How to Start an Onboarding Buddy Programme: 7 Steps for Success.

Written by Matt Mundey

16 October 2023


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Interested in developing an onboarding buddy programme? We share the key benefits and how to get started.

Onboarding new employees can be a challenging process for organisations, as it sets the foundation for their success and integration into the company culture.

One effective strategy that can significantly improve the onboarding experience is implementing a buddy programme.

A buddy programme pairs new employees with experienced colleagues, who serve as guides, mentors, and friends through the early stages of their employment.

In this blog, we’ll go through:

  • What an onboarding buddy programme is
  • What the benefits of a buddy programme are
  • How to set up your own onboarding buddy programme

Let’s get started.

What is onboarding?

Onboarding refers to the process of introducing newly hired employees to the organisation, its culture, its people, and their new job responsibilities.

It is a critical process for new employees, as it sets the foundation for their success and productivity.

Onboarding includes a series of activities, and is often presented as an onboarding checklist, designed to help new hires get acquainted with the company, its policies, procedures, and systems, as well as establishing relationships with colleagues and managers.

An effective onboarding process supports new employees in adapting to their new work environment and fosters a sense of commitment to the organisation, facilitating their long-term success.

Related: Key benefits of onboarding you need to know

What is an onboarding buddy programme?

An onboarding buddy programme is a strategy implemented by organisations to support new employees during their onboarding process.

It pairs new hires with experienced colleagues, often referred to as buddies or mentors, who serve as guides, mentors, and friends throughout the early stages of their employment.

The buddies are typically individuals who have a good understanding of the organisation’s culture and processes.

The primary goal of an onboarding buddy programme is to provide new employees with a dedicated support system during their transition.

Buddies offer assistance, guidance, and practical advice to new hires, helping them navigate their roles, responsibilities, and the organisational landscape. They can answer questions, provide insights, share experiences, and offer emotional support, creating a friendly and inclusive environment.

Through regular check-ins, informal meetings, and shadowing opportunities, buddies foster relationships with new employees, facilitating their integration into the company culture and helping them feel more comfortable and valued.

💡 Pro Tip

Learn key onboarding statistics that will help you strategise to deliver a better onboarding experience.

What are the benefits of a buddy programme?

Effective onboarding plays a critical role in an organisation’s success, and research shows that a well-structured onboarding buddy programme can significantly enhance the experience for new hires.

An onboarding buddy programme pairs a new employee with an experienced colleague, who serves as a mentor, guide, and friend during their early days on the job.

There are various benefits to implementing an onboarding buddy programme, from boosting engagement and retention rates, to accelerating the learning curve and improving the overall onboarding experience. Let’s look at some of the benefits and why this approach is crucial for the success of new hires and organisations alike.

Accelerated learning curve

The presence of an experienced buddy helps new hires navigate their roles and responsibilities, enabling them to quickly understand processes, systems, and company culture.

Enhanced engagement and retention

Employees who have a positive onboarding experience are more likely to feel engaged and committed to the organization. Buddy programmes create a sense of connection and belonging, resulting in higher retention rates.

Improved productivity

Versed mentors can offer insights and tips that enable new employees to perform at a higher level from the start, boosting organizational productivity.

Reduced stress and anxiety

Starting a new job can be overwhelming, but a buddy provides emotional support, helping new hires feel comfortable, supported, and valued.

Cultural integration

Buddies play a crucial role in introducing new employees to the company’s values, norms, and traditions, facilitating their integration into the organizational culture.

How to start an onboarding buddy programme

Implementing an onboarding buddy programme is a proven strategy to enhance the onboarding experience for new employees.

By pairing them with experienced colleagues who can provide guidance and support, organisations can accelerate the learning curve, promote cultural integration, and improve engagement and retention rates.

