Spotlight on… buddy schemes

Buddy schemes – where new recruits are provided with an informal mentor – are an increasingly common feature of the recruitment and induction process.

Many organisations, from investment banks to retail stores, have cottoned on to their benefits. One such example is consulting firm Accenture. It has been running buddy schemes for more than a decade, giving candidates a unique insight into life at the company before they join.

“For graduates, where they work is probably the biggest decision they’ve made up until that point,” says Susy Style, head of graduate recruitment at Accenture. “Buddy schemes provide them with a chance to talk openly with somebody who actually does the job that they’ve applied to do.”

Sharing experience

Graduates are assigned to someone who has worked at the organisation for about a year, and Accenture also tries to provide a buddy with a similar background, such as someone who studied the same course.

Initial contact is usually made by phone or e-mail, and later they may meet up to chat over coffee or lunch. It is left to the participants to determine their relationship, but it is casual and confidential. “The feedback that we’ve had is that this is the main attraction,” says Style. “They didn’t feel that it was part of the recruitment process, or that they were being assessed.”

Brand booster

It can also boost an employer’s brand in a competitive market, adds Style.

“Graduate recruitment is very competitive,” she says. “It’s a way of maintaining contact with students while they are still at university, so that even if they are going through the interview process with other organisations, we remain confident that we can talk to them and keep them interested.”

And feedback shows that it works. “We proactively ask graduates about the things that made them decide to join and have kept them here, and the buddy programme is something that always features,” says Style.

Creating a confidante

The benefits of buddy schemes don’t end with recruitment. A number of City institutions, including financial services companies Citigroup and CSFB, operate buddy schemes for mothers returning to work after maternity leave and among minority ethnic groups.

In addition, a report published by the Adult Learning Inspectorate in 2003 concluded that buddy schemes also improved employees’ chances of attaining work-based qualifications.

Either way, it can help staff and potential recruits to discuss issues they might not wish to with a line manager or future employer.

Jimmy Bastock was given a buddy a year before joining management consultancy Deloitte as an associate.

“I had a lot of questions. It was good to be able to ask someone before I joined, rather than on my first day,” he says.

In fact, Bastock’s experience was so positive that he volunteered to get involved with this year’s scheme. “If you have any queries that you wouldn’t want to discuss with your manager, you’ve always got your buddy to turn to,” he says.

Buddying is:

  • an effective recruitment and retention tool

  • a means to provide a contact within the organisation for new recruits

  • an informal forum for confidential discussion

  • a way of improving recruits’ chances of attaining work-based qualifications

How to find a mentor


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