Editor’s Note: This post was originally featured on Medium, but has been reposted here with the author’s permission
For new hires, the first day, week, and even month can evoke a range of emotions in people. Often people are riding on the highs of the fact that they’re entering a new job, or perhaps a new field. For all of that, it’s an exciting, empowering, and more likely than not, stressful time.
Joining a new team means learning how they work, both professionally and culturally. There’s a lot to get up to speed with, and many new hires want to give a strong first impression. Likely, this means they want to ramp up as fast as possible without feeling like they’re slowing down their team. As a result, they need to ask questions.
A Lot of Questions
One downside of this eagerness is that new hires may start to shy away from asking questions. After the first couple of questions on Day One, they may start thinking that they’ve asked too many questions. They may feel as though they’re just taking away from others’ productivity and instead should try to figure out the answers themselves.
They don’t want their first impressions to be the new hire that asked 40 questions on their first day and just bothered their team the entire day.
Sometimes they try to get around this by asking different people to spread out the responsibility. However, this method would only work if they were comfortable enough to ask other people, which not everyone is, especially on their first day.
The new hire is now at a point where they have a tonne more questions that they want to ask but feel like they shouldn’t. This is a negative situation as it means that:
- The ramping up process for the new hire is stalled by something that can likely be easily dealt with
- Imposter syndrome may kick in, bringing with it anxiety and negative thoughts, in what should be an entirely positive experience
- Some teams may become frustrated at the new hire for spending too much time on a seemingly quick task/problem (this is a bad sign for a healthy team overall)
Knowing all of this, what can be done? How do we make Onboarding and asking questions a positive experience?
The Answer: The Onboarding Buddy
What is an Onboarding Buddy?
Answer: The Onboarding Buddy is the designated go-to person for a new hire for everything. They answer any questions a new hire may have about the team, culture and company.
Some questions may seem obvious to the veterans on the team, but they’re surely valid questions nonetheless. The Onboarding Buddy will answer as many questions as the new team member has or help point to the right resource to get the answer they need. Most importantly, they act as one of the first friends the new hire will make in a team — a crucial component of any good onboarding experience.
In short, the onboarding buddy acts as a :
- Mini Mentor/Friend
- IT Helpdesk
- Local Tourguide
The biggest thing the Onboarding Buddy attempts to make clear is:
No Question is a Dumb Question
Asking a lot of questions is an extremely common scenario for new hires, and the goal is to make asking questions as comfortable and smooth as possible. Remove the barrier of awkwardness, of imposter syndrome, and make it something to encourage.
Why Do You Need an Onboarding Buddy?
Answer: Overall better onboarding experience, which can potentially lead to higher employee retention.
Some would argue, a big part of a new hire’s longevity with a company is their overall first impression and their first-month experience. Together, this impression and experience shape the new hire’s view of the company, its culture, and its future.
When a company succeeds in delivering a strong first impression and a great first-month experience, it can positively influence the new hire’s outlook. This outlook can lead to better employee retention. And I mean, who doesn’t want that?
A great onboarding process will definitely make a strong first impression and a great first month, and that’s a separate topic. But the beauty of the Onboarding Buddy is that it’s one of the easiest additions you can make to your Onboarding process immediately. It doesn’t require a lot of overhead or administrative work to set up, and the responsibilities are straightforward and simple. It’s something you can implement starting tomorrow.
- Easily fits in within an existing Onboarding process. It works with the process, not against it!
- Use a buddy → better onboarding experience → better employee satisfaction → potential for better employee retention!
- Doesn’t cost a penny. By leveraging existing team members, you can have a buddy ready to go ASAP. Even better, even a slight increase in employee retention rates means you save on new hiring, so really, you save money!
- In the new world of remote work & work from home, it’s more important than ever to stay connected with your team. The Onboarding Buddy is a great initiative to show new hires the steps you’re taking to stay connected.
- You’ll wish you’d have implemented this sooner
So What Are the Responsibilities of an Onboarding Buddy?
Apart from being the Librarian at the Library of Answers, the Onboarding Buddy also take cares of the following:
- Facilitating regular informal check-ins with the new member to be proactive about removing any roadblocks they might have
- Being the go-to hype person for the new hire, helping them get comfortable with the team and company
- Teaching them about the team culture, processes, and best practices that come from having experience on the team
- Setting up introduction meetings (1:1s) between the new hire and other team members, skipping past the awkward “How do I introduce myself to them?”
- Getting the new hire tools and access to services that they’ll be needing, if not already provisioned
- Ensure documentation relevant to new hires is up to date.
One of the most crucial responsibilities of the Onboarding Buddy is to handle the new hire’s Onboarding Intro Meeting. This should ideally be the first meeting the new hire has on Day 1.
This meeting will help to set the tone, and pace for the first day, and first week. It’s a short, informal 15-minute meeting, that:
- Breaks the Ice, and introduces the buddy and company to the new hire
- The agenda for the Day & Week (Ideally sent before their first day)
- A highlight of the key goals & milestones of the onboarding process for this particular new hire
- Make it clear the Onboarding Buddy is their designated support person, and they should heavily rely on it, without holding back
Finally, it also serves as giving the new hire their first friend at the company, who they’ll be able to rely on moving forward!
Who can be an Onboarding Buddy?
Ideally, you’d have the Onboarding Buddy be a member of the same team as the new hire. This allows the buddy to give advice, feedback and answer questions relevant to the new hire and their specific team. They also likely have insights into the particulars and processes that the new hire will likely have to get into.
When should you start using an Onboarding Buddy?
The Onboarding Buddy is a great strategy to use for companies of all sizes. However, the bigger the company is, the more beneficial the Buddy becomes, just due to the vast amount of information and people that a new hire would have to know otherwise.
It also works great for smaller companies that haven’t implemented an Onboarding Process — The Onboarding Buddy can BE the stopgap Onboarding Process in lieu of an established process.
Other Things an Onboarding Buddy Can Do
Depending on the size of the team, and how Onboarding is handled at the company, the Onboarding Buddy can also handle Onboarding as a whole.
For smaller teams, it’s sufficient to have onboarding buddy duties last up to the end of the first week, and sometimes up to the second. Hopefully, at this point, the new hire will have successfully started their integration into their new team and can follow regular cadences from there.
Some additional items that Onboarding Buddies can handle are:
- Creating the new hire’s first day, and first-week schedule
- Creating their first tickets/work items to take care of (also known as Tiny-Tasks!)
- Sending out any pre-orientation material if necessary
- Setting up new accounts/services for the new hire
- Doing an onboarding debrief with the new hire a month after they join, to go over areas of improvement for onboarding
What do you think? Do you implement something similar at your company?
Let me know what’s worked in onboarding where you are, and what hasn’t!
Want to talk more about team onboarding? Let’s connect!