The greatest influencers are those closest to us
By Richard Badley
We've been looking at influencers in our recent blog series (here and here). Specifically, who influences candidates, and how.
When thinking holistically, it's pretty obvious that the factors that can influence a candidate are broad and varied. Rarely will there be a single sole factor.
It may be a combination of an organisation’s employer brand or value proposition that draws a curious candidate in. Equally, it could be the wonderfully creative (or frustratingly repetitive) attraction marketing that hooks them in the first place. And eventually (and more likely), the decision is ultimately decided with the support of someone they know. Whatever the influencing factors may be, there is evidently a range that all play a part in a candidate's eventual decision.
But influence doesn’t stop once a decision is made.
In fact, influence is most likely fully formed once a candidate has accepted and started a job. The influence of culture.
Before the point of starting a job, a business can say what they want about themselves in their marketing and communications. Sure, they might get caught out if they 'exaggerate' (lie), and peer to peer channels make the world slightly more transparent, but influence can still be manipulated and controlled. It’s subjective because a candidate doesn’t really have a true (or personal) understanding of the facts.
Until an employee actually starts in a role and engages with the people around them. Until they experience first-hand what a business does, and (more importantly) how it does it. The judgement is made on trust (on the various influencers). What really matters is the culture that is the sum of all of the people within an organisation.
So how can we positively influence the first few months in a business? How can we ensure the on-boarding process is as good as it can be? We use influencers of course. And our biggest cohort of them - our employees.
Let's introduce the most impactful influencer of them all - the buddy. We all like a buddy, but a work place buddy. That’s a whole new level of influence. And a great way to positively engage new starters. Because let’s face it, candidate experience and on-boarding really matters!
So why buddies?
They can make a substantial difference to an individual in terms of engagement, inclusion, effectiveness, productivity, satisfaction, clarity, context, understanding - the list goes on. And the impact on all of these things? Upward and positive change.
So why don’t we see more of them?
Most commonly - it’s time and ownership. Buddy schemes need careful planning, expectations need to be clear (and understood) and fundamentally, we are reliant on our buddies to do it.
Of course, everyone (in the main) has the best intentions. But the challenge often comes down to time. It's a scarcity in so many organisations. And that limits people’s engagement. Which is a great shame, because it could be said that when the reason is 'no time', it's actually another way to say 'this isn't a priority'.
Buddy schemes aren’t new. They’ve been around for ages. Right now, employer brand is the buzz topic. Rewind a few years (perhaps a decade!) and buddy schemes had their day.
So why pay attention to them now, apart from the obvious benefits listed above?
Organisations are getting bigger. What they do is become more complicated. We are swimming in a sea of b*llshit bingo. The truth is, it’s pretty hard to keep up when you have worked somewhere for ages and know it all. Imagine how hard it is when you arrive with no experience (take note - buddies are even more important for early careers).
A few days of on-boarding helps, but it doesn’t really demystify anything. It doesn’t really help you understand how things truly work. For that you need a consistent friend, someone who can go on a journey with you. Someone who can address questions as they arise. A confidant. A long term buddy.
So, what might a good buddy look like?
- They need to be willing and able to mentor someone (it’s not a badge, it’s a duty of care)
- They need to have themselves shown strong performance (coach the right way, not the wrong way)
- They need time (not a quick “you OK?”, but proper time)
- They need to understand the role of the new employee, and their duties and tasks
- It helps if they have strong communication skills
- Both sides need to get along (never underestimate a friendly smile and a trusting relationship)
And how can organisations help buddies?
- Release workload (if you are asking someone to be a buddy, respect the fact they need time)
- Ensure they understand the role and the duties
- Provide them with any resources or help that they might need to excel at being a buddy (after all, investing in buddies just means the impact is amplified across new starters)
- Consider reporting structures (it helps if the buddy and new starter are in the same function)
- Remember, even a buddy might need a buddy. Provide support and encouragement to them as well.
If you run a scheme - well done. You will be making a hugely positive impact on your new starters.
If you don’t, explore one. And don’t panic, start small. Test it with a few people, measure the impact and get feedback, learn from it and then roll out. It will be worth it.