Think back to the first day at your job, previous or present. What was it like in a new space? Did you ever want to hit the fast-forward button and skip past the initial few weeks and bypass the awkwardness?
International management consulting company, Gallup says that the employees with friends are seven times more engaged at work. Similarly, HR Drive says that 58% of new hires want a buddy they can turn to for questions.
This goes to show new hires need a little extra help to get settled into their new roles. The key is about making great hires, great employees. Here’s where having the buddy system as a component of your onboarding process can prove gainful and improve the employee experience.
It’s a way of helping new hires get relaxed in a new setting, help achieve onboarding goals sooner, quicken the transition period, and raise the level of engagement for both existing and new employees.
If you didn’t have a buddy waiting to give you the grand tour and show you the ropes, you can be that friendly face!
What Is Buddy System?
A buddy system is an onboarding and knowledge-sharing approach to help new employees orient. It involves pairing new employees with experienced ones to help them through the first few weeks or months.
From introductions to new people to learning about the culture and the company’s unwritten rules, the workplace buddy is a single point of contact for any questions. They ensure new employees can navigate and learn everything they need to know to be successful on the job.
In a nutshell, a buddy system helps employees settle into their new role – whatever that may be – and make friends in the process.
Buffer, a software company, values strong employee onboarding. They have a ‘three buddy’ system where each plays a different role - a leader buddy, a role buddy, and a culture buddy. Check out other ‘top employee onboarding programs’.
Buddies vary from mentors. Formal training or goal setting doesn’t fall under their purview. That’s exclusively for the manager or mentor. The buddy handles office-related queries to save employee-manager time on more crucial matters.
What Is Working Buddy?
A working buddy is a current team member who collaborates with a new hire during their first few months.
The new employee frequently works with this existing team member in the same team or department, and this work buddy assists them in adjusting to their new position.
Why Use A Buddy Program At Work?
For new hires, context is a precious commodity. Without it, they might find it challenging to thoroughly understand their role or how to contribute to their team’s success.
Onboarding buddies create a positive onboarding experience and give the type of context you won’t find in the employee handbook.
The immediate socialization and the feeling of being part of the team can make a significant difference in early workplace performance and long-term retention. This can result in a much smoother transition into the organization and long-term success within your organization.
How To Implement A Buddy System At Work?
The buddy system doesn’t have to be a formalized system, but having an outline of how it might work is a good idea.
1. Create a framework
Set a basic guideline surrounding the buddy system. A few things it can include are:
- The purpose
- The goals
- Length of the pairing
- Any rules and regulations to follow
2. Set expectations
Going in blind may not yield the results you desire. It’s better to set expectations. Maybe a checklist of tasks and topics you would want your buddy to go over. This could be a tour of the office, introductions, an explanation of processes, and anything else you think the new employee would benefit from.
Tip: You can break down the tasks into the first day, first week, first month, etc. This way the buddy misses nothing and all new hires have a similar experience.
3. Choose participants wisely
You want experienced team members who can teach new hires your business ethos and vision, along with good habits.
Look for willing participants within each department. This way, the new hire can work alongside someone in a similar role, transition into their new role much faster, and help mould them into model employees.
4. Ensure buddies are easily accessible
The closer in proximity the buddy is, the better! Working in another branch or someone who’s fleeting off to meetings doesn’t help. With work-from-home employees, you can ensure that buddies are available on the phone or any other mode at all times during working hours.
New members are curious, have questions, and need answers. When the buddy is easily accessible, it helps build confidence.
5. Good teachers
Your new buddy should be patient during the process of learning, be able to explain procedures, and teach new hires. A student/teacher sort of approach will make the newcomers feel more confident and ask questions without feeling silly or pesty.
6. The right match
It’s important to match the right pairs. One way is to directly ask the newcomers the kind of person they would like to have as a buddy. For instance, will they prefer someone more outspoken or slightly sober or someone who checks in on them periodically, or someone who is more hands-on? This way you find the perfect match.
More than offering directions to the printer or the washroom, a buddy has to share useful, socially focused information to help with the new-hires cultural acclimation, such as:
- First-day comfort like a tour of the office, team introductions, familiarizing with the area, etc.
- Process assistance such as submission guidelines, timesheets, leaves, unspoken office rules, etc.
- Answering general questions like general expectations, how to approach certain teams, etc.
- Meeting every day with the new hire for 15 to 30 minutes initially and one a week later.
What Makes A Good Buddy?
