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Buddy System at Work

The Workplace Buddy System: Breaking It Down

What Is a Buddy System at Work?

A buddy system in the workplace is a strategic method designed to enhance the onboarding experience for new employees by pairing them with a more experienced colleague. This system plays a critical role in fostering a welcoming and supportive work environment.

There are many benefits to using a buddy system at work, such as increased morale, improved communication, and increased productivity.

Check out our deep dive into a buddy system at work, including its purpose, benefits, and how to create a buddy system in your workplace.

Workplace Buddy Programs 101

Simply put, a buddy system pairs workers — typically a new employee with a more senior existing employee — to make navigating a new workplace easier for onboarding employees. Starting a new job can be an overwhelming experience, one where new hires must learn and process a lot of information. Having an onboarding buddy gives them a chosen friend in the workplace who can help new employees understand and apply everything they learn during onboarding.

This relationship isn’t confined to onboarding programs, though. Onboarding buddies can remain in touch throughout their time at the company. You can assign buddies in other circumstances, too. In a factory setting, for instance, buddies can help each other remain accountable for safety protocols, protecting each other and the workplace.

5 Benefits of an Onboarding Buddy at Work

Built-in buddies generate several benefits for your business. Check out some of the advantages you can see from implementing a buddy system at work.

Improve Communication and Collaboration

Employees don’t always have the means to foster relationships at work, especially in a remote work environment. That can take a toll on workplace communication.

A buddy system helps improve communication by breaking down barriers and facilitating communication among employees. In a buddy system, employees are paired with someone they can go to with any questions or concerns. Onboarding partners give new hires someone they can reach out to for help with understanding the company culture, expectations, and policies during the onboarding process. This fosters stronger connections among employees and helps new hires feel more comfortable communicating with someone they know.

Additionally, onboarding partners can help promote collaboration among employees since they’ll develop the habit of working more closely together. This close working relationship can help improve the overall workflow, as employees will be able to share knowledge and ideas more easily.

Increase Job Satisfaction and Engagement

A buddy system at work can improve employee satisfaction and engagement in a lot of ways. It can help new hires feel more comfortable by giving them someone to ask questions of and learn from, for instance. A buddy also can offer support during difficult projects by making sure that employees have someone to rely on.

Onboarding partners also improve engagement by providing a built-in social network and support system. It provides an opportunity for new employees to get to know each other better and build relationships. This is important because research has shown that employees who have friends at work are more likely to feel satisfied with their jobs and less likely to leave their companies.

In fact, nearly all respondents (95%) in a recent JobSage survey reported being happier when they had friends in the workplace. And 92% reported that having friends impacted their decision to stay with a company. Having a buddy system helps you harness these benefits by giving new hires a chance to form relationships with other employees right from the start.

The buddy system also provides support during difficult projects by giving employees someone to rely on or talk to, someone they can turn to for help when they’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for employees to offer support and encouragement to each other during difficult times.

Reduce Feelings of Isolation

Isolation can be a big problem in the workplace, especially in a remote or hybrid setting. That can lead to employees feeling disengaged, unmotivated, and even depressed from the very start. Onboarding buddies can help reduce feelings of isolation in the workplace by providing employees with support and friendship.

Having scheduled visits, for example, prevents employees from shutting themselves off from others. That provides a healthy outlet for raising challenges they’ve experienced, for example, and gives team members an opportunity to talk things through before bringing them up to a manager. That connection helps them feel less alone and more empowered.

Drive Connection and Culture

Buddies can provide support to new hires as they transition into the workplace and help them adjust and begin to feel comfortable in their new environment. Additionally, onboarding buddies can introduce new hires to the company culture, values, and expectations.

Culture is challenging to teach and difficult to learn in a workplace setting. With a buddy, new hires can experience the culture for themselves and then talk it through with someone who’s been there longer and understands the culture better.

Additionally, buddies can help new hires navigate the social scene and bridge any gaps in communication. This helps new hires feel included and enables them to hit the ground running and be productive members of the team from day one.

Improve Workplace Safety

The buddy system can help improve workplace safety by providing employees with a partner to rely on. Buddies can help each other stay aware of potential hazards and keep each other safe. In the event of an accident, buddies can provide support and assistance. Buddies also can help each other stay calm in emergency situations.

Having a buddy at work also helps employees feel more comfortable speaking up about any safety concerns they may have. One employee may feel scared to raise safety or compliance issues on their own, but they might feel more empowered to do so with someone else backing them up.

