Onboarding New Employees? Buddy Up!

I went to summer camp for most of my life and in order to go swimming everyone had to have a buddy. During general swim, when the whole camp was swimming for fun, there was always a buddy call where everyone had to stop and count off with their buddy.

shutterstock_415184509While you might think that this makes sense for water safety, I would argue that we need the same type of system in place when we on-board employees to ensure that they all make it safely through the process.

Eco Canada has an employee partner program in place as part of their on-boarding program that matches new employees with experienced staff members for their first few months of employment. Eco Canada does this to:

  • Provide the new employee with a point of contact for general inquiries regarding day to day issues—both formal and informal. This includes information about policies, dress code, work rules, and other workplace issues in which the new employee might experience uncertainty.
  • Foster a comfortable relationship in which the new employee can access someone who is familiar with the corporate culture, norms, and expectations of the company.

Employee partners help establish a sense of belonging for the new employee. With an effective on-boarding partner, a new employee will quickly become a contributing member to his or her new department and team.

Onboarding partners’ responsibilities include:

  • Act as an informational resource for the new employee on policies, procedures, work rules, norms, etc.
  • Help socialize and involve the new employee in workplace activities
  • Assist with instruction and training
  • Act as an “office tour guide”
  • Identify resources and explain important details about the workplace, corporate culture, and organization
  • Introduce the new employee to other staff members

New York University also has a buddy system for new employees. Buddies partner with new employees for the first 2 months of their employment. While primarily responsible for offering advice and guidance regarding the day-to-day aspects of working at NYU, the buddy may also offer encouragement and knowledge resources, as they help introduce the new employee to the NYU culture.

NYU looks for buddies that have these key characteristics:

  • Communicator: A buddy should encourage open communication. The buddy should provide relevant information to the new employee and encourage a process of continued, self-directed learning.
  • Role Model: The buddy should be a model employee and exemplify NYU values.
  • Motivated: The buddy should have a positive outlook on his/her work and use that perspective to help build self-confidence and loyalty in the new employee. The buddy should lead by example.
  • Strong Performer: The buddy can help guide the new employee in many situations based on his/her experience and knowledge obtained in the work environment.

There are many advantages to implementing a buddy system; however, as the Society for Human Resource Management points out, the buddy’s role is not to supervise the new employee. A successful buddy should be a well-designed process that includes:

  • Expectations for the new hire, buddy and supervisor.
  • What knowledge the buddy should impart to increase productivity and performance.
  • How much time the program should take.
  • Requirements for “check-ins” and follow-up from the buddy and new hire on program effectiveness.

Do you have a buddy system in place to on-board new employees?

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