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OfferZen Updates: Onboarding Buddies: How We Help new Team Members Level up
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Onboarding Buddies: How We Help new Team Members Level up

By Kate Viljoen

Joining a new job and company can be pretty overwhelming. The two-buddy system is crucial in creating a positive onboarding experience for new team members. Here’s how we use two onboarding buddies at OfferZen: a Role buddy and an OfferZen culture buddy.

OfferZen onboarding buddies: role buddy and culture buddy

We want to do everything we can to help our new joiners feel like they fit in, belong, and are valued. That’s why we have formalised peer relationships, the “OfferZen culture buddy”. The buddy is generally someone outside of the joiner’s immediate team who they would typically not be working closely with, to help broaden the new team member’s exposure to other people at the company.

At the same time, we want to do everything we can to help our new joiners settle into their roles. We believe that a structured relationship between a “Role buddy” and a new team member, over and above the team lead’s efforts, will ramp them up sooner. This human is typically someone who is more advanced in their career and someone who knows the intricacies of the role.

The Role Buddy

The job of the role buddy is to help the new hire execute their 90-day integration plan. They’re essentially an extra pair of hands to support the team lead in creating a clear pathway to growth. The role buddy is a safe person who is not involved in assessing the new joiner’s performance. They are not a substitute for the team lead but rather there to answer straightforward operational questions.

The role buddy’s responsibilities are mainly centred around showing the new team member the ropes of the role, helping them achieve their monthly milestones and easing their integration into the team to help them become fully contributing members by day 90.

Heuristics

  • Role buddies are members of the same team in similar roles.
  • Role buddies know what role the new joiner is supposed to play in the team and has a clear view of their first milestones.
  • Role buddies are typically more advanced in their role.

Primary responsibilities of the role buddy

  • The role buddy provides the necessary training and knowledge to do the job.
  • The role buddy’s workload should be manageable and not preclude them from meeting and making themselves available to the new hire to answer their questions.
  • The role buddy should meet regularly with team leads to discuss where more support is needed, what’s going well, what needs work.

Above and beyond

  • The role buddy encourages the new team member to share tips, tools, knowledge, and techniques learned from previous work experience.
  • The role buddy forms a close relationship with the new hire to encourage feedback about progress, the onboarding process, and how they’re integrating into the team.
  • The role buddy helps the person thrive and enjoy the space they work in.

Responsibilities of the team lead

  • Provide structure: have a documented process that outlines the buddies’ responsibilities and what the team lead expects them to achieve in their first few months.
  • Meet regularly with the role buddy to discuss where more support is needed, what’s going well, what needs work.

The Culture buddy

The OfferZen culture buddy is assigned for an indefinite period but focuses on connecting with the new team member regularly during their first six weeks. We take great care in matching the buddies and hope that many buddy pairings remain close well beyond that time. They help the new team member acclimate to the new environment, team and remote work. It’s an additional person who cares about them, has their back, and who they feel they can ask the questions they might not feel comfortable asking their team lead and team.

They are there to explain the non-obvious but critical things that shape the OfferZen culture, hopefully helping them feel at home and comfortable to ask questions soon after joining.

Heuristics

  • Culture buddies are members of a different team who would not typically interact with the new joiner daily.
  • The buddy should have been working at the company for long enough to understand the ways of working sufficiently to provide guidance and support to the new joiner.
  • The buddy should be keen and willing to set aside time to meet with the new joiner on a regular cadence.

Responsibilities of the culture buddy

We’re not overly prescriptive about this, as each new joiner will face different demands. It’s a friendly relationship. Focus on building rapport, let the relationship grow and let the new joiner’s journey lead the way. This dynamic is supplementary to culture orientation done by OfferZen’s People Team, and the expectation is not that the buddy handles the full scope of culture onboarding!

At the very least, the OfferZen buddy should:

  • Free up time to meet with the new joiner during orientation week.
  • Check in with the new joiner at least once a week for the first two weeks and once every two weeks after that.
  • Appoint a right-hand person to offer support to the new joiner if they will be out for an extended period during the first six weeks.

Above and beyond

The culture buddy ideally makes time to:

  • Share some of their lessons learned from when they started.
  • Help the new joiner get their heads around how the company works, take them through any handbooks and supporting materials that they found particularly helpful during their onboarding.
  • Regularly check in with the new team member via Slack to find out how their day was.
  • Ask where they need more support and help them to connect with the experts.
  • Chat about passions outside of work. It’s important to remember that the culture buddy is likely to be the first friend they make on the team!
  • Chat about strategies to stay sane :)

Tips for the culture buddy

  • You can’t be an expert on everything, so don’t worry about living up to this ideal!
  • Don’t try to cover everything right away. Take it step by step.
  • Please don’t force it after the first couple of weeks. Make yourself available, give them time to adjust and figure out their flow. Create space for them to come to you!
  • Relationships take time to develop! Focus on figuring out what your buddy’s personality and style of working is - adapt accordingly.

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