What is a 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.
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 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.