The Island of Misfit Newbies

By:  Kim Barclay

When you start a new job or are in a new environment, do you feel like you are a misfit on an island?  When you enter a situation that you don’t know the culture, dynamics, rules or routines; one can feel very isolated.  Most of us have been there and it’s a very uncomfortable place to be.

After I chatted with several co-workers in my office about how frustrating it was to navigate the office when we were first hired; a few of us thought if we came up with a plan for a new hire orientation, that it would assist new employees immensely and make them feel more educated about the office environment.  We presented our idea to ownership and they gave us the opportunity to develop what has become our “buddy” program.

I believe that this has developed into one of our company’s best practices. This program helps new employees build relationships with all the staff in the office instead of just their department team members.  It also helps identify the immediate needs of the new employee which is imperative for them to function and feel more at home in their new environment.  Knowing the dress code, where to park, how to fax, and protocol on office amenities gives a person a sense of comfort that they need in the first couple of days at a new job.

The materials for our program consist of:

  • Client list, descriptions and the staff assigned to each client
  • List of office staff, with photos and a short bio (great resource tool)
  • List of office “Do’s & Don’ts”

These materials are an integral part of the program.  This gives the new employee important information about the office culture and the “un-written rules” that may not be included in the official 01employee handbook.  A good example from our office is the daily upkeep and schedule for cleaning the office kitchen.  The details are not in the handbook, but it is information the new employee needs to know.  Furthermore, we include other culture “rules” that our company has adopted.  We have even implemented a fun scavenger hunt where the “buddy” gives the new employee a list of questions, both personal and work related for the new hire to find the answers to.  This is a fun, non-intimidating way for the staff and new person to become familiar with each other and to learn both work related and personal elements of staff, clients and departments.

If your office doesn’t have an orientation or “buddy” system, I highly recommend starting one.  I personally think that it is one of the most important programs our company has implemented.  In the five years I have been here, the return on the time investment will come back ten-fold and your new staff will feel educated, relieved and welcome into their new office “home”.


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