4 Reasons New Hires Should Have an Onboarding Buddy

Sharlyn Lauby, HR Bartender
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(Editors Note: Today’s post comes from Sharlyn Lauby of HR Bartender and ITM Group.)

According to research from CEB, the average time to hire for white-collar positions is 68 business days. This means when organizations actually have a new hire start, they want to get them onboarded as quickly as possible. They’re looking for the new hire to start contributing and being productive.

Frankly, new hires want that too. They’re excited about joining the company. They want to demonstrate their skills and expertise. New hires want the company to know that they didn’t make a mistake hiring them.

So, company onboarding needs to be effective and efficient. One of the activities that can be added to the onboarding process that helps get new hires up to speed quickly is a buddy program.

What’s a buddy program?

A buddy program is designed to be an extension of the overall onboarding process. An onboarding “buddy” helps the new hire feel welcomed and assists with the socialization process. It’s important to note that a buddy program isn’t a substitute for company training or proper management.

Buddy programs can be used for new hires as well as promotions or transfers. Any time an individual is being onboarded, there’s an opportunity for a buddy program. And while a formal buddy program would be ideal, organizations can support informal buddy programs.

4 Benefits to Onboarding Buddy Programs

If designed properly, onboarding buddy programs can benefit both the employee and employer. Here are four benefits to consider:

  • New hires need to know more people than just their boss and HR. 

In a typical hiring scenario, a candidate meets human resources and the hiring manager. On day one, those are the two people they know. But let’s face it, that’s not enough.

Organizations might be reluctant to add more people to the hiring process because it will slow things down. And the goal is to reduce time to hire. So, a buddy program can help new hires meet their colleagues.

  • Companies have unwritten rules that new hires should learn. Every single organization has a few unwritten rules and untold stories. It’s usually information that HR and management doesn’t make a point of sharing. But new hires need to know the info.

An onboarding buddy knows those stories and can share them informally with new hires. They can help new hires maneuver the unwritten “landmines”. The last thing anyone wants is for new hires to learn the unspoken rules by making mistakes.

  • Having friends at work increases engagement and retention. Employees who have a close friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs according to research from Gallup. By contrast, those without work friends have a 1 in 12 chances of engagement. And we all know that engagement leads to retention.

While buddy programs aren’t a guarantee that employees will become best buddies forever, the organization does need to create situations where new employees can start to assimilate and make friends.

  • Orientation doesn’t cover everything. As much as organizations want to present a comprehensive orientation program, it’s simply not possible. Some things will be learned informally on the job, like how the phones work.

An onboarding buddy program can be designed to specifically cover those things that new hires need to know but don’t need to know on day one.

Onboarding buddy programs can build camaraderie and convey information that helps new hires get set-up for success. And that’s not to say the organization (and the buddy) don’t reap any benefits.

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