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Continue reading to learn what an onboarding buddy is, the benefits of assigning a buddy to new hires, steps to implement a new employee buddy system and additional tips to consider.
What Is an Onboarding Buddy?
An onboarding buddy is a current employee who serves as a new hire’s support system through their onboarding experience. New employee onboarding buddies can assist their new hires in acclimating to the company culture and their specific roles.
Incorporating an employee onboarding buddy system can help new hires navigate their questions and concerns when adjusting to their new work environment.
The Difference Between Buddies and Mentors
While buddies and mentors both serve as support to new hires, their specific roles and responsibilities differ slightly.
Buddy systems are an informal onboarding support system, often pairing new hires with a current employee in a similar role. This dynamic creates a flexible relationship that new hires may be more comfortable relying on for questions and concerns they are intimidated to ask.
Mentoring programs are more formal, structured onboarding support systems. This relationship exceeds past onboarding, focusing on long-term goals and career growth within the company.
Benefits of Assigning New Employees a Buddy
There are several benefits to implementing a new employee onboarding buddy system, including:
- Providing context. New employees are not familiar with the contextual surroundings of their work environment when they join a company. Onboarding buddies can provide context regarding who the key stakeholders are, how to navigate the organization and approach day-to-day responsibilities, what the unspoken company rules and policies are and other information.
- Boosting productivity. Allowing new hires to shadow current employees, ask questions about the job and collaborate on introductory-level tasks via the buddy system can help them feel comfortable on the job and boost productivity early in their time with the company.
- Improving new employee satisfaction. Pairing a new hire with a current employee who has experienced success in the role can help ease the new employee’s nerves, better train them on their responsibilities and improve overall satisfaction in the role.
Responsibilities of an Onboarding Buddy
Specific responsibilities are often called out in the new employee onboarding buddy guidelines. The following responsibilities are common for individuals participating in an onboarding buddy system in most industries.
1. Meet the New Employee on Their First Day
A new employee’s first day at a new company can be a stressful and nerve-wracking event. The new hire’s onboarding buddy should be waiting to greet them as they enter the office. An onboarding buddy can ease the tension, especially while waiting for orientation to begin.
2. Introduce the New Hire to Other Employees
In the first days on the job, the onboarding employee should make a point to introduce the new hire to as many co-workers as possible. Onboarding buddies should focus on introducing direct team members that the new employee will work with on a regular basis.
Additionally, they can ask the new hire what activities they are interested in to try and find co-workers who share similar interests.
3. Answer Questions About the Job and the Company
One of the most important responsibilities of an onboarding buddy is to answer questions about the company and about the specific position. Onboarding buddies will hold a similar role as the new hire they’re supporting, so they should share firsthand experiences that can help answer questions and ease concerns.
Since they’re on the same level of the organizational hierarchy, new hires will likely feel more comfortable asking their onboarding buddy questions as compared to asking a direct manager.
4. Take the New Employee on a Tour of the Workplace
On a new employee’s first day, their onboarding buddy should give them a workplace tour. They should highlight any areas that are unique to the company and the sections of the office that the new hire can expect to spend most of their time in.
5. Teach the New Hire Unfamiliar Tasks
Another key responsibility that onboarding buddies own is teaching their new hire unfamiliar tasks. New employees are not expected to be able to complete every task and requirement of their new position on the first day.
The onboarding buddy should have sufficient experience in all areas of their role and be able to assist new hires on tasks where they’re lacking experience.
6. Cover the Company Guidelines, Culture and Unwritten Rules
Outside of the hard skills that need to be developed, new hires are not aware of all the company guidelines and the nuances of your organizational culture. Onboarding buddies serve as an informal support system that can help inform new hires about the culture and prepare them for any unwritten rules that apply at the company and in the office.
7. Allow the New Hire to Shadow on the Job
Most new hires won’t be prepared to jump into their day-to-day responsibilities on the first day, or even within the first few weeks. Onboarding buddies can have their new hire shadow them on relevant tasks to get an idea of how the job is completed.
8. Hold Weekly Check-in Meetings
Along with the tasks mentioned above, onboarding buddies should hold weekly check-in meetings with their new hire for at least the first month of their tenure. This can be through a calendar hold in a conference room or via an informal lunch meeting.
