With COVID-19, some companies have shifted their operations to the virtual world while many others continue to operate at their physical locations. For many businesses whose services we have been increasingly relying on under social distancing, hiring and onboarding is becoming increasingly challenging. . Amazon has hired 100,000 new employees last month and plans on hiring 75,000 more.
HR and People experience teams are having to increasingly rethink their processes of facilitating employee engagement. New employees miss out on fun interpersonal activities like welcome lunches, orientation activities, but engaging and welcoming new employees is more important now than ever.
A common solution for addressing such problems is Onboarding Buddy Program
What is it? The basic idea is that each new employee is assigned to a member of their future team, who would help them get to know the ropes and feel welcome. Such buddy programs are commonly embraced by companies with great onboarding programs.
A crucial part of onboarding is having the employee connect to their team at a fundamental, human level. The buddy program makes this possible despite the challenges mounted by the current crisis=
For services that are considered essential during the pandemic, the time to achieving productivity through quick ramp up is a crucial challenge. A buddy can facilitate new employees’ quick transition by playing an impactful role in answering questions or sharing processes. By decentralizing onboarding responsibilities in this manner, the company’s central teams will be able to prioritize pressing concerns related to the essential services offered.
Finally, buddy programs areflexibleand can be customized for companies depending on their changing contexts. For example, for companies whose entire workforce is working remotely, the buddy program can be designed around digital communication/video conferencing tools like Slack or Zoom.
How to build your own buddy program?
Yay! So, you’re convinced about the idea of a Buddy program! There are 4 simple steps to kick things off! Let’s go!
1.Set high-level goals for your buddy program
The first step to designing a good onboarding program is to clearly define goals. Gather inputs from HR and company leadership, articulate holistic goals for your buddy program for every role level. Different roles have their unique needs. For example, goals for an executive buddy program would be different than one for an individual contributor. When crafting goals, consider using different goal frameworks like S.M.A.R.T to set goals are some examples.
- Help team member know their colleagues and feel part of the team
- Help team member quickly ramp up at their role
- Help team member learn tools and software
- Help team member know the office facilities
Clearly defining goals of your buddy program helps you articulate how you might want to structure it and who the right stakeholders to achieve each goal would be.
2. Partner with the hiring manager and other stakeholders
One of the most important stakeholders in the onboarding process is the Hiring Manager. It is very important for the HR practitioner to pro-actively establish communication channels with the hiring manager. First, aim to communicate the benefits of the buddy program hosting webinars, sharing useful resources, and increase the awareness within your company. Have a discussion with the hiring manager understanding their high-level aspirations for the buddy program and consider them a crucial partner in the success of the program. Trust the expertise of the manager, since they are most knowledgeable about their team. Together, the two stakeholders can create a custom pairing ensuring all the goals would be met ( For example, a senior leader being onboarded could get paired to multiple buddies across multiple locations to help them get to know different business units)
3. Orchestrating the program
Once you’ve set goals and made pairings, the next step is orchestrating and ensuring the success of a pilot run with your new hire class. Create reminder templates and automate communications to buddies reminding them as the new employee’s start date nears. Share creative and fun suggestions with your buddies to help them get started on the right track with their efforts. There could be many employees who might have questions. So, create support channels like an email address or Slack channel or FAQ page to ensure their confidence in being ready to take on the role of helping their newest team member
4. Iterate and Collect Feedback
Iteration is the central tenet to any successful onboarding program. Within your buddy program, setup surveys or polls to collect feedback. Once the initial version of your buddy program is launched and a good amount of new hires have gone through the process, look back at the feedback to gather insights. A great collaborative technique to do this is to use Affinity Mapping methodology as it helps in achieving clarity and alignments. Bring your stakeholders in a room, write the employee feedback on sticky notes and paste them on a wall. Now, the stakeholders categorize the notes into themes. For example, your team might find that many of the buddies felt like they needed more guidance and you could then brainstorm potential solutions.
Further, your team might discover that different teams have come up with unique and creative ideas to engage their new team members. This is something to be wholly embraced and so it is important to structure your program allowing teams to leave a fingerprint of their own sub-culture on the buddy program. Identify the most successful ideas and evangelize them across your company by sending onboarding newsletters with a list of suggested ideas. Over time, the buddy program would become very much part of your company’s essence with each team making it a core part of their culture.
Good luck creating your Buddy System! :)