Advantages Of A Buddy System, And How You Can Implement it Successfully
The buddy system is a staple element of a successful employee onboarding process. It’s one of the most powerful tools for creating teams whose members are perfectly tuned and at ease with each other. Ideally, it boosts productivity at the workplace, increases the feeling of well-being among your staff, and reduces high turnover costs. However, to reap the benefits of it, it’s essential to truly understand what a buddy system is and why buddy programs are important. In this article, we’ll cover questions like “What is a buddy system?”, “What are the benefits of a buddy system?”, and “How to implement a buddy program in the workplace?”
- What is a buddy system?
- How does the buddy system work?
- Benefits of a buddy system at work
- Implementing a buddy system in the workplace
- How to be a good buddy at work
- Why is the buddy system a good idea?
What is a buddy system?
A buddy system is the practice of pairing a new hire with a more seasoned employee: someone who helps them get familiar with the organizational structure, culture and processes during their first weeks or months on the job – sometimes even longer. For new hires, starting a new job can be a nerve-racking experience as it is, so having a friendly face around to show them the ropes helps them fit in their new role smoothly. However, a work buddy is more than a nice colleague who knows exactly which lunchroom serves the best coffee and how the printer works. It’s someone who answers all types of questions, shares knowledge, motivates, gives guidance and introduces the new-bee to the rest of the team.
How does the buddy system work?
So how do buddy programs work exactly? For new employees, the information overload can feel overwhelming during their first weeks in the new work environment. With an onboarding buddy, assigned to them on their first day, someone will immediately feel welcome, less anxious, and more comfortable in their new function. This experienced member of staff will help them onboard on four levels:
- Practical: it’s likely that during their pre-boarding, new employees already received information about company policies, but an employee handbook can’t possibly explain how the coffee machine works, how to get around in the building and where to find the stapler. An onboarding buddy is there to welcome them, show them around and answer those practical questions.
- Cultural: every company has its own atmosphere, based on values, leadership styles, and more. Sure, a new hire can get a grasp of the company culture by doing online research and talking to (former) employees. Having shared values on ethical topics like sustainability, diversity and inclusivity is probably why they applied for the job in the first place! However, a work buddy can truly give an insight into how things are actually done – formally and informally. There will always be unwritten rules, so having someone to shed a light on them will help people ease in much faster.
- Social: it’s normal to feel nervous on your first day at the job – we’ve all been there. Work buddies are there to reduce that feeling of stress. They introduce the new hire to their colleagues, take them out for lunch and make sure they don’t feel lost during a company outing or their first team meeting.
- Emotional: a work buddy should be someone the new hire can trust blindly, and sometimes even be a shoulder to cry on. During those first weeks or months, things can get a little rough sometimes. There might be insecurities or questions that are uncomfortable to discuss with a manager or the HR department. Enter the work buddy: to give support, listen and ask the right questions. Needless to say, all of this remains confidential.
Benefits of a buddy system at work
Having a buddy system at work has many benefits. Below, we’ll state the five most notable advantages of a buddy program.
1. It helps to build valuable relationships
The buddy system is an efficient way to build valuable relationships between co-workers – which is crucial for employee satisfaction and retention rates. Did you know that poor relationships and the lack of engagement at work are the main causes of an early departure? When new hires have a companion they can trust and talk to from day one, they’ll feel connected with the organization much faster. According to Gartner, having a sense of belonging is a key component of feeling accepted and included at work. Besides, it’s also a fun and sociable way for people to get to know each other.
Those who have a best friend at work are twice as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher-quality work, have a greater sense of well-being, and are less likely to get injured on the job.
2. It increases productivity
Speed to productivity is often a concern for both the company and the new hire. Businesses are likely to want a quick return on investment once they hired a new employee, while on the other hand new hires can feel the tension between wanting to perform but also needing to take time to learn the job and get to know the company. A recent study conducted by Microsoft showed that 97% of new hires who met with their buddy 8 times or more in their first 90 days of working there indicated their buddy helped them to quickly boost productivity in their role. Why? Because their buddy made the settling process so much easier. Being comfortable in your new surroundings and being able to adjust to the company culture quickly increases confidence and motivation: thus productivity levels rise.
3. It improves job satisfaction
The same study conducted by Microsoft also indicated that after their first week on the job, new hires with onboarding buddies were 23% more satisfied with their onboarding than those without. After 90 days, this number improved, showing 36% more satisfaction in new hires with buddies compared to those without. Providing your employees with a companion in your organization from the get-go ensures their job satisfaction and reduces turnover.
4. It provides useful insights
At Lepaya, we asked some of our recent hires how our internal buddy system benefitted them.
One recurring theme was that because Lepaya matches people across the organization, it gives new hires insights into different roles.
- For marketing hires paired with learning team members, it allowed them to get another perspective on what Lepaya does, from the get-go.
- For design hires paired with sales team members, it meant understanding how the sales processes worked.
- It also allowed them to share their experiences, both in their onboarding and their roles.
The buddy system used here motivates our employees to succeed. In one case, two interns met to share thoughts on research they were conducting within Lepaya, motivating and inspiring them with fresh ideas. (You can see them below, catching up!)
