Survey Reveals Stark Need for Ongoing Preparation, Assessment in Corporate Onboarding Programs to Ready Nation’s Workforce Now and for the Future

Published On: June 19, 2019

Chicago, IL – (June 19, 2019)SilkRoad Technology, a global leader in strategic onboarding and workforce transformation solutions, today unveiled results of a survey conducted online by The Harris Poll in March and April 2019 among 203 U.S. human resources decision-makers. The report, U.S. Trends and Applications in Employee Onboarding, showcases the opportunities that companies, and in particular their HR departments, have in preparing our nation’s workforce to compete successfully in the coming decade.

Critical disruptions, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation and international competition, are predicted to fundamentally change how companies attract, hire, train, reskill and upskill employees. HR decision-makers claim their companies are prepared for AI and other disruptions, noting that onboarding, the process that enables an employee to transition from new hire to productive employee, would be essential in teaching new skills, addressing insecurities about the future of work, and ensuring all employees work together to embrace change and innovation. Yet, when probed further about the mechanisms for assessing and preparing their people, they were not confident in their efforts to ensure employees’ competencies or to reduce employee fear and uncertainty.

At issue is the fact that most companies do not measure their onboarding and employee development programs against metrics that directly align to their company’s operational and financial goals, whether for new hires or legacy employees.

“These results paint a picture of a corporate environment that is not using the full potential of its greatest assets – its people – through onboarding, learning and performance programs for employee development and training,” said Robert Dvorak, President and CEO of SilkRoad Technology. “During the next three-to-five years, businesses in every industry are expected to experience massive disruption and opportunity through automated, digital, AI and machine learning advances. Companies must adopt strategies to monitor these changes, prepare their entire workforce – not just new hires – with the skills they need, and continually ‘onboard’ them to new roles of business value and relevance. As legacy job functions are displaced, HR leadership needs a plan to guide their workforce through these changes and redefine the roles and costs of labor. SilkRoad believes, and this survey’s results demonstrate, that CHRO, CFO and CIO leaders can and should work together to create an elegantly designed and integrated ‘AI and Human’ operating model, if for nothing but the competitive advantage it provides.”

Key findings in the survey include:

  • A majority of HR decision-makers say their onboarding focuses efforts on new employees despite believing that it is a key part of employee development beyond the orientation period. Ninety percent of HR decision-makers say their current onboarding program includes elements designed to address new hires, yet more than three in four HR decision-makers (78%) agree onboarding isn’t just for new employees. In fact, a clear majority (94%) say onboarding is a key part of employee development beyond just the new hire period. However, most (77%) note their company’s onboarding program places greater emphasis on onboarding new hires than fostering positive transitions for existing employees.
  • After an initial orientation, company onboarding programs typically stop on a defined date versus ensuring information is understood and in use by employees. More than two-thirds (68%) say onboarding is treated as a static event in their company, not a continuous process. Only 11 percent of HR decision-makers with new hire onboarding say their onboarding never ends and is continuous, and less than two in three (65%) say their company’s onboarding program does a great job of upskilling or reskilling existing employees for the next step in their career.
  • HR decision-makers confirm onboarding has overwhelming positive benefits and could drive culture change and business innovation. The majority (91%) agree onboarding plays an essential role in creating a culture of change and innovation.
  • Most companies do not plan to focus meaningfully on their onboarding programs despite views that they could do more with onboarding for employee development. Around one in three HR decision-makers (35%) say understanding and addressing onboarding issues are currently a high priority at their company, while 45 percent say it is a medium priority and 20 percent say low or no priority. Similarly, only about one-quarter of HR decision-makers (28%) anticipate their company’s emphasis on onboarding to significantly increase over the next five years. However, only one in five (19%) say they anticipate no change in their company’s emphasis on onboarding.
  • HR decision-makers measure ‘soft benefits’ without including the ‘hard metrics’ that companies must meet to remain in business. While around two-thirds measure employee retention (70%) and employee engagement (66%) as key performance indicators (KPIs) in their programs, fewer use revenue performance (30%), cost reduction (29%), customer retention (23%), and increased market share (21%) as program KPIs.
  • Companies face significant challenges in adapting their onboarding programs to the coming business changes. One-third of HR decision-makers (33%) say measuring how well their onboarding program performs against KPIs is one of the top three biggest onboarding challenges they are facing, followed by personalization of the new hire experience (31%), improving new hire engagement (30%), and implementing changes quickly (29%).
  • HR decision-makers predict upskilling/reskilling will play a significant role in the future as technology disrupts the way we work. Most HR decision-makers (96%) agree that given the increasing role of AI/automation in the workplace, it is important that existing employees are upskilled or reskilled through onboarding programs. More than two in five think onboarding will be absolutely essential in teaching necessary skills to employees (48%), in overall company success (43%), reducing employee fear and uncertainty (42%), and ensuring all employees work together (41%) as AI/automation is introduced in the workplace.
  • Many HR decision-makers feel their company’s onboarding program is prepared for AI, yet most aren’t confident about the components of their preparations. More than four in five HR decision-makers (83%) say their current onboarding program is extremely or somewhat prepared to address overall company success as AI/automation is introduced into the workplace. However, those who say their current onboarding program is extremely prepared to address these things are much lower, with only around one-third saying their program is extremely prepared for teaching necessary skills (37%), addressing overall company success (36%), ensuring all employees work together (36%), and transitioning employees effectively to new roles (33%).


