Working teams – How to build an effective buddy system

On-boarding new employees (including new apprentices and trainees) is extremely important for providing a positive first impression of your company, which also contributes to happy productive staff, less bullying, positive staff retention and ultimately, cost savings for your business.

A buddy program is a great tool to assist in both of these objectives, as part of orientation to make your new staff member feel at home.

Being a new employee can be intimidating at first, learning the ropes, fitting in with the team, understanding all the buzzwords, acronyms and who’s who in the zoo.

Every new employee will feel like an outsider initially, they may be hesitant to communicate or express themselves until they understand the culture and what is the ‘norm’.

This is where the buddy program can help!

The differences between a buddy, a coach and a mentor

But firstly, what’s the difference between a buddy, coach and mentor?

A buddy system is not about developing the individual personally or professionally (like a mentoring program) or coaching them to develop their job-related skills (like a coach would).

Rather, a buddy system is solely about providing a new employee with a friendly ally who can help orient them into the company culture. The ‘buddy’ becomes a point of contact for the new employee for a time period eg. between the first 3-6 months of their employ or until they feel settled in.

Who can be a ‘buddy’?

Selection of a ‘buddy’ that is appropriate is crucial and they must be someone who is similar in organisational level (not in an authoritative position), has strong interpersonal qualities (trust and confidentiality is crucial) and a commitment to the organisation’s mission and values.

It must also be made clear that the ‘buddy’ is not responsible for the new employee’s skills or professional learning (that is the manager’s role), nor do they have any authority over the new employee, but rather they play a cultural role in helping them fit in with the team and the organisation.

A ‘buddy’s’ duties

A ‘buddy’s’ duties may include:

  • First day comfort: Meeting the new employee on their first day and giving them a tour of the facilities (bathroom, kitchen, photocopier, water cooler etc), introducing them to the team, perhaps taking them to lunch and showing them around the area if they are not familiar.
  • Assisting them with the systems: this may be timesheet submission if you have one, when pay occurs, how to enter annual or sick leave, navigating the intranet etc.
  • Being there to answer general questions – eg. how to effectively approach certain managers or other teams or staff members and general expectations of the business.
  • Meeting with the employee once a week for around half an hour (in the first month), and perhaps once a month after that, for their initial 3-6 month period (in a casual or informal manner).

Post buddy system

It is always a great idea to ask for feedback from the newly integrated employee regarding the buddy system, to help improve the process. This can be done informally over a meeting with HR or their manager, or a simple survey can be sent to get feedback.

You may also consider having a nominate a ‘buddy’ in your workplace, so that staff can nominate who they believe would be a helpful and appropriate buddy for new staff coming in.

 Further assistance with integrating your new apprentice or trainee

If you would like any assistance with integrating your new apprentice or trainee, The Apprenticeship Community can help through our mentoring services.

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