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The buddy system is one of the most reliable tools HR has at their disposal when it comes to employee onboarding. Done well, the buddy system facilitates an immediate personal connection between new hires and the wider organization, and long-term can help drive employee engagement and time-to-productivity. These measures are of critical importance in the COVID environment where many new hires will be spending their first days and weeks isolated at home.
Unfortunately, most buddy-systems are not set-up to support the current work-from-home reality. So what can you do as an HR professional to augment your existing buddy system to work for remote hires?
One of the most important things you can do when building a successful buddy system is to set clear expectations for your existing staff members who are acting in the buddy role.
This is even more important in a remote setting.
To be an effective buddy, you need to know exactly where your responsibilities begin and end, and where you can go for more information. Any ambiguity here could lead to your new hire being neglected in the crucial early stages of their onboarding.
Provide answers to the following:
When should I reach out to my new hire buddy? How often should I connect with my new hire buddy? What is my new hire buddy’s first-week schedule? Who is responsible for setting up my new hire buddy’s laptop and other tech? Who should I contact if I have any concerns about my new hire buddy? When do my buddy duties finish?
Struggling to find a committed buddy? Try incentivizing the process with a Gift Card or other small token of appreciation to encourage staff buy-in.
Connecting your buddy pairs before your new hire starts is an excellent way to ensure your recruit is fully prepared for their first day.
They’ll have the opportunity to ask any pressing questions and be able to get the ‘lay-of-the-land’. This is particularly helpful in the current climate as your organization may be in a state of flux.
The first day is where the buddy system really shines - even in a remote setting.
It’s important to make a strong first impression, set the tone of your organization’s culture, and make your onboardee feel like they are a valued addition to the team.
We recommend three buddy check-ins during the first day in the beginning, middle, and end of the day. Beginning: Coffee catch-up Schedule a ‘first thing’ video call for your buddy pair. This can be approximately 30mins long and should be informal. The two can chat through your new hire’s first-day schedule, run through any Q&A and just generally prepare for the day ahead.
Middle: Lunch check-in A midday catch-up is a great opportunity for your buddy pair to touch-base. They can discuss any additional questions and also ‘course correct’ if anything has gone awry.
Have UberEats deliver lunch to your buddy pair for their first-day catch-up. This is a low-cost way to make the first day feel extra-special. If you’re lucky, it might even prompt your new hire to spread the good feels to their wider network.
End: Afternoon wrap-up Bookending your new hire’s first day with buddy catch-ups will strengthen the buddy relationship and give your existing employee the chance to see that the day went as planned.
➕ Extra credit: For over-achievers Have your existing employee write a short report on their buddy’s first day. Do this for each day during the first week so HR can get a clear picture of how things are going and intervene should there be any points of concern.
Encourage your buddy to set-up a virtual happy hour to wrap-up your new hires’ first day or week. They could even create a custom cocktail recipe and have the ingredients delivered to your new hires’ home.
Ask your buddy to help your new hire film a short-introduce yourself video for the wider organization. Buddy’s can quiz your new hire over a video call, record the session, and upload the video to the company Intranet or Slack.
Try our remote onboarding planner filled with drag-and-drop activities so you can start building a first week that really works!
Many buddy systems don’t extend beyond the first week. Which might be fine in an office environment, but doesn’t quite cut it in a remote setting.
Ask your buddy-pairs to schedule an informal 30min catch-up each week for the first 90 days of the new hire journey.
This will allow for a consistent connection and let your new hire know that there is always someone there for them.
The buddy system is a tried-and-true part of the HR vocabulary, but to ensure your system is remote-ready, some changes need to be made.
Remember to set clear expectations, start early, and get creative with your buddy program. Think about incentivizing the process to get buy-in from existing staff, and be sure to provide a feedback mechanism so HR can have some oversight.
Above all, don’t let your new hire slip through the cracks!
Want more on creating an exceptional buddy system for new hires?
Join our November webinar and get ready to build a system that delivers measurable results for HR and onboardees alike.