Building a Thoughtful Pre-Boarding Program: The 5 Components of an Effective Buddy System

What’s the hardest thing about starting a new job? For many people it’s not learning the ropes of their role, understanding their manager’s expectations, or even figuring out how to beat all their opponents in the company ping pong tournament. No, one of the toughest hurdles is feeling comfortable in a new social environment.

It’s always a challenge to navigate a new social setting, but there are some things employers can do to ease this transition.

Pairing more experienced employees with new hires in a “buddy system” can help take pressure off the direct manager and contribute to cross-departmental collaboration.

Want to learn more about setting new employees up for success before their first day? Download The Practical Pre-Boarding Toolkit for tips on building a comprehensive pre-boarding program.

Wondering how to set up a buddy system at your company? Here are 5 guidelines to get you started:

1. Make the buddy system a volunteer initiative for current employees

The first rule of the buddy system is that no one talks about the buddy system. Just kidding—talk all you want. Just make sure that everyone who’s involved wants to participate. The whole point is to create a welcome experience for new hires, and this is much more likely to happen when participants are excited to join. You can periodically send out emails to all employees asking for volunteers or just make sure everyone knows who organizes the buddy system so they can reach out if they decide they want to participate.

2. Decide on a minimum length of time employees should have worked at your company before they’re eligible to become buddies

While new employees may want to pay it forward immediately and become buddies themselves, it’s a good idea to give them some time to adjust to your company’s unique culture. This also helps ensure that they have a more realistic picture of the good and not so good aspects of life at your company.

At Greenhouse, we set the minimum at three months, but you can choose whatever time frame works best for your company. For newer companies, it may be shorter, and for more established companies, it can be longer.

3. Try to pair new hires with buddies from other departments to provide a well-rounded view of your company

The ideal composition of buddy partnerships varies from company to company. At Greenhouse, we find it beneficial for buddies to come from different departments. This allows new employees to gain insight into how other departments work, and makes it easier to focus their conversations on more social aspects of life at the office.

Throughout onboarding, new hires have plenty of chances to speak with members of our People Team and representatives from other departments, but they may not have much of a chance to get to know their coworkers on a personal level. That’s where the buddy system comes in! And you never know—the relationships formed from the buddy system can lead to all sorts of unexpected cross-departmental collaboration.

4. Put the buddy in charge of social tasks

As we’ve discussed, it can be a little awkward for new hires to adjust socially to your office culture. Don’t leave new hires guessing about what to do for lunch or how to meet people in other departments during their first few weeks—that’s exactly what buddies are for!

At Greenhouse, buddies are responsible for introducing the new hire to the rest of the team, taking them to lunch, and serving as a resource for any of their questions. You can also ask buddies to take new hires on a tour of the office or neighborhood. We ask our buddies to check in with new hires on their first day and a few times during their first week. You may even wish to provide a small budget for buddy program participants so they can invite the new hire out to coffee, juice, or for some other snack break.

5. Have the buddy contact the new hire before their start date

In order to have an even bigger impact, ask the buddies to reach out to their assigned new hires before their start date. They can send them a personalized LinkedIn invitation or a quick email to introduce themselves, explain their role as the buddy, and share their excitement about the new hire’s approaching start date.

A small gesture like this can help build anticipation and excitement, and again, assure the new hire that they won’t be left to fend for themselves during their first few days at your company.


It doesn’t take a ton of effort to put together a buddy program, but the results can have a big impact. This extra effort gives new hires one more friendly face around the office and eases the transition into a new social environment. In other words, this small gesture can have a big impact on new hire engagement and retention. So why not give it a try?

To learn more about setting up a buddy system and other elements of a comprehensive pre-boarding program, download The Practical Pre-Boarding Toolkit eBook. Get your copy by clicking below!

The Practical Pre-Boarding Toolkit

Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno is Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse, where she gets to share her love of the written word and endorse the use of the Oxford comma on a daily basis. Before joining Greenhouse, Melissa built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Filed Under:

Company Culture