What is Buddy System?
A buddy system is an onboarding and knowledge sharing method used to orient new employees. It involves assigning him or her to a workplace buddy.
In this system, the buddy is an existing employee who guides the new project manager through the first few weeks or months on the job. It should include a formal documented process that outlines the buddies’ responsibilities as well as what items they should cover over the first few weeks or months of employment.
The buddy system should also encourage the new employee to share project management tips, tools, knowledge, and techniques they learned from previous work experiences. The knowledge sharing goal is to incorporate new ideas and technologies that enhance the organization.
Finally, a workplace buddy gives the new employee an opportunity to offer confidential feedback about how the onboarding process is going.
Why would you use a buddy system at work?
Having a buddy system in your organisation is a great way to get your new employees on board with your values and vision much faster. It gives them an immediate “in” into your business as well as a confidante or point of contact.
Not everyone is a social butterfly who can segue seamlessly into a new situation no matter how talented or suitable for the job they might be. But if you have a buddy system in place, you immediately give them a much better chance of settling in faster and more easily.
How to implement a Buddy System in Workplace?
Steps to implement a buddy system at work.
The buddy system doesn’t necessarily have to be a formalised system but having an outline of how it might work is a good idea.
1. Pick seasoned staff
Using staff with a lot of experience in your business will help new hires to transition into a new role much faster. By assessing who will be best for the buddy role you can make sure you pick those employees who best exemplify your business ethos and vision. You don’t want people who will teach new staff bad habits.
2. Make sure they’re accessible
If your new staff can’t find their buddies, then the system will quickly fail. Make sure buddies are in the same office as your new recruits so they can quickly and easily ask questions. In addition, try and make sure your buddies aren’t called away on lots of assignments, making them less available.
3. Choose buddies who will make good teachers
A core skill for anybody is the ability to teach new staff. They need to be able to explain procedures and do so in a way that is easy for them to learn. They also need patience. In addition, creating this teacher/student relationship allows a newbie to ask questions without feeling like they are being silly or lacking in skills.
4. Manage expectations
The buddies you choose don’t have to be the most experienced or the most highly skilled of your employees but they should have the skills to teach new staff the ropes. However, make sure you manage the situation as you don’t want existing staff to be resentful of having to buddy, to be overloaded with work or to feel like the new staff member’s performance will reflect on them. Ultimately, how well a new recruit does is still largely down to their skills and ability to adapt to the job.
What are the advantages of Buddy System in Workplace?
There are plenty of reasons why you should create a buddy system at work if you want a happier, more productive workforce.
1. Welcomes new employees
Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking even for the most confident recruit. But partnering them with an old hand can help them feel more at ease. Your existing employee can help mentor them as well as help them learn the systems and processes more quickly than if they were left to their own devices.
2. Boosts confidence
A buddy system provides a supportive network where new staff members can discuss their progress and get constructive feedback. These informal chats with experienced staff members can be vital in letting new recruits know they’re doing a good job.
3. Increased productivity
Happy workers are more productive workers. Research by the University of Warwick has revealed that they are actually 12% more productive than their miserable counterparts. Friendships not only make people happier at work they also encourage better communication and collaboration.
4. Better staff retention
It’s expensive recruiting staff so the last thing you want to do is be haemorrhaging staff left, right and centre. But if your staff feel valued and part of a fantastic team there is a much greater chance they’ll hang around rather than jump ship.
5. Offers informal learning
A buddy system helps new staff to develop their skills through social interaction and informal learning. They see how their buddy does things and they copy which can help them develop their skills and confidence.
What is a Buddy?
A buddy is someone who partners with a new employee during his or her first few months of employment. He or she is a colleague assigned to assist the new hire to get through the first nerve-wracking time period of being in a new position. He or she provides insight into the day-to-day activities of the company and is there to help the new project manager fit in more quickly. Typically, a buddy would make him- or herself available to show the new hire around the office, go over procedures and policies, and generally help the new hire become familiar with the company's inner workings and culture. Ideally, a buddy is a great communicator who can easily provide information and encourage the new hire to express their thoughts and concerns in a safe setting. He or she should be the type of employee the organization wants to duplicate.
Knowing “what is expected of me” is one of the most important questions that contribute to employee satisfaction, according to a Gallup Q12 study. New employees face a steep learning curve when they start with a new company. If your organization approaches orientation strictly based on job-related information, this provides little opportunity for communicating information that socializes the new employee. Building cultural competence is a process, not a one-time event. The good news about the buddy system is that you do not need a large staff or a great deal of time or funds to launch an effective program.
