Starting out at a new job can be challenging for anyone. It takes time to learn the how’s and what’s of the organisation and it is not possible to ask a manager everything. The support of an employee who has been with the organisation for a while can be very helpful.
A buddy system, where a new employee is paired with an experienced one, is one of the best employee onboarding tools. A buddy can help a new member of staff integrate socially and in so doing improve on job satisfaction and morale. Here’s how you can implement a buddy a system no matter what industry you’re in.
Design the program
The aim of a buddy system is to make onboarding of new employees more successful. But there are lot of questions that can guide your unique buddy system.
How long should the program be? A too short one will not be effective. Will you plan to phase it out with the buddy’s involvement reducing over time? Some companies aim for a period of 3 months because onboarding that lasts a few weeks has been criticized for leaving new employees confused.
The design should take into account what criteria will be used when recruiting buddies and how they will be incentivized. Some employers chose to motivate employees to take part in the program with time off or flexible schedules.
In designing the system, introduce the concept to your staff first. It is important for them to know what changes are happening in the workplace. In fact, you can ask for their input and find out what their own onboarding experience was, what they liked and what they would have wanted to see. This will ensure that you make a program that actually works for your new employees.
Pick the right candidates to be buddies
Choose the wrong employees to be buddies and the system will inevitably fall apart. Go for employees who are well versed with the company. While members of human resources can be good candidates, it is better to pair new employees with people in their own departments. They will be more accessible and it becomes easy for your new hire to ask questions
It is important to outline what the goals are but to make it clear that the success of the new employee isn’t tied to the buddy. This can put unnecessary pressure on the buddy and discourage employees from taking part in the program.
Consider the character of the buddy when selecting them. It is one thing to know the office in and out and another to be able to help someone else fit in. Choose those employees who are personable and can be patient enough with the new hire. Your best performer might not be the best candidate to be a buddy.
It is important to recall that a buddy isn’t the same as a mentor. Although an employee can ask them questions about how to best do their work, a buddy isn’t responsible for guiding their career development.
A senior employee is a good choice but do not neglect newer hires either. As they will have recently gone through the onboarding process, they will know what the new employee will need.
Consider employee availability
Don’t choose an employee who is scheduled for a work trip in a few weeks as this will necessitate you having to assign a new buddy. This will mean your new employee having to start over with a new buddy after a short while.
There will also be a need to adjust the workload of the buddy employee. This will ensure that they can still prioritise their duty to support the new employee without fear of sacrificing their work.
Communicate the expectations to both the buddy and the colleague
To implement a buddy system the right way, it is not enough to just introduce the pair and send them on their way. Both should know the parameters of the relationship. The new comer should know that they can ask certain things in a confidential setting.
The buddy should also know what they are and aren’t responsible for. If they do not know something, they should know that it is ok to say so. They should also be made aware of the circumstances under which they would need to escalate a concern from a new employee.
How workplaces benefit when they implement a buddy system
We already stated that a buddy system can improve morale and workplace satisfaction but there are numerous other benefits to implementing the buddy system.
Improved employee retention
Onboarding is so important that it can make the difference between employees looking for a new job sooner and staying with the company for longer. Research shows that employees who had a negative onboarding experience were twice as likely to seek new employment opportunities.
The buddy system helps with team bonding and gives new employees a chance to quickly connect to the company culture. Employees will feel like they are a part of a community that is trying to achieve something. This connection can help to increase productivity.
It gives employees a chance to polish their skills
When companies implement a buddy system, they not only help new employees, they give existing ones a chance to flex and improve some skills. To be a buddy, an employee has to be a team player and a good communicator. It is also a good avenue to improve soft skills.
The first days at a workplace can affect how an employee perceives (and subsequently performs at) their job in the long term. When we consider the time, money and effort that goes into recruitment it makes sense that employers should try to retain their employees once they get them.
A buddy system is an inexpensive way to do just that, with great results. Using existing human resources, employers can support new employees and improve retention, amongst other benefits.