5. It creates a more effective learning experience
Using a buddy system is not just a useful tool to improve your onboarding processes, but it is also useful for peer learning. For example, at Lepaya, we use buddy programs in most of our training, both virtually and face to face. Using a buddy system, employees can practice what they’ve learned in traditional classroom sessions. They set goals during training and complete e-learning content with their allocated buddy to hone their new skills in real life. By using a buddy system in our learning programs, we encourage learners to not only interact and bond but also to motivate and support one another throughout their learning journey. Learning together ensures an active learning experience and a deeper understanding of what they will learn. A buddy system also helps new staff to develop their skills and boost their confidence through social interaction. Learning from peers is a great, informal way to tap into the expertise and knowledge that is already present in an organization and it can work both horizontally and vertically.
Implementing a buddy system in the workplace
There are plenty of good reasons to introduce a buddy system into your organization. But how does it work in practice? Where to start? By following these five steps, you can implement a buddy program that not only benefits new staff but also your business as a whole.
1. Pair employees with some similar interests
While they may not necessarily work in the same department, by sharing culture, a love of dance or a habit of baking these employees will form a bond that eases the transition to your organization. The buddy system doesn’t need to be a formal process. Introducing like-minded individuals will help your new hires to hop on board, and your current employees to stay on board – simply because they feel included and at ease with each other.
2. Do regular check-ins
By following up with both of the buddies and ensuring they are meeting frequently, you will get an indication of whether this relationship is developing well and whether your employees are benefiting from these meetings. A quick and casual check-in to see how they are doing and how helpful they find these meetings will tell you this. Make sure this applies to both the new hire and the work buddy, as not everybody is suitable for taking up this fun but responsible role (we’ll tap into that in the section about how to be a good buddy at work).
3. Keep monitoring
By communicating with your employees to ensure they are well matched and benefitting from their buddy meetings, you will help them in their first steps into your organization. You can encourage them to succeed and reach their full potential right off the bat. An employee who feels secure cared for and in good company will be certainly satisfied in their role. One way to find out if they’re on the right track is to survey new hires regularly: for instance after one month, after six months, and after a year. This data allows you to identify if your buddy program really works and in what ways it needs to be improved or adjusted.
4. Make sure to make the right match
How can you ensure your buddy system will be insightful? This can be achieved in a number of ways. A buddy doesn’t need to be a direct colleague by definition. Pairing employees from different departments allows them to share the different mechanisms of your organization. Conversely, pairing employees in similar roles as well gives new hires both the different perspective of a colleague in another department, as well as the seasoned knowledge of someone in their own department. Encourage your new hires to introduce themselves widely across the organization at the beginning of their onboarding journey to immerse themselves fully.
5. Provide impactful, enjoyable, and engaging training
An effective and fun learning experience is crucial for new bees to get adjusted. Lepaya uses interactive learning to engage your (new) employees and make their learning experience fun, memorable and effective. Whether they are learning virtually with our interactive bites or at in-person training, they will interact both with the trainers, actors, and their colleagues throughout the process. Lepaya thinks along with you to ensure your organization gets the right training at the right time.
How to be a good buddy at work
A work buddy is so much more than just a friendly colleague. It’s somebody who genuinely takes care of a new staff member a number of times, supports them, encourages them, and makes them feel part of the family. Sounds easy? Make no mistake: being a work buddy takes time and effort, and that person should definitely possess a certain number of characteristics, skills, and qualities to make it a success. In other words: when implementing a buddy system in the workplace, make sure to choose potential buddies wisely and manage expectations from all sides. You might want to invest in buddy training to guarantee they have all the right tools to do the job – and truly enjoy it!
So what makes a great buddy candidate?
- A work buddy has been with the organization a bit longer, meaning they have a full understanding of the company culture. Being a veteran, they are aware of the company’s structures and practices, both on an organizational and functional level.
- A work buddy is a great communicator and a skilled listener. This allows them to bond easily with the new recruit and makes them feel heard.
- A work buddy takes the responsibility to ensure the onboarding process for new hires is both pleasant and efficient. Ideally, it’s someone who helps to get that person up to speed in terms of performance and productivity. However, that doesn’t mean a buddy takes decisions about the content of someone’s job or reviews their output. They do not have the role of supervisors and for sure, they cannot be held accountable for the way the new employee is performing.
- A work buddy reserves time in their agenda to make the new hire feel at home. This is crucial in the first weeks, but also in a later stage. Like a true companion, a work buddy will be available when needed, has patience and is committed throughout the entire employee life circle – not just on the first day.
- A work buddy recognizes that their role is a great opportunity to develop their own leadership and mentoring skills. Being ambitious in that sense is certainly a plus.
Being a buddy is mutually beneficial. It’s not just the new hire who can benefit from this relationship. Serving as an onboarding buddy provides an opportunity to demonstrate and develop managerial and leadership skills.
Harvard Business Review
Why is the buddy system a good idea?
Aiming for a happy, inclusive and productive workforce? Looking for a way to get the most out of your onboarding strategy and reduce high turnover rates? As you may have found out by now, the buddy system is a great way to achieve those goals. It’s an essential element of a successful employee onboarding experience and should be a high priority for any company, big or small. When executed well it will not only help new employees get adjusted easily, it’s also a proven way to retain talent at your organization, to boost productivity and create an effective, fun learning experience for everyone involved.
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