3 Stages of the Employee Journey to Implement a Buddy System

Buddy programs can be extremely beneficial for employees, no matter what stage they are at in their journey with the company. Check out the benefits of buddy programs for employees at each of these stages.

Employee Onboarding

Buddy programs can be extremely beneficial for a new employee during the onboarding process. Onboarding can be a difficult and overwhelming time for new hires, but having a buddy to help with the transition can make that experience much smoother and more meaningful.

Pairing a new employee with a more seasoned employee helps make their first weeks or months with the company easier and helps the information they learn during this time stick. Buddy programs also help build a sense of community within an organization and guarantee that new hires feel like they belong from the very beginning of their journey with your company.

All of these factors contribute to a successful onboarding experience for new hires.

Learning and Development

Buddy programs can help new employees learn about the company culture and values, learn the ropes of their new job, and feel like they are part of the team. But the learning and development benefits of a buddy system don’t stop there. They’re an important part of both formal and informal learning systems for new hires and seasoned employees alike.

If you have a high-mobility culture, for example, you’ll likely have employees trying new tasks and experimenting with different roles for personal and professional development. There are different ways to implement a buddy system to make learning new information more manageable. You might pair two employees taking the same training module together as study buddies, for example. Or you can pair employees interested in moving into another department with a more senior-level team member to help them learn the ropes.

However you implement it, a buddy system at work has big potential for high-impact learning outcomes.

Long-Term Retention

Buddy programs support long-term employee retention solutions by providing social support, fostering a sense of community, and helping employees learn about company culture.

Social support is important for employees because it helps them feel like they belong to a community. When employees feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves, they’ll be less likely to leave the company. Additionally, social support can help employees feel like they’re part of the team and that their work is valued.

People are more motivated to do their best when they know others are relying on them. That’s why fostering a sense of community leads to higher productivity and better performance outcomes. Having a buddy cements that sense of community by reminding employees that they contribute to a larger team.

Helping employees learn about company culture is important for long-term employee retention because it helps them understand the values that the company holds. When employees understand the values of the company and how their work upholds them, they’re more likely to stay with the organization.

How to Create an Engaging Buddy System at Work

Although friendships often blossom informally, making the most of a buddy system requires a formal program. Take these steps to kickstart a buddy program in your organization.

Define Your Purpose

When creating a buddy system at work, it’s important to carefully consider the benefits you want to get from it. A formal buddy system can provide support, training, or mentorship, among other benefits. It’s important to choose a purpose that will best fit the needs of your workplace.

What problem do you want to solve by implementing a buddy system? Maybe there’s high turnover among new hires, for example, which is driving up the costs associated with hiring and training new employees. In this case, your purpose might be to create connections between new hires and existing employees to help them adjust and build loyalty from their first day.

Whatever your purpose, set clear, measurable goals so you can assess whether the program is working or if you have to revisit and tweak it over time.

Select People with Passion

Once you’ve defined the purpose of your buddy system and set clear goals for it, you need to identify who you want to pilot it. Carefully select participants for your buddy program who are willing and able to commit to it.

Choose participants based on your purpose. One of the benefits of a buddy system is connecting people across the organization, creating stronger bonds across departments. If your purpose is to share company values and culture, for example, you could pair a senior engineer with a new employee in the finance department. But if your purpose is to support task-based learning, you’d be better off pairing new hires with employees in the same department.

Promote the program within your workplace once it’s ready to launch. Spell out the benefits of participating in the program and explain how it can enrich the employee experience. Develop content campaigns to educate employees on what the program aims to do and how they can help.

Provide Clear Guidelines

Don’t leave interactions between buddies to chance. Create guidelines and expectations for participants, including how often they should meet and what topics they should discuss. Train them to communicate with each other effectively to make the most of those conversations.

If you have an employee moving from sales to marketing, for example, you might pair them with a seasoned marketer in that department. Provide suggested content to help guide their conversations, and nudge the senior buddy to check in regularly to find out how the newcomer is adjusting to their new environment.

Track Your Progress

Track the program after it’s been launched to make sure that it’s running smoothly. Collect data to see if it’s having the impact you expected it to. If the program isn’t delivering the way you thought it would, it’s OK to step back and make changes.

Consider rolling out the program to a small pilot sample first so you can learn from that experience and adjust it as needed before launching it across the organization.

Strengthen Your Community with a Buddy System at Work

People are stronger when they support each other. Create a more resilient workforce by weaving a fabric of connections and friendship across the business. When people can connect and turn to each other when they need support, they build up the organization and each other.