7th October 2019
I’m going to ask you to take a moment to reflect back on your first day of work at a new company – it doesn’t have to be your current job or even your first one. Just think about a time that sticks out in your mind specifically.
Now I would like you to consider why that particular day stands out so much. Was there a friendly face waiting to give you the grand tour and show you the ropes? Where you able to shadow someone who helped you learn the tricks of the trade or simply made those initial few weeks of being the newbie bearable? Perhaps that person is now a close friend who has kept in touch after all this time.
Statistics taken from a study conducted in the US have proven that an overwhelming 50% of staff feel happier at work if they make at least one close connection within their team; which means that making friends at work really does matter.
There are plenty of sound reasons why businesses should encourage social bonds between employees – but we’ll get to that a little later on.
What is a Buddy System?
If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably have heard this term thrown around a bit in relation to school – a new kid starts partway through the ream and they’re assigned a ‘buddy’ to show them around and help them make friends. Moving schools is already hard enough without the added stress of not knowing a single person, after all.
However, I hadn’t heard the term used outside of an education setting until recently – least of all in the workplace. When you stop and think about it, though, it makes perfect sense.
At its very core, a buddy system is about helping someone to settle into their new role – whatever that may be – and to make friends.
Setting up a buddy system at work not only allows for the social aspect of starting a new job to run smoothly but also lets staff learn from each other and encourages efficiency amongst the team – an attribute needed for any business to do well.
The buddy system was originally picked up as a tool to increase safety for activities such as rock climbing or scuba diving but has long since extended to many businesses to assist with the onboarding process.
Why you should use a Buddy System?
First and foremost, adopting a buddy system in your business is a great (hands-off) approach to welcoming new employees on board and betting them caught up with your values and vision much faster. It gives them an immediate grasp of what your business stands for as was as a confidante during their transition phase.
Some people are natural social butterflies and find no trouble at all in introducing themselves and finding their feet with new friendships early on. However, others may not feel so confident at making friends, so giving them a ‘buddy’ offers a better chance for them to settle in easily.
What are the Benefits of Having a Buddy System?
Long story short, if you want to nurture a happier and more productive workforce, you need to start at the very beginning of the employee experience – and what better way than to create a buddy system?
Welcomes New Staff
The first day at a new job is nerve-wracking for even the most confident of people, so partnering them up with a friendly face who knows the business and its people can help them to feel more at home. Making new additions to the team feel welcome from the get-go goes a long way.
New Staff Integrate Faster
Having someone available to answer questions, give the grand tour and provide the 411 on the business and new colleagues can help new employees to understand their new environment and the place they hold within it, meaning that they are more likely to integrate into the team and settle into their new role much faster than if they were just left to it.
Boosts Confidence, Productivity and Efficiency
Buddy systems provide a supportive network for staff to discuss progress and receive constructive feedback on their performance. Informal chats with experienced alumni can play a vital role in letting new recruits know that they are doing well. When staff are confident in their performance and abilities, the level of work being turned out tends to become higher making for more efficiency within the team.
Additionally, a study conducted by the University of Warwick revealed that happy staff are 12% more productive than those who are unhappy or troubled. Friendships at work are a leading motivation for happiness amongst staff (as well as encouragement for better communication and collaboration) and supporting employees to make those valuable connections early on is an important part of an impactful game plan.
Reduces Staff Turnover
Recruiting for a new position the first time is expensive enough as it is, so the last place you want to find yourself in is to be replacing a staff member before they’ve really even got started. First impressions go a long way – so it’s important that you give new employees a good one from the moment they walk through your door. If staff feel valued and like they’re part of a fantastic team, you automatically increase your chances of them wanting to stick around for a while.
Boosts Company Culture
When everyone gets on, the atmosphere in the workplace immediately becomes much more pleasant and staff will enjoy being able to go into work to socialise with the friends they have made at the office. Fostering a ‘family’ vibe at work goes a long way in influencing your company culture and how employees view you and the company as a whole. Pairing up your newbies with a buddy from their very first day only enhances the likelihood of this happening.
Peer Lead Learning
When staff work closely together, they are given an opportunity to learn from one another. We’re talking work ethics, skills, working mechanisms and process. Practically anything that lends attribute to someone’s way of working can be passed on to another person if they are willing to learn. Obviously, a new recruit has a lot to learn from their buddy, but the experienced employee showing them the ropes might pick up a thing or two themselves.
How to Implement a Buddy System?
You don’t necessarily need to have a formal process or system in place to accommodate a buddy system, but it’s probably a good idea to at least have an outline of how it might work to avoid any confusion.
Choose Staff Wisely
While the buddy system has many benefits which will help all involved in some way or another, it won’t work very well if the wrong staff are selected as buddies.
Pick Experienced Employees
At the end of the day, you want buddies to teach your new hires your business ethos and vision, along with good habits. Using seasoned staff who have a lot of experience in your business will help new starters to transition into their new role much faster and will also help to mould them into model employees.
Ensure they are Accessible
Buddies should work within close proximity of the new hire – not in a separate office or be fleeting off to meetings left, right and centre – otherwise, the system will fail quite quickly. New staff need to be able to ask questions and confide in their buddy whenever they feel the need, and this isn’t going to be possible if they can’t find the person assigned to help them.
Choose Buddies who will make Good Teachers
Whoever you choose to buddy new staff needs to be able to teach them. They’ll need to be able to explain procedures and be patient in the learning process. Establishing a teacher/student rapport between the two will make the newbie feel more confident to ask questions without feeling silly or as though they are being a pest to others.
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