The success of any business depends on its teams and, for the best results, each team member needs to feel confident and comfortable from their first days with the company.
So, when you face the challenge of developing a corporate culture that will help your employees be more productive, it makes sense to consider buddy programs.
Let’s face it: nobody likes to live in a bubble of isolation all the time. We all need close relationships in our lives. While those closest to us are often family members or personal friends, close work relationships are also important for our wellbeing.
For remote teams, this is even more true, since they don’t enjoy a close physical environment and therefore tend to rely much more on their team members than office-based workers who have social encounters outside of work as well might do.
What is a buddy program and who are buddies?
So what is a buddy program? A buddy program matches every employee with a colleague they can rely on when interpersonal issues arise. In return, buddies get to learn a lot about how others think and work, which can help them become more empathetic team members. Both parties benefit from this approach.
In the workplace, close colleagues may also be called buddies. In larger organisations, multiple workforce units may look to establish a buddy program. Every member of the unit can be assigned an internal buddy in the same unit—this helps to create close-knit teams across all divisions of the organisation.
There is no requirement to form a close relationship with your buddy – you can choose to just rely on them if you need support on something. Many employees find it helpful to have this type of close relationships at work, especially if they are working remotely or spend a lot of time alone in general.
Who can become a buddy?
As a team lead, you may need to decide which members of your team can help you build a buddy system at work. To do this, you need to find out which members of your group want to create closer social connectedness with their colleagues. These can be your most social employees who enjoy friendships and are willing to work on developing a team-wide friendly atmosphere.
However, close work relationships can also be very valuable for introverts because they provide comfort in a controlled environment while letting them keep their private space intact. From the company’s perspective, close work relationships are valuable for introverts because they can reduce chronic absenteeism and help maintain close social ties between employees.
You might also think about what kind of close colleague you would choose as a buddy if you were a new employee. The most successful close work relationships exist between people who don’t report to each other.
However, at the same time, it is not a good idea to pick the person who is closest to you in your department or division, since they can hardly be expected to be objective when it comes to personal issues.
Instead, look for the person whose work style and methods you appreciate and feel are compatible with your own. Based on these criteria, you will often find people who will make perfect buddies.
Consider, too, those colleagues who have a similar skill and education level, since people tend to develop close work relationships with those who are similar to them in age and ability. Usually, relationships in which employees feel they have the same social status at their job will work better than others.
One more significant point is that work relationships ought not to be too close, since employees tend to compare themselves with their buddies. And it can get complicated if others present more robust results than them.
The importance of social connections at work for employees
So what kind of benefits do people get when they work in a buddy system? For sure, the main advantage of such programs is social connectedness – something many people lack in today’s world, and which can significantly impact business processes.
Close work relationships have shown to be very helpful in increasing performance levels. For this reason, close team members are often considered “super-performers.” In a cohesive team, people who develop close work relationships improve their work performance, and close colleagues simply deliver better results than less-connected individuals.
This type of system can motivate employees to become better employees, since they are tacitly seeking their buddy’s approval. That is why close teams are usually more proactive, dynamic, and productive. People working in these groups tend to propose new ideas for improvements more frequently, and tend to support one another more.
Finally, employees in close teams tend to work longer hours because they enjoy their jobs more and get satisfaction from doing their job well. This is also valuable for employers as they can save on employment costs due to lower absenteeism rates.
Encouraging team spirit
Close work relationships provide people with the feeling that they belong to a group. This is especially for employees who work remotely or at home, because a close-knit team offers social support and motivation, both of which are very important for long-term success.
So buddy programs connecting employees are often very meaningful for team members, since close work relationships enhance the team’s cohesion. This is especially important for remote and hybrid teams.
Close work relationships are also helpful in reducing employees’ stress levels. First of all, this is because close employees tend to share their problems with each other rather than brooding by themselves. As a result, they can support one another through difficult times. Also, if one team member does not feel well, others can step in and offer their support.
Another great advantage of buddy programs is that they can relieve stress in an informal setting, which is valuable in many situations. For example, sharing funny stories, creating memes for a team, or making humorous videos for the whole team can help employees feel significantly more comfortable.
Close work relationships can also have a positive impact on employment costs, since employees in close teams tend to be absent from work less frequently because their buddies can support them at the workplace.
For instance, there is a good chance your colleague will notice if you seem distracted or under pressure at work. Then they can offer support without the need to go through management, thus saving on overheads.
