5 Things You Need to Know Before Implementing an Onboarding ‘Buddy’ Program

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

Organizational onboarding programs offer new hires two things: 1) a welcome to the company and 2) the tools to be successful in their role. On some level, giving employees the tools they need to be productive on the job is straight-forward. Companies have job descriptions that list the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed for the position. They have training programs in place.

The welcoming part, while it sounds easy, might actually be more challenging. Companies need to decide what welcoming looks like. It could be a video from the CEO. A welcome basket filled with company-logoed tchotchkes. Those things are nice and should definitely be considered. They help make a great first impression.

Many organizations are looking to buddy programs to give new hires a longer lasting welcome. A buddy program connects new hires with current employees for a specified period of time. The buddy is available to answer questions, make introductions, and show the new hire around. They are not a substitute for the manager or training. Their focus is on socialization.

But buddy programs take some intentional thought and planning. Before implementing a buddy program, here are a few things to consider:

  1. How much support do you have from senior management? Buddy programs involve the entire organization. Organizations have to take care of customers and product excellent products. However, the first time a member of management says (or implies) that the buddy program isn’t a priority; the program is doomed.
  2. What’s the WIIFM for managers and employees? Speaking of support, managers and employees will make the organization’s buddy program come alive. They need to know the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?). Managers need to be committed to selecting the right buddy for new hires. And employees need to view being a buddy as a benefit and not just another work assignment.
  3. What are the qualities of a good ‘buddy’? Think of this like selection criteria. Everyone in the organization should be on the same page about what makes a good buddy. Some of the qualities everyone will quickly agree on – dependable, credible, etc. Other qualities might be unique to your organization and industry.
  4. Do you have a budget? Since a good portion of a buddy’s role is socialization, organizations will want to make sure that this can occur. And let’s face it, a lot of socialization and welcoming happens over coffee and lunches. We’re not talking about large sums of money. But buddies should be able to chat with new hires over coffee or take them out to lunch.
  5. How will you measure results? Any time a program is implemented, organizations need to ask themselves, “What does success look like?” It might be through metrics like improved engagement and lower turnover. Or increased productivity. Maybe it doesn’t involve a number at all – success could be hearing new hires say that the buddy made a difference in stay interviews.

According to a survey from Korn Ferry, 98 percent of respondents say onboarding programs are a key factor in employee retention. However, nearly a quarter (23 percent) have a program that lasts one day. Approximately one-third (30 percent) said their program lasts a week. Buddy programs are an opportunity for companies to add value to their existing onboarding efforts.

Buddy programs have the potential to deliver big results. Everyone needs to be on board (no pun intended) with the program. It takes commitment – of people and resources – to make buddy programs work.

To hear more about implementing buddy programs, join us for a webinar on Thursday, October 19th at 2P EST / 1P CST. 

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