Even if an employee is proficient at their job, they may not be the ideal buddy. A buddy requires some distinct characteristics, some are:
- Encouraging, non-judgmental, and positive outlook
- Approachable and helpful
- Compassionate and proactive
- A respected team member
- Strong interpersonal skills and ability to make others feel welcome and comfortable
- Ability to balance workload while helping the new hires
- Patience to teach someone who’s learning for the first time
- Clear communication
- Wants to serve as a buddy
Benefits Of Buddy System In The Workplace:
Microsoft launched a pilot buddy program where well-respected and high-performing buddies helped new hires. The results of the pilot were promising. 97% of pairs who met more than eight times in their first 90 days reported this buddy helped increase productivity in their role.
Here are the benefits of implementing a buddy program at work.
1. Happier and more productive
Imagine you have a friend on the very first day of your job - someone you can go for coffee with, talk to, share jokes with, and in the long run, this creates lasting working relationships. And it goes without saying, good workplace relationships result in happier, productive employees, which is good for business.
A study by the University of Warwick states that you can see 12% more productivity in happy employees. Another way to ensure employees are happy, healthy, and productive is with a good group health insurance plan that comes with useful added benefits.
We work with 60,000+ employees and have an engagement rate of over 40%! Talk to us to know more. This goes to show that supporting employees from the get-go positively impacts your bigger picture.
2. Helping new recruits feel at home
Seeing a friendly face and feeling welcome in a new job can allay newcomers’ fears faster than they can Google “imposter syndrome!” Yes, it’s real!
Simple tasks like helping new recruits meet the others in the office, getting basics done like using the printer, working the coffee machine to brew a good old cup of black coffee, or even telling them about the best places for lunch in and around the area. After all, it’s the little things that help make you feel at home.
3. New staff integrate faster
A buddy helps new recruits get a grasp of the new setting and their place within it.
Just knowing that someone is available at a time of need to answer the silliest of questions or give you the 411 of what’s happening makes it highly probable for the newbies to assimilate into the team and get comfortable in their new role rapidly as opposed to doing it all by themselves.
4. A shoulder to lean on
With the buddy system, the newcomers have a support system to review progress as well as accept constructive feedback. This ensures new recruits do well. With that smidge of confidence, the quality of work, ability, and performance instantly skyrockets, bringing about better efficiency in the team.
5. Lower staff turnover
If you’re an HR into recruiting, you’d know first-hand how expensive, time-consuming and difficult the process is. The last thing you need is to be in a situation where you have to replace a new recruit even before they have even started.
With this in mind, remember, what goes a long way is first impressions. And so, from the moment a newcomer walks through the door, you must ensure they have a wonderful experience. The moment a member of the staff feels valued and as a part of a superb team, it instantly increases the possibility of them staying back.
6. Peer lead learning
As per a study by Harvard Business Review, those in a buddy system demonstrated a noteworthy increase in their job satisfaction, productivity, and learning. Also, working closely together gives both members of the system the chance to learn from each other.
Not to state the obvious, but the newcomer has more to gain from their experienced counterpart. However, in the process of teaching, experienced ones may pick something.
From Microsoft to Buffer, leading organizations implement the buddy system. And it’s well documented that this system adds real value that extends beyond the initial days.
Download this ultimate guide to learn the best practices to build a prospering culture in your organization.
Don’t limit this buddy system to new hires. You can put this into action any place - start a new challenge, get tasks done, or achieve new goals.
At the end of the day, everyone wants encouragement and support, plus the chance to share experiences. Wouldn’t you?
Above all, you must provide your employees with group health insurance. It is not merely a pleasant to have; it is a government-mandated must. It's a good idea to include group health insurance in the buddy system to enhance productivity.
FAQs About Buddy System:
1. What makes a good buddy at work?
A good buddy is someone who’s prepared to be a friendly face, moral supporter, and point of contact for a new employee. Someone who is aware of how things work across the company and they’re inclined to share that experience with others.
2. What’s the difference between a buddy and a mentor?
A buddy is someone who guides new hires through tasks, processes, and other facets of their workday. On the other hand, a mentor guides their professional career and career trajectory.
Typically, mentor programs are ongoing relationships. A buddy system works for a fixed time, but it can always be a go-to source for months afterward.
3. What is the time commitment for buddies?
Time commitment varies. It really relies on how much support the new hire needs. Commonly, the first day and week are when one needs the most guidance. In the following weeks, speaking once or twice daily work and later, it might move to weekly or monthly check-ins.
Eventually, once the new hire is settled in and comfortable, the relationship can proceed on a need-be basis. All that matters is the buddy is available for the newcomer if anything ever comes up.