Close work relationships provide colleagues with a sounding board for ideas. If employees feel comfortable in a workspace with other team members, they are more likely to trust each other and share their thoughts openly. This way, close work relationships can help employees develop as professionals because they can get feedback from a work buddy on the acceptability of their ideas.
Additionally, employees who share the same position can offer great advice and help in dealing with challenging issues like difficult managers or uncomfortable relationships with co-workers.
Aside from the employment costs, employment buddy programs provide other organisational benefits. First of all, as we have already noted, employees in close teams are usually more motivated to work better since they know each other well and want to support each other.
Also, an onboarding buddy program can be an excellent way for new employees to be introduced to the company and its processes.
In order to sustain close work relationships, employees need to be involved in onboarding programs in which they will learn about the company together and strengthen their employment bonds. This way, employment buddies can support one another as they settle into a new job.
Greater team awareness
Employment buddy programs help people get to know each other better and become more aware of overall team dynamics. These programs can also serve as a source of informal leadership, since employment buddies have many opportunities to share their knowledge with other team members.
What’s more, employment buddies can support each other through organisational changes so that employment bonds stay strong.
Boosting team morale
Finally, employment buddy programs can also help in boosting team spirit, since members can help each other through difficult times. Buddies are usually the ones who notice when someone is unhappy with something, and they can encourage colleagues to get back on track. This way, employment buddies can support one another.
Also, according to research, buddy programs that underpin close-knit teams not only help team leads build a friendly atmosphere but also increase a feeling of freedom and autonomy among employees. At the same time, close colleagues share a sense of responsibility for each other’s performance. These dynamics boost team members’ morale and protect them against burnout.
What are the benefits of buddy programs for organisations?
Close work relationships not only benefit employees: close-knit companies also stand out from their competitors by achieving higher levels of productivity and innovation. This can be explained by close teams’ more effective communication processes.
In addition, because close work relationships include more frequent and close interactions, close-knit companies show higher levels of knowledge sharing, which can have a significant impact on company performance.
In close-knit teams, people are more satisfied with their work and feel a more substantial commitment to the company. In these companies, employees who feel emotionally attached to their colleagues as well as to their own department or company as a whole report higher levels of job satisfaction.
Furthermore, close-knit companies have been shown to be more open to change and are thus more flexible. As close teams are more productive and innovative, companies with this type of strong corporate culture also have a competitive advantage over others.
In short, employment buddy programs can help companies build strong employment bonds and, through this, enjoy the benefits of higher performance, a strong corporate culture, and increased employee loyalty. It is worth noting that all of these points also make a company much more attractive to new employees.
What does a buddy program look like?
A buddy program does not have to be complex. On the contrary, close work relationships can even develop between people who don’t necessarily spend a lot of time together at work. All it needs is close colleagues who are willing to help each other grow and who are honest about themselves, their performance, and their needs.
A buddy program can bring together colleagues who work in the same department or departments that closely collaborate. It is also possible to keep good work relationships healthy without working together by having close colleagues from other teams or departments meet up at retreats or social events outside of work.
Retreats can be organised, for example, on a quarterly basis and provide an opportunity for colleagues to get some close work relationships off the ground, even when they’re not working together all the time.
Having close work relationships is also about being approachable and being open to learning. No matter whether you recently joined the company or you have already worked there for a while, you can start building work relationships with other team members that will last for a long time.
Last but not least, we should stress that employment buddy programs are not the same thing as mentoring. The latter implies a one-on-one relationship between mentors and mentees. Those are people who don’t have the same level in terms of employment experience or age and often work in different teams or departments.
Conversely, employment buddy programs are focused on peer-to-peer relationships. Here, employees are working on the same team, at the same level, and in the age group. The two programs are complementary, not interchangeable.
Employment buddy programs are an essential tool to help employees of any age easily build a perfect team with a friendly atmosphere. By doing this, the buddy programs will enable companies to improve their employer reputation and the satisfaction of their workers.
People with adult children will tell you how much they appreciate the relationship with their own parents since it enables them to enjoy some of the fun of parenthood without all of its pressures. As employment is a major factor in most people’s lives, employment buddies can be like good family friends, providing support and advice but also letting colleagues be independent.
In this way, a team with a well-developed buddy program can be beneficial for both potential employees and the company.