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Research: Buddy system helps onboard new hires

Written on Sep 1, 2022

Pairing new hires with a “buddy,” or tenured employee, who acts as a friendly contact point personalizes the onboarding experience and helps new hires better acclimate to the organization and their new role, according to new research. 

The information gathered by McLean & Company found Buddies are not mentors or coaches. Instead, they help new hires settle into the job after their initial orientation. For example, buddies can answer questions or provide advice about team processes or organizational culture and introduce new hires to key internal contacts. 

Although selecting buddies and implementing the system is usually a manager’s responsibility, HR can keep the buddy system on track by designing a framework for it and guiding managers on how to integrate the system into their onboarding process. 

Onboarding plays a pivotal role in whether new hires quit early on or stay for the long haul, recent research has found. A March report from recruiting firm Employ Inc. showed that 1 in 3 new hires will leave a job within the first 90 days. That means employers have to engage employees quickly and solidify their trust and confidence in the company’s culture and core values — areas in which the onboarding process often falls short, according to another survey. 

Other research has revealed additional shortcomings, which tools like a buddy system may address. A February survey by Eagle Hill Consulting found that 71% of employees said their onboarding experience didn’t give them a clear idea of the people with whom they should build relationships. Respondents also said they wanted more opportunities to make personal connections with team members. 

To keep the onboarding experience personal in a hybrid workplace, experts suggest including a buddy system and opportunities for connection, such as games and polls.  

HR can ensure the buddy system works and is applied consistently across the organization by providing managers with a five-step framework, McLean & Co. said in a report. The framework should define a buddy’s responsibilities and expectations; provide managers with guidelines for selecting the appropriate buddy; prepare managers to communicate with the selected buddy and share relevant resources; outline key tasks and accountability for managers and buddies; and evaluate the pairings and their success.