What is a buddy system?
A buddy system is a knowledge-sharing method used to onboard new employees into the workplace. Each new employee is assigned to an existing employee who will guide them through their first weeks or months in their new position.
The exchange of information goes both ways. It makes it easy for the new employee to share tips, knowledge and techniques that they’ve learned through previous work experiences. The mutual exchange of ideas enhances the organization by encouraging innovative thinking and giving the new employee the opportunity to offer confidential feedback.
Why use a buddy system?
A buddy system is an easy way to create a positive onboarding experience for employees. Additionally, a well-executed onboarding process positions new employees for long-term success within your company.
Assigning every new employee to a buddy gives employees a reliable, enthusiastic and ongoing single point of contact for any questions they may have. The immediate socialization and feeling of being part of the team will also make a substantial difference in early workplace performance and long-term retention.
How to create a buddy system in the workplace
Here are the simple steps to take if you’re ready to start implementing a buddy system in your own workplace:
1. Decide the framework
Start by writing down the purpose of the program and any goals you may have for the company and employees. Also make note of the length of time that each pairing will last and any rules for the buddy relationships.
2. Set the expectations
Next, establish the specific tasks and expectations for the buddy system. Make a checklist of every topic and task that you would like each buddy to cover with the newly hired employee, including paperwork, introductions to different team members, a tour of the office, explanation of the processes and software that the organization uses and anything else that you think the employee would benefit from. By defining the expectations as clearly as possible, you will select the right person for the program and also ensure the process is streamlined.
3. Find participants
After defining expectations, your next step will be to find team members who are willing to participate as buddies. While people in your HR department may be a good fit, the better solution is to look for willing participants within each department, so the new hire can work and train alongside someone with a similar role. Incentives like extra time off or a bonus are a great solution for encouraging people to participate.
4. Match to new employees
Choosing the right match is an important part of the buddy system. Ask each new hire directly what kind of person they would like to be paired with. For example, you could ask them whether they prefer to work with someone who’s more hands-on or someone who will just check in with them periodically.
Benefits of implementing a buddy system
There are a number of benefits for using a buddy system in the workplace, including:
Welcoming new employees
Pairing new employees with those who have been with your company for a while will help them feel more at ease, allowing them to understand systems and processes more quickly and answering questions on the spot. The buddy system will help them more quickly assimilate into your company culture, which will help new employees feel like they’re a part of your community more rapidly.
Boosting employee confidence
A buddy system ensures that a new employee has someone they have the option to go to for constructive feedback and to discuss their process. A simple, informal chat periodically with a more experienced employee will give the new employee reassurance and increase their confidence, which will, in turn, improve their overall job satisfaction.
By ensuring that your employees have the support they need in a buddy system, they will be happier, more confident in their work and ultimately more productive. Strong working relationships will help your organization have better collaboration and more effective communication.
Improving employee retention
A buddy system will help your employees feel supported and valued. By making employees feel that they’re part of a team, you will improve retention and your company’s overall morale.
Gaining insights and innovation
Pairing a current employee with a new hire makes it easy for the new employee to share information from past experiences, including knowledge, tips and processes that your team may not have considered. This mutual exchange of ideas will create opportunities for innovative thinking and creativity.
Frequently asked questions about creating a buddy system
Here are a couple of the most frequently asked questions about creating a buddy system in the workplace.
What makes a good buddy at work?
A good buddy is someone who’s prepared to be the first point of contact and moral support for a new employee. This relationship is different than the one they’ll have with their manager or an HR representative. A buddy is an informal source of information with whom the new hire should be able to speak honestly and directly.
What’s the difference between a buddy and mentor?
A mentor is someone who is concerned with guiding a professional’s career and offering feedback about their career trajectory. A buddy is someone with whom a new hire works closely, who will guide them through processes, tasks and other aspects of their day-to-day life in the workplace. Depending on the preferences of the employee, the buddy may work closely with them during the first few days of employment and remain a go-to resource for weeks or months afterward.