Related: How to create an onboarding process that works

Here’s a 7-step process to setting up your own buddy programme:

  1. Define the purpose
  2. Select your buddies
  3. Provide buddy training
  4. Establish effective pairings
  5. Communicate expectations
  6. Launch your buddy programme
  7. Review and report

Define the purpose

Clearly establish the purpose and objectives of your onboarding buddy programme.

Determine specific goals such as reducing time to productivity, fostering cultural integration, and increasing employee engagement. This will provide a clear direction for the programme and ensure all stakeholders are aligned.

Select buddies

Identify potential buddies who possess the necessary skills and knowledge to guide new hires effectively.

Look for individuals who are familiar with the company culture, have excellent communication skills, and are committed to their role as buddies.

Seek volunteers within your organisation or solicit recommendations from managers and team leaders.

Provide buddy training

Equip buddies with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their role.

Offer training sessions or workshops on effective communication, coaching techniques, active listening, conflict resolution, and cultural sensitivity.

Training should emphasise the importance of maintaining confidentiality and professionalism throughout the onboarding process.

Establish effective pairings

Match buddies with new hires based on factors such as skills, interests, and backgrounds.

Consider diversity (e.g., gender and culture) to promote inclusivity and provide a broader range of perspectives for new hires.

Facilitate a pre-onboarding introduction to allow buddies and new hires to build rapport before the official onboarding process begins.

💡Pro Tip

It’s worth considering giving this power to your people. Using a tool like ThinkLink, you can approve users as buddies and let your new starters find their perfect match. It means they’re more likely to find a better connection and get a more beneficial experience.

Communicate expectations

Clearly communicate the roles, responsibilities, and expectations for both buddies and new hires.

Provide written guidelines or handbooks outlining the objectives, key milestones, and timeline of the onboarding buddy programme.

Encourage regular communication, maintaining an open environment for questions, concerns, and feedback.

Launch the buddy programme

Introduce the onboarding buddy programme to new hires, highlighting its benefits and how it supports their integration into the organisation.

Organise a kickoff meeting or orientation session where buddies and new hires can meet face-to-face, set objectives, and establish expectations.

Encourage buddies to share their own onboarding experiences and offer guidance on leveraging the programme effectively.

Provide ongoing support and evaluation

Continuously support the buddy programme by providing resources and guidance to buddies.

Offer training materials, communication tools, and best practices to ensure consistent support throughout the onboarding process.

Some best practices to remember…

In order to have the most effective buddy programme possible, it’s worth considering some of these best practices:

  • Establish regular check-ins
  • Select the right buddies
  • Clearly define roles
  • Provide training and resources
  • Foster regular communication
  • Encourage peer-to-peer relationships

Let’s look at these in more detail:

Establish regular check-

Establish regular check-ins between buddies and new hires, creating opportunities to address challenges, provide feedback, and ensure the programme’s effectiveness.

Select the right buddies

Choose mentors who are enthusiastic, experienced, and possess strong interpersonal skills.

Look for individuals who align with the company’s values and are willing to dedicate time and effort to their role.

Define roles and expectations

Establish specific objectives and responsibilities for buddies, setting expectations for both them and the new hires.

This clarity ensures a consistent and effective onboarding experience.

Provide training and resources

Organise training sessions or workshops for buddies to equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills to fulfil their role adequately.

This may include communication techniques, coaching skills, and conflict resolution strategies.

Foster regular communication

Encourage regular check-ins between buddies and new hires, promoting an open and supportive environment. This ongoing communication helps address any concerns or challenges promptly.

Encourage peer-to-peer relationships

Encourage new hires to develop relationships beyond their buddy. This aids in building a broader support network and fosters collaboration among colleagues.

Wrapping up

Getting started with peer-to-peer matching can be tricky, but they payoff can be huge.

Integrating a tool that does the work for you can be the missing link. With Think’s LMS, in particular the ThinkLink tool, you can seamlessly connect your people and establish key relationships.

Book a demo to see the platform in action, or to speak to one of our team on how we can help to deliver the right solution.