What Is a Buddy System in the Workplace? (With FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 10, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Hiring new employees involves familiarizing them with the environment, welcoming them, and training them. The buddy program pairs established employees with new employees to help integrate them into the workplace easily. Understanding how this system works and what to expect from it can help you effectively implement it in a workplace. In this article, we discuss what a buddy system is, explain why you use it, explore how to create it, highlight its benefits, review the necessary characteristics for a good buddy, and answer some frequently asked questions about the topic.

What is a buddy system?

The buddy system is a knowledge-sharing technique on every organization's onboarding and orientation checklist. In this system, the company assigns new employees to current employees to help guide them during the first few weeks or months in a new position. The exchange of information in this relationship is mutual because new employees may offer a new perspective and share knowledge, tips, and transferrable skills they have learned in their previous roles. This exchange also benefits the organization because it encourages innovative thinking and provides new employees with an opportunity to offer feedback on the company's operations.

Why use a buddy program?

The buddy program ensures employees have a positive onboarding experience. A properly executed onboarding process prepares employees for long-term success in the company. Adopting the buddy program also helps ensure that new employees have an enthusiastic and reliable single point of contact for all their questions. In addition, adopting a system that makes new employees feel like a part of the team has a significant impact on early workplace performance and long-term retention.

Related: 9 Onboarding Best Practices to Increase Work Productivity

How to create a buddy system?

You can follow these steps if you want to implement the buddy system in a workplace:

1. Decide on the framework

You can begin by writing the aim of the program. Consider including the company's goals and your objectives for the employees. You may also include the duration of each pairing and the guidelines of the relationships.

2. Set the expectations

Next, you can create specific expectations and tasks for the program. Make a checklist for each task or topic you want the buddies to discuss with the new employees. Some items to include in the checklist include an introduction to various teams, an overview of the company's processes and software it uses, a tour of the office, and other information you think is relevant to the new employee. Setting clear expectations can help you streamline the process and select the right people for the program.

3. Find participants

Find established employees who want to volunteer for the buddy program. It's essential to keep the process open to all departments instead of restricting it to just the HR department. The buddy program may be more effective when both partners have the same role and perform similar daily tasks. You may offer incentives for those who volunteer to encourage other employees to participate in the program. For example, you can offer additional paid time off, bonuses, or gift cards for those who participate.

4. Match the employees

Ask the new employees some questions to help ensure that you pair them with the right buddies who share similar goals and personalities. It's also important to consider their preferred learning style. For example, some employees may prefer a hands-on buddy, while others may want a buddy that checks in periodically to answer questions. Creating the right pairs is essential to ensure the program succeeds.

Benefits of implementing a buddy program

Here are some of the benefits of adopting this program in your workplace:

Welcomes new employees

Some new employees may be anxious during the early days of their employment and may not know how to relate with their colleagues. They're also adjusting to the new workplace, learning what their supervisors expect from them, and determining how to meet these expectations. As a result, pairing new employees with experienced employees can help ease this tension and help them quickly learn the company's processes. In addition, the program aids their adjustment into the company culture by helping them build relationships and ask questions.

Increase employee confidence

Every new position involves a learning process, regardless of whether the employee has experience in the role. As a result, assigning a buddy to help the new employee can help build their confidence instead of leaving them to adapt to the new environment by themselves. In addition, some employees may prefer receiving constructive criticisms from a buddy instead of a supervisor.

Buddies may also motivate and encourage new employees by sharing their experiences and anecdotes about how they navigated the challenges associated with the role. Providing new employees with friends or colleagues they can confide in can help make them satisfied in the workplace and improve employee retention.

Increased productivity

Generally, new employees tend to be slower at their jobs and less productive than existing employees. Having a buddy helps them settle in faster and improves their productivity. The buddy relationship may help improve the overall productivity of the department and company. For instance, the new employee may have an idea that can improve and optimize the company's processes. The buddy program may encourage them to share these ideas they may not be comfortable sharing with management. Building interpersonal relationships in the workplace can help foster effective communication and better collaboration, influencing productivity levels.

Improving employee retention

The cost of hiring a new employee is higher than retaining an existing one. As a result, companies use various strategies, such as competitive pay, advancement opportunities, benefits packages, and regular training to attract and keep employees. A buddy program is also a form of incentive because it allows you to provide on-the-job training while integrating new employees into the company's culture. It also helps them develop relationships, which may encourage them to stay. In addition, the buddy program makes employees feel valued and supported. This helps to build morale and improve retention.

Related: Understanding Why Employees Leave and Ways to Retain Them

Gaining insights and innovation

The exchange of information the buddy program offers can help foster creativity and innovation in the workplace. It can help management learn new techniques, tips, procedures, and processes it may not have considered. For example, if a new employee has experience in a particular role, they may have transferrable skills or knowledge that can improve the company. The buddy program encourages a cross-exchange of ideas that can help improve the workflow and provide insight into how to treat new employees.

Characteristics of a good buddy

It's essential for the employees you select as buddies to have the necessary qualities to encourage and train new employees. Some characteristics to look for in a buddy include:

  • Strong work performance: It's essential for the buddy to be a good influence and have a good work ethic.

  • Experience in the position: Having a buddy with experience or who performs similar responsibilities makes it easier for them to relate to the new employee's challenges.

  • Good communication skills: It's important to select an employee who knows how to communicate effectively and can actively listen to the new employee's needs.

  • Accessibility: When choosing an employee for the buddy program, it's important to consider their schedule and workload and ensure they have the time to assist new employees.

  • Willingness to participate: It's advisable to choose employees who genuinely want to help new employees instead of forcing the role on people. This commitment helps ensure that buddies can perform their responsibilities effectively.

  • Good interpersonal skills: It's essential for the buddy to have great interpersonal skills to help ensure they can create a good relationship with the new employee.

Frequently asked questions about buddy programs

Here are the answers to some common questions about the buddy program:

What's the difference between a buddy and a mentor?

A mentor offers guidance and gives advice and feedback about their career trajectory. In comparison, a buddy only works with new employees, guiding and assisting them through the workplace's tasks, processes, and other day-to-day activities. The buddy has a duty to the new employee only for the first few weeks or months of employment. In some cases, they may remain a constant go-to consultant as the new employee advances in their career.

Another difference between a mentor and a buddy is the substance of the relationship. While the former emphasizes the mentor advising and guiding the mentee, the latter is more symbiotic because it encourages a cross-exchange of ideas. It's important to note that the buddy relationship may develop into a mentorship or personal relationship if both parties create the required bond and friendship.

Related: What Is a Mentor? (With Benefits and Useful Tips)

Is it expensive to create a buddy program?

Many companies adopt the buddy program because of the ease of implementation and low cost. The program uses existing human resources and may not require any external cost. Asides from the time to create the necessary documents and select buddies, there's little financial investment necessary to implement the buddy program in the workplace.

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