What Is the Buddy System? Intro to Workplace Buddy Systems

Sam Cook


What Is the Buddy System? Intro to Workplace Buddy Systems

Does a buddy system seem childish or belittling of adult workers? It shouldn’t. With 80% of workers feeling lonely while on the job, motivation is at an all-time low. That negatively impacts productivity and contributes to other emerging worker trends, including “quiet quitting”. Buddy systems are all about support, and research shows workers need all the support they can get right now. Buddy systems are an excellent way to support workers at all stages of tenure, but they’re only as effective as the matching system you use for pairing.

What Is a Buddy System in the Workplace?

The buddy system is the process of pairing two people in the workplace. Of the two:

  • One is presumed to be either more knowledgeable or tenured
  • The other is presumed to need upskilling or reskilling

Buddy programs are not just limited to task-based interactions. They can also help with the social assimilation and workplace happiness of new and current employees in the organization.

Guess what? Buddy systems are excellent for DEI. Watch this Mentoring Soundbites video to learn more about other DEI strategies.

It is a typical part of the onboarding process for many organizations to allow new employees to easily adjust to their new job. Buddy programs can also be a form of mentoring through socialization, which builds a good rapport and relationship among employees.

Moreover, the concept of a “buddy” is an additional safety measure for employees working in a hazardous environment. Organizations utilize the buddy system for various methods that would suit their needs.

Benefits of a Buddy System at Work

Organizations that employ the buddy system will reap several benefits from implementing this method of support. It’s a relationship-building approach that stands in stark contrast to purely transactional relationships, which can carry significant disadvantages in the long term as workers feel less connected and less motivated.

To that end, the benefits of a buddy system at work include:

  • Welcoming new employees
  • Boosting employee confidence
  • Increasing employee retention
  • Improving employee productivity
  • Promoting informal learning
  • Creating stronger working relationships

The goal is to foster genuine connections and maintain good team collaboration. When workers feel comfortable at work and notably comfortable with their colleagues, they’re far more likely to be motivated, happy at work, and satisfied with their employer.

Below are the benefits of implementing a buddy system in the office.

Welcoming new employees 

Workers collaborating in a new hire buddy system.

Being a new employee is a nerve-wracking experience. In the beginning, you have not formed any relationship yet and you worry that you won’t live up to the expectations of your job. Even top recruits feel anxious as they step into the unknown.

Partnering a new employee with a buddy can give them the support they need to facilitate the onboarding process. Getting that onboarding process right is essential, especially since standardized and automated onboarding processes lead to a 61% increase in new hire retention and a 44% increase in new hire retention.

Aside from the social interactions, the mentor or their buddy can help new hires learn the systems used in the office so they can be easily adapted to these processes.

Boost employee confidence

Assigning buddies to your employees — old or new — will help them feel more confident in delivering their work. The ability to have their buddies support them and provide constructive criticism enables them to make improvements where necessary. The best part about the buddy system is that the feedback is given in an informal method, such as through chats or daily conversations. It’s a vital component for supporting their growth and development.

It is always good for employees to be reassured that they’re doing a good job as it boosts their confidence.

Higher employee retention

Organizations do their best to retain current talent because employee turnover is expensive in several ways:

  • The cost to hire a new employee is as much as 2 times the previous employee’s salary
  • That cost includes recruiting and training costs
  • Hidden in that cost is also the cost of lost productivity, both from the work that employee is no longer available to complete, and the overburden put onto employees who remain
  • High turnover can create a turnover contagion problem that sends costs through the roof and could add more multipliers to the cost of losing one employee

New employees won’t hit the ground running immediately, even when they’re experienced hires. There’s a notable delay in time before their productivity exceeds their cost.

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Download our ebook on Why Employees Leave and how mentoring programs increase retention and save companies millions of dollars in turnover costs

Implementing a buddy system offers the benefit of improving employee satisfaction because of the ability to foster friendship among their co-workers. It gives them access to emotional and practical support and assistance in improving how they perform their jobs. This level of efficiency and information access can make employees satisfied with their jobs so they are less likely to find another one.

Improved productivity levels

According to Gallup research, employees who have friends in the office are 37% more likely to be productive. A buddy system is a great approach to encourage friendship in your workplace so that employees are highly motivated to go to work and are encouraged to seek professional growth.

