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Onboarding programs

Starting a buddy system at work: A quick start guide

Most employees don't feel prepared even after a lengthy onboarding. What's missing? Likely, the human factor. Buddy systems are proving to be a cost-effective and meaningful way to ramp new hires up to speed quickly. Here's your quick start guide to introducing a buddy system in your workplace.

Nick Saraev

May 6, 2022

Have you ever started a new job and felt totally unsupported? As if you were on your own, trying to swim through a sea of unfamiliar tasks and people? It's tough to feel like you're part of a team when you don't have anyone to help guide and support you.

That's where buddy systems come in. Similar to mentorship pairs, buddy systems involve pairing new or inexperienced employees with more experienced ones in order to provide support, guidance, and friendship. The goal is to help the new employee feel more comfortable and supported as they adjust to their new role.

Onboarding buddies are an excellent way to improve onboarding programs; new employees can feel lost during their first few weeks or months on the job, and buddies can help them find their way.

What is a buddy system?

A buddy system is simply a pairing of two people, typically with one person being more experienced or knowledgeable than the other. In a work context, buddies are often assigned to new employees in order to help them adjust to their new job or project.

The buddy system can also be used for personal development; for example, if you're learning a new language, you might buddy up with someone who is more fluent than you.

In the workplace, the buddy system can be used in a number of ways, including:

  • Providing support and guidance to new employees
  • Introducing newcomers to their colleagues and departmental culture 
  • Helping new employees learn company policies and procedures 
  • Sharing knowledge and experience between coworkers 
  • Acting as a sounding board for ideas or problems

Having a designated buddy can be especially helpful for new employees who are struggling to adjust to their new job or project. A buddy can provide support, guidance, and friendship, helping the new employee feel more comfortable and connected.

Why do you need a buddy system at work?

Research shows that the onboarding process isn't an easy one to navigate. Both employees and their employers struggle when it comes to onboarding; in fact, a BambooHR study found that 23 percent of respondents had quit their job within the first six months due to poor onboarding.

This isn't very surprising, especially when you consider how daunting it can be to start a new job. You're suddenly expected to know everything about the company, the project, and your colleagues; it's a lot to take in all at once.

Without a friendly face who's willing to help you out, how can you be expected to thrive in this new environment?

With a solid onboarding program, employees are 70 percent more productive and 82 percent more committed to their job. Clearly, the buddy system can be a valuable tool for both employees and employers.

What's the role of a buddy?

You may be wondering: is a 'buddy' just a mentor wearing a new name tag? Not quite. While buddies can provide guidance and support, their role is not to transfer deep skills or knowledge.

Buddies are more aimed at building relationships, morale, and general confidence as new employees adjust to their surroundings. They aren't necessarily helping with career advancement or professional development.

The main roles and responsibilities of a buddy are:

  • Introducing the new employee to their workmates and departmental culture 
  • Helping the new employee learn company policies and procedures 
  • Sharing knowledge and experience between coworkers 
  • Acting as a sounding board for ideas or problems 

What are the characteristics of a good buddy?

Before assigning buddies, it's important to think about what you're looking for in a good buddy.

Some of the key characteristics of a good buddy are:

  • Good communication and listening skills 
  • Friendly and approachable 
  • Patient and supportive 
  • Knowledgeable about the company and the project 
  • Willing to take the time to help out 

You want someone who is reliable in terms of time and availability, and who is capable of building a positive relationship with the new employee.

What is not a buddy's responsibility?

While buddies are a key component of your onboarding process, they aren't in charge of carrying out all of the onboarding tasks. For instance, buddies are not tasked with:

  • Going through policies and expectations with the new employee 
  • Teaching the new employee their specific job duties 
  • Monitoring the new employee's progress 
  • Setting up training or development opportunities for the new employee 

Buddies should, however, be able to provide information and support on these topics.

Introducing a buddy system at work: 4 easy steps to get started

Ready to introduce a buddy system at your workplace? Here's a quick guide on how to get started:

1. Create a group of buddies (qualified employees) for new hires

It can be tempting to choose the people who are most social and bubbly, but remember that buddies need to have other qualities, such as good communication and listening skills. Look for people with the following characteristics:

  • Approachable, enthusiastic, and positive
  • Knowledgeable of the company's general day-to-day
  • Special knowledge of the new employee's role
  • Willing to take the time to help

Not everyone is suited to be a buddy, and that's okay – just make sure that the group you select is willing and able to support the new employee.

2. Pair each buddy with one or two new employees (but make sure they’re a good match)

At times, you may find there are more employees than buddies. That's okay; simply pair up employees so that each buddy has one or two new hires to support. Just be sure to match buddies and new employees with personalities that will complement each other.

Using a free tool like Together’s peer matching platform can help make the pairing process easier. Our algorithm looks at employee data and then recommends the best buddy for each new hire, so the grunt work is all taken care of.

3. Give buddies a checklist of activities to complete with their partner

Depending on how closely the buddy system is managed, buddies might be given a specific checklist of activities to complete with their new hire partner. This could include anything from introducing them around the office, sharing best practices, and answering any questions they may have.

Here are a few ideas to get your buddies started:

  • Introduce the new employee to their team and explain their role
  • Share the company's culture, values, and goals
  • Show them where everything is in the office, from the coffee machine to the restrooms
  • Help them set up their email and computer
  • Provide an overview of the company's benefits and how to use them
  • Answer any questions they may have about their new job

Make sure your buddies aren't too regimented, though – after all, the whole point of having a buddy system is to foster a sense of community and support. Let them use their own judgment on what works best for them and their new hire partner.

4. Survey buddies and new employees and use the feedback to improve

You won't know how effective your buddy system is until you survey both the buddies and the new employees. Feedback is crucial for the success of any program, and it's especially important to get feedback from the people who are directly involved.

Use the feedback you receive to improve the buddy system and make it even more beneficial for everyone involved. Maybe there are certain activities that buddies should be doing with their new hire partners, or maybe you need to add more buddies to the group. 

No matter what, always be open to feedback and willing to make changes so that everyone can benefit from the buddy system.

Make your onboarding program more social with Together

Creating a better onboarding process doesn't have to be daunting, and it doesn't need to suck up all your spare time, either. Together offer mentoring software that provides all the tools you need to get started.

With our powerful pairing algorithm, buddies can get assigned to the perfect new hire automatically. The platform takes all important details into consideration – interests, goals, skills, and more – to make sure that each new hire has the best possible experience.

What's more, Together provides tailored meeting agendas to help get your buddy system moving along. Buddies can use these agendas to plan out their meetings and ensure that they're covering all the important topics.

Get started with Together today and make your onboarding process more social, engaging, and fun. Employee connection is key to a successful workplace – so take the plunge now, and enjoy the benefits later. 

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