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3.6 from 116 votes

Designing a Buddy Program

Date: July 6 2001


Orientation and retention are all about making your new employees feel at home. Along the way, that also means helping them understand your organizational culture and politics. A buddy program is a great tool to assist in both of these objectives.

It''s tough being a new employee. You''re not too sure what lies behind each door, there are enough acronyms and buzzwords to fill a book, and somebody keeps moving the photocopier!

These concerns pale into insignificance, however, compared with the sheer confusion of not knowing what''s ''normal'' in the organization - what''s ''right'' and ''wrong'' here - what''s expected of me - what''s the company''s culture?

Not knowing the answer to these and similar questions makes every new employee feel like an ''outsider'' - at least for a while.

Consequently, the typical new employee is less confident and somewhat insecure when it comes to relating with their colleagues - senior, peer or junior. Not knowing what''s ''right'', or what''s ''accepted here'', can make the new employee hesitant, and confused in interpreting the responses of others.

A buddy program is a great way to accelerate the new employees ability to deal with these early disconcerting issues.

By matching your new employees with a ''buddy'' - someone who has been in the organization for a while - you will not only assist in cultural integration and orientation.

Done properly, your managers and supervisors will find that their interaction with new employees is much less about low level, operational issues, and much more about adding value.

What''s the difference between a buddy, coach and mentor?

A mentoring program seeks to assist the individual with their development, both personally and professionally;

A coaching program seeks to increase the individual''s job-related skills;

A buddy program is solely involved with providing a one - point access to operationally necessary information. In essence, the development of the individual is not an expected output.

What should the structure of a buddy program be?

We''ve designed the rest of this brief white paper as a briefing document that you might provide to prospective buddies. By using this method, you can see how the structure of a buddy program works

Warning: The outline which follows is generic, and indicative only. The specific circumstances of your company may dictate a very different approach.

The Buddy program - buddy briefing document:


[Company] has decided to implement a Buddy Program to assist new employees in the early months of their employment with us.

This document is primarily designed to brief those who will be the new employee''s Buddies, but it will also help new employees, and the managers of both, understand more fully what the Buddy Program is, and what is expected of each party involved in the buddy relationship.


The Buddy Program is an integral part of the company''s orientation program for new employees. It is strongly recommended that you read this document in that context. Please refer to:

[list other materials that are available which will give an understanding of the wider context of the orientation program].

Buddies will be expected to occasionally attend the Company''s other orientation activities, including the associated classroom training, to give an overview of the program to new employees. You will be contacted by [coordinator''s name] regarding this in due course.


The Buddy Program matches new employees with employees who have been with the company for some time (typically 6 - 12 months), for a period of six months, with two goals:

To provide the new employee with a point of contact for general queries regarding day-today operational issues, [such as the location of facilities, information processing requirements and relevant company policies] and

To help the new employee integrate with the company by providing access to someone who is familiar with our culture, attitude and expectations.

The program is coordinated by [name of coordinator], and supported by the line managers.


By providing such a relationship, it is intended that:

The new employee will feel more at home with the company, in a quicker period;

Relatively straightforward queries regarding basic operational issues are dealt with in a timely and non-bureaucratic manner;

The initial confusion and uncertainty faced by all new employees is lessened;

Other orientation activities, such as classroom and on-the-job training can be related to actual real-world activities, and resulting basic queries can be resolved;

Our new employees find out how best to ''manage'' us, the company, in a supportive and risk-reduced environment;

Manger / supervisor time with new employees is freed up to deal with added value issues;

The new employee begins to add value more quickly, leading to increased confidence and self-esteem;

You, the buddy, are actively involved in make this a better place to work, and our new employees more productive.


Employees are nominated by departmental managers on the basis of two criteria:

The employee''s interpersonal skills; and

Their understanding and commitment to the Company''s vision and values.

Additionally, at the end of the buddy relationship, you will get the opportunity to nominate as a buddy the new employee with whom you have been working, if you feel he or she fulfills these criteria.

The program coordinator will allocate nominate buddies to new employees. Where at all possible, buddies will be matched with new employees in their own department.


The primary aspects of the buddy''s role and responsibilities are detailed in section 4 above. Review that section now.

The role of a buddy must be distinguished from that of a manager, mentor or coach:

A MENTOR is someone, typically more experienced, who is involved with the all-round development of an individual in their business, personally, or both.

You are not being asked to act as your new employee''s mentor - you are not responsible for their growth or development as an individual, and it is not part of the role of a buddy to take on such a responsibility. You will not be assessed on your success as a buddy by whether or not the new employee you work with develops as an individual during the six-month period.

A COACH is someone tasked with developing an individual''s job-specific skills. You are not being asked to act as your new employee''s coach. Although your role as buddy may involve you explaining some simple job-related issues, or explaining straightforward procedures, it is not your job to replace formal training processes. If you feel your new employee queries are too detailed or specialized for you to answer, direct them to their supervisor or manager.

You are not the new employee''s manager or supervisor. Your role as buddy does not mean you will be held responsible for your new employee''s performance. If queries arise regarding performance, disciplinary or policy matters, while you are free to give your opinion, and advice on how to approach the matter, you are not in a position to adjudicate or resolve the matter. The new employee must be directed to their manager or supervisor for resolution of the relevant issue(s).


