We all want a friendship to rival Buzz & Woody, Lilo & Stitch or Thelma & Louise (with a happier ending!). But how can we make friends at work and why bother? This week I delve into the wonderful world of the buddy system to find out!
One thing’s clear – friends at work matter, big time! In fact, research shows that just having one close connection at work makes us up to 50% happier! However, those bonds are formed – through buddy systems, staff socials or collaboration – I’m all for helping staff find their very own work bestie.
That’s why I’m super proud of Growth Engineering’s homegrown buddy system, Awesome Allies. Curious? Well, grab the popcorn, your BFF and read on to discover what it’s all about!
What is the Buddy System?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the ‘buddy system’ as: “A cooperative arrangement whereby individuals are teamed up and assume responsibility for one another’s welfare.”
Once you strip back all the jargon and dictionary polite-speak, a workplace buddy system is simply about helping people make friends and learn from each other!
The Benefits of the Buddy System
So, why did we introduce a buddy system at Growth Engineering? Quite simply, when done well, buddy systems work! Here are six awesome benefits of buddy systems:
1. Helping New Recruits Feel at Home
Starting a new job can be nerve-racking! As we hang our coat on the peg, sit at our shiny new desk and nervously wonder who to speak to…it can feel more like our first day at school! If only it was as easy as asking your colleague, “Will you be my friend?”
Well, with the buddy system it is! Buddies provide newbies with ready-made work friends. Simply seeing a friendly face and feeling welcome in a new job can allay newbies fears faster than they can Google “Imposter Syndrome!”
Buddies help new recruits meet everyone, understand the workplace culture and how to do the basics. After all, it’s the little things that help us feel at home, like how to work the printer, locate the coffee cups and where to find the best tempura in town!
2. Make friends at work!
Research shows we prefer people who we think are like us. So to create close bonds at work it helps to find out what we have in common with colleagues! That’s where the buddy system helps. The buddy system helps staff discover shared interests and make friends! Knowing we have someone who shares our weird sense of humour, love of superhero capes or Twin Peaks obsession helps make work just that little bit more awesome!
3. Informal Learning through Social Interactions
Successful buddy systems encourage informal learning, letting the new recruits develop their skills through social interaction and observation. They learn by communicating and observing how their buddy does things. This is an effective way to learn. In fact, the 70 20 10 model shows social learning is responsible for 20% of what we know. This is why buddy systems provide the perfect opportunity to develop new employees’ skills and confidence.
4. Increased Confidence through Recognition
Research shows those who have a best friend at work are 43% more likely to report having received recognition and praise for their work in the last week. The buddy system provides a supportive relationship where new recruits can openly discuss their progress and gain constructive feedback and recognition. This matters, with 76% of people saying peer praise is extremely or very motivating. So these pep talks and ego boosters can be just the motivation newbies need to stay engaged and progress.
5. Increase Staff Retention
What was your favourite job and why? For most people, their favourite jobs are often not the ones with the big money or status, but where they feel part of an awesome team. Our colleagues can make or break our happiness at work! That’s why having friends at work can be the difference between employees staying with a company or leaving. No wonder, millennials (due to dominate the workforce by 2025) name ‘friendly co-workers’ as one of their top three sought-after workplace features. Buddy systems foster a friendly workplace that helps increase staff retention!
As we discovered earlier, having close friends at work can make us 50% happier. The good news is, happy workers are 12% more productive. Yet, it’s not just being happy that makes us more productive. Friendship at work also supports knowledge sharing within the company, which increases productivity and innovation. Work friendships encourage better employee communication and collaboration because the foundations for successful teamwork are already in place.
Here’s a little reminder from Buzz & Woody on why we all need a friend (to save us from crazed pink teddy bears, of course!)
Awesome Allies in Action
We wanted to create our own awesome buddy system – Growth Engineering style. So, ‘Awesome Allies’ was born!
Awesome Allies is the jam doughnut of buddy systems – all the benefits of learning from each other – with a good ol’ dollop of yummy fun and silliness at its centre! Don’t just take it from me…here’s what two of the Growth Engineering superheroes had to say about their Awesome Allies experience:
Richard, Head of Customer Excellence and Vijay’s Buddy said:
“It was a fantastic experience being paired with Vijay. On our first Buddy outing, we went for lunch. The big question was, is he a salad or a steak man? When he went for the fully loaded burger, I knew we were going to be best buddies! We also went on a few adventures, traversing a lake. Risky stuff, but we had each other’s backs!
“It was a great opportunity to learn more about Vijay, his family and his interests. You just wouldn’t get a chance to do this in the office or group environment.”
Vijay, GE’s Graphic Designer and Richard’s Buddy, said:
“It’s always a bit scary starting a new job. I’d never really seen something like Awesome Allies before and it made a real difference! Richard introduced me to everyone, showed me the best place to get a burger near the office, and I felt like part of the team in no time! I really enjoyed it and it was great to learn more about Richard and our mutual love of meat (even if we nearly drowned in the process)!”
How Technology can Support Friendship at Work
Whether you want to create a formal buddy system or more casually encourage workplace friendships, learning technology can help. Here are some ideas!
Get to Know Each Other Online
Use social learning features to encourage employees to learn about each other on the LMS message boards. You could invite newbies to share ‘Fun Facts’ about themselves, to find out what everyone has in common. You could also create supportive buddy-only group chats. Newbies can share their experiences and chat here before letting their personalities loose on the wider company!
Recognition through Gamification
With gamification, new recruits can be awarded virtual rewards, such as praise badges on the LMS. This provides an innovative and fun way to offer peer praise between buddies.
Personalised learning apps mean newbies never need be without their buddy! The apps can keep buddies connected through Chat features. They are also a great tool to keep the conversation and fun flowing through features such as, ‘Question-a-Day’ and daily buddy challenges.
Create buddy-matches made in LMS heaven, by using quizzes to pair buddies and newbies, based on their shared interests. You could also run Mr & Mrs style quizzes to find out who knows the most about their buddy. Keep engagement high by awarding points for right answers, so buddies can compete for the top spot on the LMS leaderboard!
Engaging Online Learning
If you’d rather not have a real-life buddy system, why not use online learning to create a virtual buddy? You could provide new starters with online training to support their onboarding process. Tailor the training content to employees’ needs, goals and interests. This could include everything from the essential company policies to mobile learning games that help newbies remember colleagues’ names!
I hope you found these tips helpful and share my passion for creating friends at work. Friends at work really can help unleash our inner superhero! Now it’s time to create a successful buddy system that will transform your organisation ‘to infinity and beyond’!
P.S. I challenge you to discover something you share in common with a colleague and start making new friends at work today!
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