Be my buddy?

Buddy schemes are increasingly used by social services to help recruits integrate into new jobs. But how organised is the induction and how succesfull are the schemes?

Recent research highlights some of the pitfalls of the unstructured approach and how buddy schemes can be improved.

IRS Employment Review carried out a review of 139 employers’ buddy schemes and found that nearly 60 per cent of public sector bodies operated such schemes and 56 per cent of private sector firms.

The research found that the vast majority of such schemes were very informal with only some support for buddies and employers usually did not match buddies to recruits.

Also buddy schemes were for some category of recruits only, for example in social services they were used for “grow your own” social workers or those from ethnic minorities.

The buddies provided companionship, introduced the recruit to fellow staff and provide “nuts and bolts” information such as health and safety, where the canteen was and what benefits were provided by the employer.

But only one in five employers provided guidance for buddies and there was often a grey area of responsibility between the line manager and the buddy.

The research found that 84 per cent of buddies learned new skills and four out of 10 were more confident to take on new tasks and roles in the organisation.

But how successful were the schemes for the recruits? Less than half of HR departments said the schemes were successful – four out of 10 – while one in seven said they were not.

The research made several proposals for improving the schemes.

• More formal arrangements and guidance on purpose and aims to help buddies and recruits.
• Clarify the roles of line managers and buddies.
• Review roles periodically
• Recruit buddies based on communication skills and compatibility. Most buddies were asked informally to do the role while only 1 per cent were recruited formally internally in the organisation.
• Clarify the duration of the scheme – many varied between four weeks and being open-ended. The research recommended six months as an ideal length for such a scheme.
• More support for buddies including HR resources.

Overall the research found the schemes to be informal, very demanding on buddies’ time and skills and not as successful as they could be with the right support, more investment in time, skills and training. With buddies becoming a feature of many social services departments, managers should begin to plan the schemes to make them an integral part of a recruits working life rather as an informal add-on.

• Research from  IRS Employment Review, 21 July 2006

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