Buddy System 101. New employee onboarding and the benefits of the buddy system
Posted by Andreea Hrab
Starting a new job can be stressful and lonely. New hires don’t know their co-workers yet and are unfamiliar with their new work environment, workflow processes, and general rules. Assigning them a buddy who can help ease the transition into their new role can be helpful during the onboarding process.
A buddy is a colleague, not a manager or supervisor, who is assigned to a new hire for the first few months of employment and acts as a guide for the day-to-day activities of the company. A buddy is someone who can be available to show the new hire around the office, go over protocols and policies, and generally help the new hire familiarize him- or herself with the company’s inner workings and culture.
Buddies should be great communicators who can easily provide important information and who will encourage the new hire to express his or her thoughts and concerns. They should also have a positive outlook on the company and be able to use their perspective to encourage a sense of pride and loyalty in the new employee, as well as act as role model to exemplify the company’s values.
A buddy can be responsible for his or her new employee during the onboarding period, with the following goals and objectives:
- First Contact – The buddy is responsible for contacting and meeting with the new employee as early as possible. Once the initial contact is made, the buddy should set up weekly meetings for the first couple of months, with the option of having bi-weekly or monthly meetings thereafter as necessary.
- Trust and Confidentiality – The buddy should offer an open communication that fosters trust and respects confidentiality, so that the new employee can feel comfortable and safe asking questions and bringing up issues.
- Offer Guidance – The buddy should provide information on policies and procedures, guiding the new hire through the company’s norms and culture.
- Make Introductions – As part of the orientation, the buddy should show the new employee around the office and introduce him or her to colleagues, helping to establish and build a rapport with fellow co-workers.
- Answer Questions – Finally, the buddy should be the new employee’s go-to person for answers to any questions that come up, whether they are general and routine or specific to position. The buddy should also be ready to direct the new employee to the appropriate resources or person when necessary.
Just as a buddy has his or her responsibilities in the role, so do the new hires. A few things that a buddy should expect from his or her new employee include:
- Eagerness to Learn – A new employee should look forward to learning about the company and his buddy will make the experience easier and less intimidating by acting as a soundboard for questions and concerns.
- A Good Attitude –New hires should be ready to hit the ground running and have a coachable attitude. Since the buddy is taking time out of his or her schedule to guide the new employee, being appreciative and in a positive frame of mind is really important.
- Lots of Questions – A new hire will not be familiar with the company and all the intricacies within the new workplace, therefore he or she should have many questions. A buddy is not only ready for many questions, but is also expecting them.
The purpose of assigning a buddy to new hires is to help them assimilate the company’s culture and understand how things work in a more informal and easy manner. A buddy is not the hire’s manager or supervisor. He or she is simply a colleague who acts as a guide in order to make the new employee feel comfortable asking questions he or she may not want to ask a manager for fear of seeming incompetent. Buddies can serve as confidants in a way that managers cannot.
Assigning a buddy as part of the onboarding process can be highly effective and relatively inexpensive. Consider establishing expectations for all parties concerned (the new hire, the buddy and the hire’s manager), covering the basic knowledge that the buddy should make sure the new employee understands fully, as well as guidelines for how much time the onboarding process should take and requirements for buddy-new hire meetings and follow-ups.
Remember, the ultimate goal is to develop a process that helps new hires familiarize themselves with the company and their roles quicker, while increasing their productivity and enhancing their job satisfaction. Through the buddy system, new employees will build a more personal connection to the company and will be more likely to become established and stay with the organization longer.
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Andreea is an experienced HR professional, with a specialized background as HR in IT companies. Her areas of expertise are: recruiting, retention and company promotion. She is experienced in designing and implementing policies, procedures, and motivational programs, in coaching new hired/promoted managers and mentoring HR new employees.