Starting a new job is rarely a seamless transition. Beyond learning to work with a new surpervisor and receiving new responsibilities, one must familiarize themselves with an entire workplace organism. This issue presents itself from the questions of the best way to commute, all the way down to the mundanities of shared folder passwords or where the Ziploc bags live. To help ameliorate this issue here at Entelo HQ, we recently instituted a new hire buddy program. The idea is simple: pair up new hires with a "buddy" who can show them the ropes and support their transition. The benefits of this are well-tilled blogging soil, so rather than tell you why you ought to start one and bash you over the head once more with the importance of onboarding, I'll assume there's no one on the other side of this argument and go through some guidelines and expectations necessary to ensure the system is successful.
Who's the Best Buddy?
When you're looking around your own organization for people to pair up with new hires, you'll need to keep a few criteria in mind. First, the employee needs to be not so new themselves. Picking a slightly more tenured employee ensures your new hire will be supported by someone who knows their way around, understands the nuances of how the office operates, and have themselves made a point to meet many people in your organization. In addition to the obvious goal of addressing any odds and ends your new hire has in the first few weeks, you also want them to be able to facilitate introductions to the rest of the team.
Another quality to look for in your new buddy is career stage. You'll want to pair new hires up with someone they'll view as a peer, as they will be more comfortable relating to them and going to them with questions. If you match up new hires and current employees based on being at a similar career stage, you stand a chance at providing them with someone who they can leverage even beyond that first week, and potentially have a strong professional relationship over time.
A final quality to look for in a current employee buddy is their department. New hires will already be meeting their entire team and spending a great deal of time with them. Matching them up with someone from a different team enables them to meet a new pool of people in your organization, and opens the door to more cross-departmental collaboration. Also, people can be hesitant to go to their own supervisor or direct teammates with certain questions or concerns.
This is probably obvious, but I fancy it bears repeating: make sure your existing employees are willing to be buddied up. In an ideal world, all your employees would be supremely engaged and utterly delighted to take new hires by the hand, but the truth is some might not think they have the time, or might just not want to be involved at all. Pairing up a new hire with someone who's not enthused to be a buddy will only serve as a terrible first impression and make your newb feel like office morale is low. At the very least, have a conversation with potential buddies before matching them, and if you're at a much larger organization, consider having an opt-in for the program.
You've agreed on the value of the buddy system, and you've picked out some people who you think would be perfect guides. What do you need from them? Once they've agreed to be a buddy, make sure to explain what exactly that means and what you need from them. At Entelo, it means:
-First day welcoming. Sounds obvious, but make sure your buddy goes out of their way to welcome the new hire on the first day and introduce themself as a resource, show them around the office, and introduce them to some other folks.
-Initial coffee chat. If you can schedule this on the first day, great, but as these can be hectic, at least shoot for some period during the first few days. Here, the goal is just to get the new employee out of the office, show them the neighborhood a bit, and have the buddies catch up.
-Regular check-ins. Make sure the buddy checks in on their new co-worker regularly. The new hire may not always think to go to their buddy, and asking them if they need help with anything, or just a general "how's it going?" can go a long way.
How have you set up your new hire buddy program? See you in the comments.