organization’s overall direction and score – what the firm does, why it is doing it, and where it is headed.

By examining each process and function within the onboarding program, certain commonalities will begin to emerge across the entire organization. These commonalities can make up the foundation of the onboarding program as it scales from a personalized program for a single new-hire, to a full-fledged strategic and systemic approach.

Of course, any effective onboarding program has a defined governance structure, complete with a measurement program to inform the organization how things are going and what they should improve, and accountability and instructional guides for making sure the program runs as intended. These components will be critical in assessing and adjusting the program as it scales to meet the needs of the entire organization.


The onboarding experience for new hires shouldn’t be limited to days or weeks, it should start at offer acceptance and continue through the span of the entire first year of employment or a complete business cycle (whichever is longer for the organization). Processes of strategic education, personal network development, cultural assimilation and anticipatory career development take time when done correctly – no more “drinking out of the firehose” where everything is thrown at a new employee the moment they walk in the door and dropped immediately after. Organizations cannot dump large quantities of information on new hires and hope they assimilate it effectively.

Even beyond the new hire process there are opportunities for organizations to employ strategic onboarding: consider onboarding programs when an employee moves into a new role or position, joins a new team, transfers locations, and so on. These present golden opportunities to reinforce the individual’s value and importance within the company and ensure their work remains tied to positive business outcomes.

As we kick off the new year, now is a great time to examine your current onboarding program to see if it plays a successful role in activating and retaining employees – after all, they may be the organization’s most valuable asset.

Interested in learning more? Here’s an archived webinar where I talk about How to Achieve World-Class Onboarding

Previous Post

Share this Post: