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Νew hire struggling? Onboarding buddies can help you (+checklist)

We have all been in this position when starting a new job and finding ourselves struggling with easy, everyday tasks. We want to ask for help from others, but at the same time, we feel overwhelmed to do so. That's why every company needs an onboarding buddy who can help turn this anxiety into productivity and set the foundation for growth.

Alexandros Pantelakis
Alexandros Pantelakis

HR content specialist at Workable, delivering in-depth, data-driven articles to offer insights into industry and tech trends.

onboarding buddy

As the new employee, Jake stepped into the lively office on his first day, feeling a mix of excitement and uncertainty. 

As he settled into his workstation, he wished he had a better onboarding experience and maybe a peer to help him navigate the intricacies of the company’s project management software. 

A seasoned colleague could have easily stepped in, guiding him through the software, explaining the project workflows, and sharing tips on effective collaboration. 

Later in the day, when Jake tried to grab a cup of coffee from the high-tech espresso machine in the breakroom, he realized he was in for a challenge. 

A buddy could have been there to demonstrate the machine, highlight the preferences of the team when it came to coffee, and share the unwritten office rituals associated with the daily caffeine fix. 

Having a knowledgeable buddy by his side would be an opportunity for connection and camaraderie in the workplace.

And guess what? This buddy actually has a name.

Let’s get to know them better. 

What is an onboarding buddy

An onboarding buddy is essentially a current employee who volunteers or is selected to act as a guide and support system for a new hire during their initial period at the company. 

Unlike formal mentors, who are often involved in long-term professional development and career guidance, an onboarding buddy focuses on the immediate, practical aspects of settling into a new job. 

This includes understanding company culture, navigating the workplace, and integrating into new teams. 

The buddy system is designed to be informal and approachable, providing a safe space for new employees to ask questions and express concerns that they might hesitate to share with their managers or HR representatives.

The distinction between an onboarding buddy and a mentor is crucial. While both roles aim to support the new hire, their objectives and durations differ significantly. 

A mentorship relationship is typically more structured, with set goals and a longer timeline, often extending beyond the onboarding phase to focus on career growth and development within the organization. 

In contrast, an onboarding buddy is there to ease the immediate transition into the company, focusing on short-term goals like understanding job responsibilities, company policies, and workplace culture. 

This difference ensures that new employees have a comprehensive support system that addresses both their immediate and future needs.

Onboarding buddies can boost productivity

The implementation of an onboarding buddy system can have a profound impact on a new hire’s experience and their productivity. 

Having a robust onboarding process is proven to increase new hire retention by 82% and boost productivity by more than 70%.

One of the most significant benefits is the provision of context. 

New employees, regardless of their experience level, face a steep learning curve when joining a new company. 

An onboarding buddy can offer invaluable insights into the nuances of the workplace, from identifying key stakeholders to understanding the unspoken rules that govern office dynamics. This insider knowledge helps new hires navigate their early days with greater confidence and ease.

This insider knowledge helps new hires navigate their early days with greater confidence and ease.

By having a go-to person for questions and guidance, new hires can quickly learn the ropes and begin contributing to their teams more effectively. 

This not only benefits the new employee in terms of job satisfaction and engagement but also contributes to the overall productivity of the team and organization.

This emotional and professional support can make a significant difference in how new employees perceive their new workplace, influencing their decision to stay with the company in the long run.

The onboarding buddy’s responsibilities

The effectiveness of an onboarding buddy system hinges on the clear definition of the buddy’s responsibilities. 

These duties are designed to ensure the new hire feels supported, informed, and welcomed into the company. Here are some of the key responsibilities that an onboarding buddy typically undertakes:

Meet the new employee on their first day: Making a positive first impression is crucial. The onboarding buddy is often the first friendly face the new hire sees, offering a warm welcome and easing the natural anxieties of the first day.

Introduce the new hire to other employees: Integration into the social fabric of the company is as important as understanding the role itself. Buddies facilitate introductions to team members and other colleagues, helping to build the new hire’s internal network.

Answer questions about the job and the company: Buddies act as a knowledge resource, answering questions about day-to-day operations, company culture, and policies. This open line of communication helps to demystify aspects of the new role and the organization.

Take the new employee on a tour of the workplace: Familiarizing the new hire with the physical workspace helps them navigate their new environment and understand where key facilities are located.

Teach the new hire unfamiliar tasks: Buddies provide hands-on guidance for tasks and processes that are new to the hire, ensuring they have the practical skills needed to perform their job effectively.

Cover the company guidelines, culture, and unwritten rules: Beyond the employee handbook, buddies share insights into the company’s culture and the unwritten norms that guide behavior within the organization.

Allow the new hire to shadow on the job: Shadowing allows the new employee to see firsthand how tasks are performed, which is invaluable for learning the nuances of their new role.

Hold weekly check-in meetings: Regular meetings between the buddy and the new hire help to address any ongoing questions or concerns, ensuring the new employee’s smooth transition into the company.

The 4-step onboarding process with a buddy system

A structured onboarding process, complemented by a buddy system, can significantly enhance the new hire’s integration and productivity. Here’s a breakdown of a 4-step onboarding process that incorporates the use of an onboarding buddy:

Preparation: Before the new hire’s first day, select an appropriate onboarding buddy and brief them on their responsibilities. Ensure the buddy has the resources and time needed to support the new employee effectively.

Integration: The buddy plays a key role in helping the new hire integrate into the company culture and team. This phase focuses on making introductions, explaining company norms, and answering any immediate questions the new hire may have.

Development: As the new hire becomes more comfortable in their role, the buddy assists with more in-depth learning and development opportunities, such as shadowing on projects or guiding them through more complex tasks.

Transition: Eventually, the new hire should feel confident and integrated enough to navigate their role independently. The buddy system can be phased out, with the buddy remaining a friendly and familiar face for any future questions or support.

The checklist

To ensure consistency and cover all necessary aspects of the onboarding process, creating a buddy checklist can be incredibly helpful. This checklist might include:

  • Schedule a welcome meeting on the first day.
  • Arrange introductions to team members and key personnel.
  • Provide a tour of the office, highlighting important areas.
  • Share insights on company culture and unwritten rules.
  • Offer guidance on specific tasks and processes.
  • Set up regular check-in meetings to discuss progress and address questions.
  • Provide resources for professional development within the company.
  • Facilitate the transition to independence while remaining available for future support.

This checklist serves as a roadmap for the buddy, ensuring that they provide comprehensive support to the new hire throughout their onboarding journey. 

It also helps in standardizing the onboarding experience, ensuring every new employee receives the same level of support and information.

An onboarding buddy system is more than just a mechanism for welcoming new employees; it’s a strategic investment in the long-term success and integration of new hires into the company. 

By providing immediate support, facilitating cultural integration, and enhancing job satisfaction, onboarding buddies play a crucial role in the overall employee experience.

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