Employee Experience

How to Build a New Hire Buddy Program That Engages Employees

May 11, 2020
November 7, 2023
Lyssa Test
Lattice Team

Starting a new job comes with a flurry of emotions and getting over those first-day jitters can take time. The quicker you can help employees feel comfortable in their new roles, the quicker they can feel a part of the team and start producing quality work.

As we all continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future, it’s more challenging than ever to welcome new hires to the company and help them feel at ease. While a great employee onboarding program aims to get new hires up to speed as quickly as possible by completing any necessary paperwork, setting up laptops, and leading training sessions, you also want to build a program that feels personal. It’s even more important to give employees an opportunity to get to know their coworkers and feel connected.

While a sense of comfort and belonging takes time to develop, there is one way to help your new employees get acclimated to life at your company quickly: new hire buddies. With a new hire buddy program, your existing employees can take new hires under their wings and be a valuable resource as they adjust to life at your company.

Benefits of a New Hire Buddy Program

A new hire buddy program pairs up new hires with existing employees. They usually meet periodically over the new hire’s first few months to show them the ropes and get to know them better. It’s a great way to engage your existing employees and tap into their institutional knowledge. Conversations don’t have to be exclusively work-centric either — buddies can share everything from career advice to where to find great tacos near the office.

And odds are that new hires aren’t the only ones who’ll benefit from the arrangement. Elliot Reimers, a nutrition coach at Rave Reviews, said he saw an increase in productivity from both new hires and existing employees after his company introduced its own new hire buddy program.

“We've found that our new employees learn faster when they work closely with someone doing a similar job because they know they have someone to turn to if they need help. But what surprised us was that the buddies also became more productive because they wanted to set a good example for the new hire,” Reimers said.

For new hires, the program gives them access to a great resource to help them navigate their first few weeks on the job. They can ask questions they might be reluctant to ask their manager and learn about your organization from a different perspective.

An onboarding buddy program can also let your new hire meet someone in the company they otherwise might not have crossed paths with. This can help with cross-departmental communication and collaboration in the future. At the very least, having a new hire buddy gives them another friendly face and an extra resource to turn to should they need help.

Designing Your Program

Ready to build your own onboarding buddy program? Follow these steps to ensure you launch a well-thought-out program that’s destined for success. 

1. Gauge interest.

Before you pour all your time and effort into building out a program, make sure your current employees would want to participate. After all, you need enough buddies to go around in order for the buddy program to be a success.

Outline expectations, program duration, and time commitment so your employees know exactly what they’re committing to and if their schedule would allow them to participate. Then, send a brief survey to gauge interest and build a list of interested employees. 

2. Launch the program.

A week before your next onboarding class starts, email your employees announcing their new hire buddy’s name, title, department, and email address. Encourage them to reach out via email to welcome them to the company, introduce themselves, and set up a time to meet during their first week.

Don’t forget to cover a few housekeeping items, too. If your company plans to cover lunch or coffee, make sure to explain spending limits and how your employees can expense the outing. You might also want to suggest a few talking points for their first few meetings to guide their discussions and help the pairs get the most out of each meeting. 

3. Check in regularly.

While we all want new hire buddies to make the program a priority, it can easily get pushed aside when work picks up. To keep it top-of-mind, periodically check in with your new hires and onboarding buddies and remind them to meet. It just takes a gentle nudge to remind them to throw a 15-minute coffee break on the calendar.  

4. Measure success.

To help share the future of your new hire buddy program, you want to find out what worked well and identify what could be improved. At the completion of each program, send engagement surveys to new hires and new hire buddies to collect feedback on both sides of the program.

Here are some questions to get you started: 

  • Would you recommend this program to a colleague? 
  • Would you be a new hire buddy again? 
  • How often did you meet with your buddy?
  • Did you find these meetings useful? Why or why not? 
  • What worked well? 
  • What could have improved the program? 

Feel free to make up your own questions based on your team’s initiatives and goals for the program. Analyze the survey feedback and tweak your new hire buddy program for each onboarding class until you’ve built the perfect program for your company.

While new hire buddy programs are a great way to engage your workforce and increase employee productivity, measuring the success of your workplace initiatives can be a tricky and time-consuming task.

Want to see if your onboarding program is moving the needle? Lattice makes it easy to survey new employees and track how they’re feeling over time. Click here to learn why over 1,850 of the world’s most exciting companies use Lattice to collect employee feedback and build people-first cultures.