Buddy Systems for New Employees: The Ultimate Guide
Everyone’s been the new kid at some point; excited but nervous to begin their new role.
Organisational knowledge that’s essential to carry out a new role, often requires a steep learning curve during onboarding. Overwhelming your new hire can also have a disastrous effect on their capability development & long term employment success.
The role of the workplace “Buddy”
The role of the buddy fulfils three aspects of the onboarding process:
- To deliver ad-hoc organisational knowledge
- To welcome and integrate them into the company culture
- Provide a point of contact (outside of their direct report) in those first few months
The first 90 days are the most crucial part of a new employee’s journey. There is so much ground to cover. From cultural quirks and behaviours, procedural familiarity, and relationship building.
Even though a team leader will have tasks to complete with the new hire, they often won’t have the time, or more critically, the relationship, to answer all of the nice-to-know questions. A buddy program can cover this gap in the onboarding process by being that point of contact.
It’s not just about assigning a buddy and away you go. It’s designing a dedicated employee buddy program that aligns with your existing onboarding strategy. A guide that each buddy can follow to recreate a similar onboarding experience for the incoming new hires.
Let’s take a look at some of the critical aspects to consider when building or optimising your Buddy Program.
The qualities of a great induction buddy
A buddy can be from any department from across the company. Though be mindful of location, as someone that is located in the same office or regional area might suit your business & team rituals. Here are some other aspects to consider:
- An experienced employee that has been employed for more than a year
- Well respected team member
- Has been successfully assimilated within the company culture
- A strong performer in their position
- Functional awareness of the new hire’s position
- Good communicator and has a friendly nature
- A desire to guide others with patience
- Committed to involving the new hire in social activities such as team lunches, impromptu introductions and external gatherings
- Skilled listener that will provide encouragement
- Actively seeking opportunities to learn
Explain to your potential buddy how this is a great opportunity to learn training and mentoring skills. These soft skills are often overlooked for more solid performance-based experience in the workplace but are essential in leadership roles.
The buddy initiative creates an opportunity for companies to identify emerging leaders and mentors because they have a thorough understanding of prosocial behaviour, effective communication skills and a caring disposition.
Creating an employee buddy program
You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Solid preparation is key. Here is how to create an epic employee buddy program:
- Establish a short guide of what being an onboarding buddy is all about (hint: you can take information from this guide)
- Define clear accountability & define what tasks and responsibilities fall to HR, team leader and the buddy
- Outline when each task/communication is to be undertaken by the buddy (before day one, on day one, first two weeks, first month, three months or possibly six months)
- Create a buddy checklist, or just use our handy one below.
With the use of a digital onboarding platform, you can schedule bite-sized content to go out to your new hire across their journey. Use various mediums like video, information and tasks. Scheduling content to your new hire before day one will continue the engagement from the offer stage, through to their first day.
Technology should always be used, where possible, to compliment the human connection in the workplace. Create reminders and tasks to complete for your new hire with prompts for discussion with their buddy. Just like topic cards, these can be great conversation starters to start connecting. Have a friendly face greet them on day one; reinforce the content being received digitally in the onboarding journey to fast-tracks learning & drives connection.
As humans, we tend to bond with one another when we see similarities in our experiences.
When the new hire discusses the onboarding content with their buddy it will give them the opportunity to ask questions but also conveys a sense of familiarity – which is where the magic of connection happens.
Essential onboarding tasks for buddies
Here are some sample tasks for buddies to complete through the onboarding journey. For a complete list, download our free guide below.
- Read the Buddy Guidelines
- Receive information about your new hire
- Check LinkedIn to familiarise with the new hire
- Schedule a time for lunch on the first day
- Do a demonstration on how to use the coffee machine
- Familiarise tour of the surrounding parking & lunch spots
- Clarify any safety procedures
- Go over any technology used & system quirks
- Kitchen roster and etiquette – underrated, but valuable task
Greet new hire and explain your role as their buddy
Ensure they have the contact details of relevant people
Tour the office & share any tips about handy locations
Introduce new employee to other colleagues & explain roles
- Source the employee’s their favourite snack with a Happy 1st Month Anniversary card
- Include new hire in social events, team lunches & networking
- Help with any small provisioning or office supplies
- Meet each week for half hour to connect
What are the advantages of a new employee buddy program?
Having an onboarding buddy (aka employee brand ambassador) is like having a concierge experience in your new employee onboarding journey. It’s time to roll out the red carpet, pop the champagne and show your new starter a good time – perhaps not literally, but with equal fanfare!
You need human connection as part of your employee onboarding. Buddy programs are one way that you can inject this into your onboarding strategy. Creating markers in your new starters journey that cultivates connection can accelerate job satisfaction and faster contribution.
The benefits of employee onboarding ‘buddies’ are:
Feel Welcome – Noone likes to feel like an outsider. Having someone dedicated to showing you the ropes can alleviate any anxiety and avoid the new hire from feeling isolated in those first few weeks – and possibly questioning their employment decision.
- Integration into Culture – Company culture isn’t built by scheduling a few lunchtime yoga sessions and enjoying a birthday cake together. It’s built within the everyday interactions of your employees. We all know the saying – it comes from the top down – and this is true for establishing a healthy culture. Culture is something that needs to be maintained as every new hire is onboarded. Having a buddy demonstrate the nuances through the lens of inclusion activates the adoption of behaviour expectations.
- Capability Development – All businesses want their new hires up and running as soon as possible. Drip-feed your L&D content across multiple platforms (digital and in-person) to your new hire. Microlearning has been found to keep new employees engaged, retaining information longer and generates faster capability development. Using a dedicated onboarding platform to deliver your content to the new hire creates learning opportunities that the buddy can refer back to in the onboarding process.
- Happier and Healthier – Happy employees equal happy customers. And happy customers come back again, and again. Create an environment for your new hires to gain the confidence they need to be successful. Gone are the days of discouraging staff interaction as unproductive. The water cooler conversations of today have become the collaborative innovations of tomorrow. Employees are 90% more likely to work better for their company if their emotional wellbeing is supported. That makes those staff parties and celebrations a great ROI.
- Higher Retention – New hires decide in the first 90 days if they want to stay long term. Your onboarding strategy, if done well, should reflect your retention rate. Having a buddy through those first 90 days is about having someone other than their direct report to build a relationship with. Companies that actively encourage social networking amongst their employees reap the benefit of employment tenures in excess of 3 years on average.
Workplace buddies for life
Social connections nurture company culture and subsequently lead to an increase in employee engagement and productivity – which equals increased profitability.
Building a cohesive team united in company goals turns employees into brand ambassadors; people that feel emotionally invested in the success of the brand. It’s no wonder that employers enjoy up to 26% higher profit margins when employees are actively engaged.
It’s a win-win strategy that will have your CFO and CHRO asking ‘why didn’t we do this earlier?’
Empower your new hires to participate in their own employee journey. Having a colleague to turn to can ensure that they continue to equip themselves with the tools they need to drive their own success – and ultimately the company they work for.
Whoever you choose to be a buddy for your new hire, make sure that they have a clear outline of what is expected of them.
Download our buddy checklist for more information.
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