Full results and accompanying data tables may accessed here.

“Today, people change jobs more frequently than ever. From a new employee’s perspective, every job change requires learning new processes, systems and people,” said Josh Bersin, global HR industry analyst. “Once considered a tactical, first-day initiation, onboarding has now become an essential business process – one that often continues beyond an employee’s first year. With today’s focus on productivity and employee engagement, this research shows the need to rethink onboarding in a broader, more strategic way.”

“Companies have tremendous opportunity to embrace the coming disruption and strengthen the bonds they have with their employees through strategic onboarding that’s continuous, intentional and employee-centric,” said Lilith Christiansen, Vice President of Onboarding Solutions at SilkRoad Technology. “Many companies see onboarding as a finite process with a beginning and end. At SilkRoad, we have helped companies onboard nearly 250 million employees through traditional onboarding for new hires as well as through transfers, promotions and moves. Done properly, onboarding never ends.  It supports employees through their entire lifecycle with the company. These results show companies have much work to do – that the C-suite needs to pay closer attention to the issues surrounding onboarding and development and recognize the business impact of doing so.”

Research Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll between March 28 and April 10, 2019, on behalf of SilkRoad among 203 human resource decision-makers age 18 or older who are employed full-time at a company with more than 500 employees with the title of manager or above working in HR. All have at least significant involvement in recruitment, hiring or onboarding decisions (“HR decision-makers”). Data were weighted where necessary by company size to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

About The Harris Poll

The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys in the U.S. tracking public opinion, motivations and social sentiment since 1963 that is now part of Harris Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm that strives to reveal the authentic values of modern society to inspire leaders to create a better tomorrow. We work with clients in three primary areas: building twenty-first-century corporate reputation, crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide insights and advisory to help leaders make the best decisions possible.

About SilkRoad Technology

SilkRoad Technology optimizes human capital with a software and services platform that helps our clients attract and retain people and align them to their business. Our solutions start with Global Client Services to provide strategic HR and business expertise. SilkRoad then designs secure solutions tailored to your business requirements at scale for global companies.  We deliver personalized experiences for employees to drive engagement across the employment lifecycle to enable measurable and better business outcomes.


For more information, visit, follow on Twitter @SilkRoadTweets or call 866–329–3363 (U.S. toll free) or +1–312–574–3700.


Kathleen Porter