After you have been notified of the name and other relevant information regarding the new employee you will be working with, it is up to you to make contact with them at the earliest available opportunity. This may be on their first day on site, or if they are involved in orientation training on day 1, you may wish to arrange to meet them for lunch or otherwise on that day.


Your first meeting with your new employee should be introductory in nature. Show them around your department, introduce them to their colleagues, and direct them to where they will be working. Explain the operation of any equipment or systems they need in order to commence work. Be familiar with the content of the orientation training, so that you do not duplicate any training being provided there.

Explain to the new employee how they can contact you during the day, and make it clear that you are available to them as when required, but that they should use their discretion at all times. Explain that you will be meeting regularly (see below), and that non-urgent issues should be left until those times, but that anything that is materially hindering their work or performance can be discussed with you immediately.

Explain the difference between a mentor, coach and manager (see above), and clear any ground rules regarding contact outside working hours (see below). Ask if they have any initial queries or issues, and deal with them. Then leave the new employee to get on with their assignment! - remember, your role is to help the new employee get on with the task at hand - not to prevent them from doing so!


You should aim to meet regularly for at least 30 minutes, once a week during their first month and at least once a month thereafter. This meeting (often best held over lunch or in an informal setting), should be used to discuss any non-urgent issues the new employee may have.

During the working day, it may be reasonable to expect as many as 4 or 5 brief queries a day from the new employee in the first few days, tapering down to one or two a day thereafter. Although all new employees are different, after 2-3 months, you may hear little or nothing from them on a daily basis. THIS IS A GOOD SIGN. If you are still getting a large number of ''urgent'' queries after the first month, then the buddy program is not working, and you should speak to the program coordinator.

Within the parameters above, it is expected that you and the new employee meet within working hours (your manager will let you know if you are spending too much time on this). Some buddies and new employees agree to meet on a social basis, outside working hours. This is an entirely discretionary matter between you and the new employee. It is up to you to indicate to the new employee how you feel about being contacted regarding work-related issues outside of working hours.

The company has no policy on this. Many buddies have felt happy with being contacted where necessary outside working hours up to say 9pm on weeknights, but not at weekends. This is entirely up to you.


Your relationship with the new employee should be open, confidential, positive and supportive.

Discussions between you and the new employee should be confidential. The company has no interest in knowing the details of any discussions between you and the new employee, and we are not involved in monitoring buddy relationships. We simply ask that you are supportive of the company and your co-workers. We discourage gossip and speculation within a buddy relationship, particularly as many new employees are not in a position to form an opinion on most issues during their early months with us.


If you are having any trouble with the interpretation of these guidelines, or with any aspect of the buddy relationship, contact [program coordinator], who will be happy to give you guidance.


We would like to see the new employee you are working with, become a buddy in turn. If you feel they could fulfill such a role, find time in the last two months of the relationship to share with them any tips or techniques you feel would help them in performing such a role.

Give their name to your manager, and suggest they be considered as a buddy.


The buddy relationship between you and the new employee will be terminated if either:

six months expires, or either party requests it.

The buddy relationship operates under a ''no-fault'' termination mechanism. This means that if either the buddy or the new employee so requests, the buddy relationship immediately ends. The new employee is allocated another buddy, and the buddy is allocated to a different new employee.


Contact the program coordinator if you wish to trigger this process.

Note: Many buddies form separate, social relationships with the new employees which continue beyond the formal buddy program. This is entirely a matter for the employees.


At the termination of the relationship, the program coordinator will ask you to fill in a brief questionnaire aimed at improving the Buddy Program. It does not involve the issues discussed between you and the new employee.


  • FAQ containing frequently asked questions regarding the Buddy Program
  • FAQ containing questions frequently asked by new employees
  • Intranet site address containing discussion group used by buddies

Questionnaire for use at the close of the program:


Thank you so much for participating in our buddy program I sincerely hope you got a lot out of it personally, and that you will consider acting as a buddy again.

This brief questionnaire is intended solely to help us in the review and re-design of the Buddy Program, in order that it can best meet everyone''s needs.

The contents of the questionnaire are confidential, and are not used for any other purpose.

Please return this questionnaire to _____________________ by_____________________(date)


Please indicate which of the following apply, by circling the relevant number:

1 = Strongly disagree; 2 = Disagree; 3 = Neither agree not disagree; 4 = Agree; 5 = Strongly agree

I was satisfactorily briefed regarding my role as a buddy:

1 2 3 4 5

I was happy with the way in which I was allocated my buddy:

1 2 3 4 5

My buddy seemed satisfactorily briefed regarding his / her role;

1 2 3 4 5

I was happy with the support provided by the program co-ordinator;

1 2 3 4 5

The frequency of our meetings was adequate;

1 2 3 4 5

The content of our discussions was appropriate;

1 2 3 4 5

The aims and objectives of the buddy relationship, as set out in point 4 of the Buddy Briefing Guide, were met*;

1 2 3 4 5

* It may be appropriate to have a separate question for each individual objective, if multiple objectives are adopted.

This article is based on material contained in ''The Complete Guide to Orientation and Re-orientation'' and ''The Complete Guide to Mentoring & Coaching''.