In these meetings, the onboarding buddy should gauge how comfortable new employees are in the company and their role. They should be sure to answer any lingering questions until the new employee feels completely acclimated to the company.
How to Pick the Right Buddy for a New Hire
You should match new hires with an onboarding buddy who is in a similar role within the company and has experienced success in their role. It can also help to consider personality types.
“What is your impression of the new employee? Are they high energy? Are they more soft-spoken? Are they a big picture person or someone who seems to appreciate details? Pair them with an employee that prioritizes the same things as your new employee.” – Kayla Farber
Select Strong Employees to be Buddies
The onboarding buddy should be patient and understanding, allowing the new hire to take as long as necessary to feel acclimated and confident in their role.
Not only should the new employee’s onboarding buddy have extensive knowledge of the company and the role, they should also display a strong reflection of the organizational culture and values.
Remember, the onboarding buddy will be the new hire’s main point of contact, and probably one of their first friends at work. Make sure that the buddy is a shining example of what a good employee should be and do. Then, it’s more likely that the new hire will follow suit.
Send a Survey Before Matching New Hires to Buddies
It’s one thing to look at two people and think, they look like they’ll get along ok. It’s another thing to actually have some data supporting that conclusion. By sending out a survey to both new hires and other employees at the company, you’ll ensure that people are matched with someone they will connect with and enjoy being around.
The surveys you send to new employees and potential buddies will look quite similar. At the beginning, provide a simple explanation of what the buddy program is meant to accomplish. Next, ask a few basic questions, such as:
- Do you work in-person, remotely, or hybrid?
- Have you been part of an onboarding buddy program before?
- Is there anything you’d like us to know before we assign you a buddy? (For example, an employee might answer this question by stating that they would be more comfortable with an onboarding buddy of the same gender. A multilingual employee might mention that they’d love to work with someone who speaks a particular language if possible.)
For current employees, you’ll also want to collect other important information, such as how long they’ve been with the company, how much time they can spend each week with the new hire, when they can start the buddy program, and what department they’re in.
For the next part of the survey, ask questions about people’s social preferences and likes/dislikes. This works well with checkboxes or multiple choice questions. Consider asking people about:
- Interests, work and non-work related
- Communication style
- Preferred thing to do when spending time with others
Once the survey results are in, you’ll have the information you need to match new hires to buddies that they’ll get along with well.
Tips for Creating a Successful Onboarding Buddy System
Aside from the steps mentioned above, here are a few tips on creating a successful new employee onboarding buddy system.
- Be patient. New hires are nervous and won’t understand everything on the first day. Be patient with them and make sure to confirm that the new employee is confident in each task they are introduced to.
- Offer feedback. Feedback in the form of constructive criticism and praise can expedite a new hire’s productivity in their role. Onboarding buddies should offer advice on how to better approach tasks that new hires struggle with and provide praise for a job well done.
- Don’t try to cover everything at once. Overwhelming a new hire with information will only hinder their progress when onboarding. Onboarding buddies should take it slow and make sure their new hire completely understands what they’re covering before moving on to the next piece of information.
- Don’t try to force the relationship. Not all working relationships are perfect from the start. There may be a difference in personality type or learning style between a new hire and their onboarding buddy. Instead of trying to force the relationship or abandoning it altogether, take time to allow the relationship to form naturally.
- Improve your program by asking for feedback. The best way to tell if your onboarding buddy program is successful is by going straight to the source: the new hire and their onboarding buddy. When you send out an onboarding feedback survey, include a few questions about what worked well about the buddy system and what could be improved. Consider asking questions like, “In general, how effective was the program?” “What did you find most helpful about having/being an onboarding buddy?” “Would you recommend this program to other new hires?”
How Eddy Can Help You Manage Your New Hires
Some parts of the onboarding program are exciting for the new hire: going to work on their first day, getting an office tour, meeting their buddy, and beginning their training. Other parts aren’t so exciting: namely, spending hours filling out paperwork.
That’s where Eddy can help. Eddy makes an employee’s first day easier and more enjoyable for everyone involved by jumpstarting the onboarding process. Instead of manually signing stacks of tax forms and employer agreements, new hires can digitally sign documents in a matter of minutes. Plus, they fill out their own employee profiles so that all their information is securely stored in one place.
Learn how Eddy makes onboarding better for new hires and HR alike
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