The Buddy System

I would like you to close your eyes, imagine yourself coming to a new place, a new workplace. You see everyone around you telling jokes and you feel like an outsider, you‘re wondering who you would eat lunch with, you have all those questions but you are too embarrassed to ask…

Can you imagine that feeling? Not a pleasant feeling, right?

What if you would start working at this new place that your friend is working at ,someone you feel very comfortable to ask them anything , they would also introduce you to people, to the place customs and everything ?! wouldn’t it be great !?

But unfortunately, that is not always possible :-(

In the last two years I have been managing a buddies project in my workplace, assigning a new “best friend” to newcomers which is kinda like a welcoming committee and I wanted to share my experience.

What is buddy ?

The buddy is an existing employee who guides the new employee in all informal knowledge of the company. It’s less about which computer do I get and what is my assignment about and more about :

  • what is more acceptable to say and do in the company — understand the formal and informal culture of the company,
  • Invite to lunch or even just a coffee break so they can enjoy the social side of working
  • Introduce them to other people
  • It’s a great way to pass on the company’s values

There is no professional on-boarding mentorship included in this project, cause we wouldn’t want the buddy to step out from the informal role of a friend.

Why is it important to have a buddy system:

  • For newcomers the value is that they are getting the feeling of being taken care of, they don’t have to feel the inconvenient feeling of not knowing anyone. They have a friendly face that welcomes them and whom they can ask the million question they have.
  • For the mentor -It makes you feel quite good with yourself when you help others, especially if there is not much effort doing that. You just need to talk to the newcomers, and that’s that!
  • For the company — the newcomers feel that the company cares about them, about their feelings, it strengthens their decision of coming to work in this company.
    Also, when on-boarding is well executed, it sets the foundation for long-term success. The on-boarding process is happening anyhow but when we give the newcomer a single point of contact for asking questions which will speed the newcomer’s on-boarding process, this support and the socialisation, it will change the quality of the experience.
    Regarding the mentors, as a mentor you represent your company and pass on its values, it increases the mentor engagement in the company and encourages advocacy.

Who will make a good buddy?

When selecting someone to be part of the buddy system it is important this person will have a well-rounded knowledge of the company and that this person is willing to be it’s presenter.

The buddy should also have:

  • Willingness to mentor others
  • The time to be actively involved in mentoring process
  • Be proud of the organization and knows how to pass on the company values
  • Good communications and interpersonal skills
  • Knowledge about the newComer’s job

What are the responsibilities of a buddy?

  • Explain who they are, what is there experience and why they are a buddy
  • Make sure the newcomer understand what is a buddy and how can it help him
  • Explain formal and mostly informal information about the company
  • Explain about any special meetings, parties, you have in your company
  • Get to know the newcomer! Ask them questions about themselves because this is the way to connect to him. Just remember the newcomer does not HAVE to be your new best friend, don’t force it, try to feel how close the newcomer wants you to be.
  • Make sure they understand they can reach out for any question they have and that it is clear to them that he would be happy to help.
  • Arrange a coffee break just to hang-out
  • Try to reach out at least once a week. It doesn’t have to be long or face to face.

Remember the buddy is NOT :

  • The newcomer manager or a substitute for the supervisor
  • Responsible on the newcomer performance
  • Responsible for the newcomer professional development

Putting it into practice

Our company is divided into 4 groups :Frontend, Backend, DevOps and Mobile. I have 4 buddies for each group, as a buddy mentor only someone from its own group.

Each mentorship should last for 3 month or so. After 3 month the newcomers usually get more comfortable at work, pass all the “first time things” (i.e first time in a company meeting, daily, happy hour, etc..) . Usually the relationship fades out on its own as the newcomer made new friends already , but of course it can last longer if both sides agree. I have newcomers which I mentored that are still my friends :-)

When a new employee is hired I get notified and i try to check which of his group buddies is the most suitable and whether they are available for a new mentorship. If so I send them a picture (so they would know who to approach) and send an introduction mail to both sides.

The buddies that are working with me in this project are cherry picked and are trained for the job.We also have a quarterly meeting where we share our knowledge and experience and acquire new capabilities.

I’m a backend developer, I’m not a part from the HR group and I believe that this is part of what made this project successful. As one of developers I know what the newcomer is facing, i will also know better what are he’s needs and what will he experience later as part of his job.

The buddy system is definitely a successful project and a win-win for company and employees. I love managing it as you see it’s value very clearly, therefore I truly recommend establishing the same project at your own place of work.

The Buddy System was originally published in Everything Full Stack on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Senior Backend Engineer

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