Aside from a buddy system, it is also important to participate in team-building activities to promote rapport and team collaboration.

Promote informal learning through socializing

The primary goal of a buddy system for many organizations is to facilitate the training of new employees and support them in their career goals. However, classroom-style teaching isn’t going to prove ineffective in the modern workplace. You need buddies to make it easier for the employee to develop the skills and know-how needed to perform their job.

You can encourage your team members to join this program as it allows the free exchange of ideas and builds a social learning process that is only possible through human contact and interaction.

Promote good working relationships among employees

Employees that feel appreciated are more likely to perform better. The implementation of a buddy system is a great technique for creating bonds among co-workers. Gallup found that those who have a friend at work are 7 times more engaged than those that don’t. And the University of Warwick published a study that found employees are 12% happier with their job if they have a good relationship with their co-workers.

Friendships not only produce happy employees. It is also a good sign because it promotes better communication and collaboration in the future.

How to Create a Buddy System

There are several steps that you must follow to create a buddy system in the office. You can develop your own method, but you may use this as a guide or template.

Step 1: Create buddy pairs

Matching buddies into a buddy system is an obvious first step, but you’ll need to consider how you’re creating those matches. Within a buddy system, each participant needs to feel the relationship works well from a personality perspective. Consequently, that means if you’re attempting to do manual matching, you’re likely to get a lot wrong.

Image of matches for buddy systems.

Matching? Yes, matching! Not sure how to match? Check out this post on matching options.

Automate buddy matching system with software. Create options that your participants can use as part of their matching profile, then let the software do the work. When effectively matched, participants are far more likely to see relationships that actually fit the definition of “buddy”.

Who should be the lead buddy? That’s up to you. Many organizations often choose to have the lead buddy be someone with more seniority or tenure. That may not be what you’re looking for. It all depends on why you’re creating a buddy system in the first place.

Step 2: Make sure they’re a good match

Finding the most experienced staff to be the buddy for a new employee does not always guarantee success. It is also important to evaluate the personalities of your employees. Your new recruits are more likely to engage with their mentor if they are compatible with each other. Spend some time evaluating the employees’ personalities and making sure they complement one another. Or, better yet, take the advice from above and remove your own biases and limitations from the process by turning to matching software.

Step 3: Set the expectations

Make sure to provide a specific set of tasks that the buddies must perform and the expectations for each of those tasks. Goals provide structure to any program and give buddies something to work toward. When completion of the goal isn’t tied to job performance objectives, buddies can meet it without the stress of being right or wrong. Setting goals also help to streamline the activity.

Step 4: Survey and feedback

The implementation of the buddy programs is not the end of your efforts. Use feedback surveys to get your employees’ insights about the program. It is also important to seek out their feedback so you can see where else you can improve. Feedback coming from your employees is crucial as they are directly involved; therefore, you want to make sure that it is working for them.

How to Choose a Buddy

Buddies could be mentors. They could be same-level team members who are starting at an organization at the same time. They could be senior-level executives. It’s simple, really: Anyone in your organization can be buddied up with anyone else, as long as it makes sense with your program objectives. Beyond that key objective alignment, the only other limitations are to make sure your program is measurable, scalable, and participant-driven.

Take the following into consideration when you create consider who to add to your participant rolls and when you begin matching:

  • Are they individuals who are willing and interested in being a buddy?
  • Are they direct reports?
  • Will the buddies have easy access to each other
  • Is the lead buddy tenured and experienced?
  • Do both participants (and especially the lead buddy) communicate well?
  • Are there performance issues for either party?
  • Do the participants (and especially the lead buddy) have positive attitudes about work and their employer?

Turning Work Strangers Into Work Friends

A buddy system is one of the best ways to give access to new employees informal training and mentorship from their co-workers. It also enables the new recruits to focus on learning in a social manner so they are less likely to feel the burden of assimilating quickly but makes it easier to adjust to their new work environment. It also greatly reduces the learning curve for that employee as they begin a new career path.

With continued worker disengagement and turnover a consistent problem these days, consider any and every engagement approach that may work for your organization. Including leveling up your buddy system into a full-blown mentoring program.

Sam Cook

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