Steelcase Turns First-Time Managers into Leaders using SilkRoad Onboarding

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“It was a way to underscore the importance of becoming a new leader and building excitement, but also provide an easy and flexible way to show what the leadership development journey would include.”
— Jill Dark, Steelcase


  • No formal leadership training to aid newly-named supervisors
  • People had to fend for themselves to ask questions and locate mentors
  • New leaders had to guess what resources to bring to their teams


  • New 90-day program to develop leadership skills and support rapid success
  • Leadership portal connects new leaders with coaching and information
  • The system guides new leaders week by week through key tasks and activities

A Program for New Leader Success

As the global leader in helping companies create great workspaces, Steelcase credits its success to its own ranks of great team leaders. Yet whenever a top individual contributor moved up into a supervisory role, there was no set process to help the person learn leadership skills.

To help ensure more rapid success for its new leaders, Steelcase created an internal leadership program named ENGAGE combining a formal leadership training program with an innovative approach: having SilkRoad Onboarding automate this important journey.

Using Technology to Onboard New Leaders

Traditionally, onboarding technology helps integrate new hires into the company. But as Steelcase realized, it can also meet needs such as internal training programs like ENGAGE.

“We realized that SilkRoad Onboarding could be used as the central point of information for the full curriculum of tasks, activities and resources,” said Jill Dark, Director Leadership and Talent Transformation, Steelcase. “It was a way to underscore the importance of becoming a new leader and building excitement, but also provide an easy and flexible way to show what the leadership development journey would include.”

The 90-day journey starts with a welcome to the ENGAGE program and an invitation to join the portal. New leaders then experience different types of learning, all managed through tasks on the portal, including reading e-books and articles, watching videos, attending coffee networking meetings to share experiences and being prompted to arrange meetings with their team members and the HR partner. There are many micro-learning activities that easily fit into schedules and the activities and tasks change every few weeks. Time is also set aside for self-reflection and learning practical applications.

After the 90-day program, everyone attends a 2-day “leadership camp” workshop where they can hone their new skills. Attendees discuss what good leadership looks like, role play together, learn how to help employees feel fulfilled and address how to apply the Steelcase culture to their lessons learned.

Applause from Steelcase’s New Leaders

The flexible program structure and easy access to information earns high marks from participants. Comments includes that the program gives them time and space to learn while they engage in their new roles. They don’t have to guess at how to work with their new teams, and they feel that Steelcase has invested in making them successful. Comments include:

“I loved the flexibility to complete the prework for the in-person session. Made it much easier to prepare.”

“The initial 90-day onboarding experience was great. I appreciated the reminders and accountability to stay on track.”

What’s more, ENGAGE program managers can track everyone’s progress through their own dashboards. When they spot help is needed, they can assign follow-up coaching or connect people with former participants.

By thinking differently about onboarding automation, Steelcase now has a flexible and powerful tool that helps employees find their purpose as leaders — all without having to take people out of the office for multiple weeks of training.

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