What is a buddy system? It’s simple! It involves pairing up an existing employee with a new starter to help them find their feet in their new role. Think of it as giving the onboarding process a friendly human face.
In this post, we’ll explain the benefits this system can bring to your business, before explaining how to introduce a buddy system to your workplace.
Why Introduce the Buddy System into the Workplace
Think back to your very first day in your job. Everything’s new and you don’t know anyone. People are being nice to you, and your new boss is talking about giving you a tour of the building. Maybe you’ll go for welcome drinks at the end of your first week. But beyond that, you’re on your own.
Even if you’re working a role you’ve worked before, starting a new job can be daunting for anyone. It feels like there are thousands of new rules to learn, and new routines to adjust to. This can make the work feel overwhelming – every small mistake can feel like the end of the world. And you’ll probably make a lot of mistakes in those early days…
In short, when you feel like an outsider in your new job, it makes adjusting a lot harder. The faster you can find your feet in a new role, the faster you can start bringing your best and finally become the bright and talented individual your employer wanted to hire in the first place.
The buddy system makes it easy for new employees to find their feet, and fast. Think about it – did you have someone looking out for you in your early days? Someone who took it upon themselves to show you the ropes, and to make sure you knew where to find things?
If you didn’t have someone looking out for you, can you imagine how much easier things would have been if you had?
The Many Benefits of a Buddy System in the Workplace
- Make New Employees Feel Welcome – Some people can just click with anyone and flourish in any social situation, no matter how unfamiliar. But some people need a helping hand. With a buddy system, nobody will get left behind. Somebody who might otherwise have been a nervous wallflower can immediately feel like a welcomed and valued part of the team.
- Training and Development – It’s important to offer plenty of formal training and development opportunities. But in those crucial early days, the buddy system can help new employees learn about the parts of the job and the workplace culture that you might otherwise take for granted.
- Less Nervous, More Confident – A buddy can be a confidante. The new employee can discuss their progress and their reservations in total confidentiality, and the buddy can offer constructive feedback as part of an informal chat. The new employee can get reassurance as early as possible that they’re doing a good job, and anything that’s not going so well can be addressed much sooner.
- Happier & More Productive – Imagine making a new friend on the very first day of your job! Someone to talk to, share jokes with, and maybe even go for coffee with. The buddy system could create lasting working relationships. And people with good workplace relationships tend to be happier in their jobs. This will be good for the atmosphere in the workplace, and good for business too. Studies show that happy employees are 12% more productive than unhappy employees.
- Lower Staff Turnover – Most likely, if you made such a friend in the early days of your job, you’re still friends with them now. There might even have been times when seeing that work friend was the only thing keeping you going in your job. If your employees are too stressed you’re doing something wrong. Nonetheless, staff who feel like a valued part of a functioning team – those who think of their colleagues as “friends” rather than “co-workers” – are much more likely to weather any rough waters.
How to Introduce a Buddy System to Your Workplace
This doesn’t have to be the sort of formal process that you painstakingly outline in your employee handbook. The buddy system will work best when it’s unforced, and allowed to flourish on its terms.
But that said, here are a few guidelines that’ll help make your buddy system a success:
- Tell People What You’re Trying to Achieve – Just like an employee wellbeing scheme won’t work unless people are willing to take part, your buddy system will never take off if you don’t effectively communicate your goals. Tell your existing staff about your buddy system, so that anyone interested will be able to sign up. And of course, you’ll also have to tell your new starters about the buddy system so that they know about the sort of help that’s available.
- Manage Everyone’s Expectations – Let the buddy know what they’re getting into. They’ll have to be there whenever they’re needed, but it’s up to you to ensure that they’re not overloaded with work and that they never feel responsible for any of the new employee’s shortfalls. At the same time, let the new employee know that while their buddy’s there to help them, you still expect them to put in the effort to adapt to their job, and excel.
- Choose Your Buddies Wisely – Experienced staff will make the best buddies, as they’ll have the best understanding of your company’s vision, and they’ll be best placed to introduce the new employee to the many small things that make up your company culture. Good buddies are good teachers, so make sure you choose employees who are patient, friendly, and able to explain things clearly.
- Think About Who You Pair Up – Yes, you need to pair up people who’ll be able to get along with each other. But you’ll also have to ensure that the buddy’s accessible so that the new employee can approach them whenever they need to. So make sure the buddy and the new employee are as close as possible – in the same office or cluster. And a good buddy will be a constant presence, so it makes no sense to appoint someone who’s always going to be out on sales calls.
Ready to Introduce the Buddy System to Your Workplace?
Strong interpersonal relationships make the workplace a better place to work. They can improve productivity, as people tend to learn from each other, and they can make employees feel more fulfilled and motivated in their roles. The buddy system is simply a way of encouraging employees to form these strong relationships. It will bring out the best in the new employee and the buddy alike.
Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.