Starting a new job can be a steep learning curve and one of the ways to help a new hire settle in quickly is through an onboarding buddy program. This approach can be an effective method of overcoming logistical challenges and making new employees feel welcome from the start. Whether it’s knowing where to park or how to access key tools to do the job, cutting down on overwhelm in these areas can make a big difference.
What is a buddy system?
Buddy programs at work see a seasoned employee teamed up with the new hire to help them adjust to the role and the workplace. As well as things like the best communication tools to use to reach different departments, they should share social information with the newest member of the company. This can include everything from the best nearby lunch spots to how to interpret office policies like casual Fridays.
When implementing a buddy system, it’s important to differentiate it from other forms of workplace mentoring. It’s not the responsibility of a buddy to help the new hire with their career development, but instead ensure they feel confident in the everyday happenings of the company that could prevent them from feeling at ease in their new role.
How to create buddy programs for new hires
Deciding to create a buddy program is a great idea if you’re looking to improve talent retention at your organization, but implementing the system requires some thought. Buddies should be given guidance on their role and processes put in place to ensure the program functions well and fulfills its potential.
1. Incentivize your buddy program
A sustainable buddy program relies on your current employees volunteering to guide new hires through their first few weeks. A selection of incentives will help to ensure appropriate candidates come forward. A coffee and pastry budget can often be enough of a draw for staff to come on board.
2. Set routine meetings
Buddy meetings should be more relaxed than usual work engagements and should start before the new hire begins their role. They can be hosted in a local coffee shop or the office’s communal area, or if the new team member will work remotely, as a Zoom, Teams or Hangout session.
3. Set reminders for meetups
It’s one thing to get individuals to sign up to a buddy system, but they need to be empowered to follow through with this commitment. Send reminders to buddies to arrange meetups with their new hires as a way to let them know it’s acceptable to take time out of the working day to focus on their buddying duties.
4. Create a buddy checklist
Providing buddies with a checklist of areas to cover with their charges will help to offer structure and ensure a standardized approach is taken with all new hires. Split the checklist into sections so buddies understand what to cover prior to the employee starting the company; what’s significant on day one, in the first week, and then during the first six months in their role.
5. Promote knowledge sharing
As well as a buddy imparting their own knowledge to the new hire, they can use the system to encourage a flow of information in the other direction. While all organizations have their own ways of doing things, new talent can bring with it a different perspective and buddies should encourage them to share their previous experience.
6. Encourage effective communication
Communication should be a key consideration for new hires, whether they are office-based or working from home. Buddies can help them to navigate systems like the intranet so they can feel connected to the news, events and activities happening throughout the organization. Many companies are implementing new technologies to facilitate communication with hybrid workers, which new hires may wish to take advantage of.
7. Collect feedback
Like all elements of working life, buddy systems should develop over time and only those who’ve used them can truly evaluate their success. Regular short surveys can be used to help establish what works well within the program and where things could be improved. Put together questions to ask both the new hire and the buddy, as both parties’ opinions will be helpful.
8. Set clear expectations
Beginning a new role in a new environment and with new people can be disorientating, so clearly explaining to new hires what they can expect from the onboarding process will help. A successful buddy program should be part of this and fit into the overall structure put in place so everyone feels well prepared and adequately equipped to fulfill their roles.