Relationships matter. Current employees who act as buddies must want new employees to succeed and be committed to helping them. A workplace buddy may be the first point of contact for your new employee and should be capable of establishing rapport quickly. You want the new employee to feel comfortable and safe asking questions and bringing up issues with their buddy. An effective program primarily requires a culture of openness and teamwork.
The hiring manager should take buddy selection almost as seriously as the hiring decision itself. The buddy becomes an ambassador for you, communicates your company culture, and relates non-job specific —but important—information. Make sure the buddy employee has time to perform this work and is not on the critical path for urgent deliverables. Consider reducing assignments that could keep the buddy away from the new hire. A buddy should be accessible to the new project manager, so position him or her near the new hire (e.g., in the same physical space, if possible).
Buddies should have the skills and knowledge to perform the following types of tasks:
- Teaching/or tutoring, such as explaining unfamiliar tasks;
- Explaining how to use office equipment, obtain office supplies, make travel arrangements, and the like;
- Socializing the new employee on company's guidelines, norms, culture, and unwritten guidelines;
- Sharing insights on how things are done in the organization;
- Involving the new employee in social or informal activities, such as lunch, coffee, and such.
A buddy provides moral support during the first few crucial weeks by introducing the new employee to staff members and showing them around their new workplace. He or she should have a good work performance history and be someone whom other employees like and respect. Ideally, buddies are also rewarded formally through performance appraisals and/or gestures of appreciation and respect.
Characteristics of a Good Buddy
When selecting a buddy it is important to choose an employee who has a well-rounded knowledge of your company and its mission and value. It is equally important that he or she has a positive outlook and is willing to be the face of the organization. Additional characteristics to look for when selecting a buddy include:
- Has a willingness and ability to mentor others
- Has demonstrated strong past performance
- Has the time to be accessible to the new employee
- Is skilled in/has knowledge of the new employee's job
- Is a peer of the new employee
- Has excellent communications and interpersonal skills
- Is well regarded and accepted by current employees
A buddy should epitomize your company's values and be familiar enough with the formal and informal organizational structures to be a reliable source of information. An appropriate buddy will possess 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.
What a Buddy Should Not Be
A buddy is not a substitute for the supervisor or mentor. They are available to answer relatively straightforward questions about operational issues. This is in contrast to a coach who seeks to increase the individual's job-specific performance, or a mentor who is focused on personal and professional development. To be clear, a workplace buddy is not someone who is involved in the new project manager's individual development or job performance. The buddy is not being asked to develop the new project manager and should not be held accountable for the new hire's performance.
If someone does not want to do this extra work, then don't assign him or her the buddy role. Some people simply don't want the responsibility, or they are not well suited temperamentally for the role. Be sure to discourage gossip and speculation within the buddy/new employee relationship.
Typically, organizations choose veteran employees to fulfill the buddy role. An employee with less than one year of service may be more empathetic or closer in age to a new hire, but they may not have the full breadth of knowledge needed yet because they are still learning. While seasoned employees are best, the buddy should not be a disgruntled employee or someone who is exactly “two years, three days, and six hours” away from retirement. You don't want new hires to learn bad work habits or become a part of the culture that damages productivity.
Unless requested, a buddy does not peer review work products that the new employee creates so he or she should avoid giving unsolicited advice. Nor should he or she take over the work of the new project manager; doing so may short-circuit the new hire's learning experience. Do not assign a buddy who will be on vacation or has a trip during the first critical weeks. Doing so may leave the new hire feeling stranded. Also, if the new hire and the buddy have already created a relationship, the new hire may feel less trusting and not ask as many questions of a substitute buddy.
Tips for the Buddy
If you are asked to be a buddy, here are some tips that can help you to make the most of the experience:
- You are not expected to be an expert on everything, so don't worry about living up to this ideal
- Focus attention on the new project manager and what he or she needs to be comfortable and productive in their new role
- Remain patient—relationships take time to develop
- Don't try to cover everything right away. Remember, the new project manager more than likely feels overwhelmed during the first couple of weeks in a new job and will need time to digest all the information they are taking in
- Stay positive. New employees will grow into their roles in time with appropriate support
- Don't try to force a relationship. Be available, but give the new employee time to adjust to you and feel comfortable with using you as a trusted source
- Try to identify the new employee's personality and communication style and adapt accordingly
- Keep an open mind and don't be too judgmental. The new hire is relying on you to be a safe place to get answers to their many questions
- Maintain a positive, teaching attitude
Also, remember that there is an underlying assumption that the new hire will be receptive to the buddy. He or she shares the responsibility for successful integration into the organization. The buddy should encourage the new employee to ask questions, be open and willing to learn, to share knowledge from previous jobs, and to give feedback on their experience with the onboarding process.