‘Buddyships’: How teaming up your older worker with a new grad makes your business stronger


Coming out of COVID, Australian businesses face significant staffing issues, most notably is the ever-shrinking pool of talent. Entering 2022, if what we read is accurate, we also have ‘the great resignation’ on the horizon. Staffing will be what makes or breaks a business’s ability to thrive in our rapidly changing world. In countering, agile businesses identify the skills gaps in their existing workforce by upskilling and/or reskilling.

But is it enough? A Band-Aid approach when triage is needed?

Coming out of our pandemic, our workforce is a shadow version of its former self. Weary and affected, there is not much left in the tank. No matter the good intention of our employees and how much we strive, stress and burnout will undermine the recovery if wellbeing and mental health is not an urgent priority. Upskilling has merit, but the acute staffing issues leading to limited human support will have debilitating results. Humans need humans. 

This is where ‘buddyships’ come into play.

With the unemployment rate of 4.5%, a twelve-year low and total new job vacancies increasing, Australia’s staffing situation will not improve any time soon. And yet, we have a largely ignored but significant group of skilled workers, our ‘older workforce’. Equally, our more youthful workers, lacking substantial experience, are also being overlooked. Potentially we have an untapped resource for hiring, training, mentoring and ‘buddyships’.  

What is a buddyship?

A buddyship is not formal like mentoring programs; however, it is strategic. It requires thought and consideration in matching the right older and younger employee to leverage each other’s unique skill sets, attributes and personalities. 

Buddyships are more than mentoring. They are interactive and relaxed; it’s a mutual exchange of information. Both parties benefit from the learning, advice and sharing. If the concern for an older worker is their lack of technical skills, buddying up with a 20 something to show them Instagram, TikTok etc., will increase self-confidence and self-esteem which is critical to job performance. In exchange, your older worker can provide advice on formal writing and communication style, the art of negotiation, influencing etc., all skills acquired through life’s journey. 

There are no judgments. Just like a proper buddy, judgments are put aside with buddyships. The learning and advice sharing happens in a relaxed, informal, calm, evenly-paced environment, free from pressure and other’s eyes and ears.

The idea is to provide camaraderie and to break down the barriers and biases experienced not only in all work environments but generational as well. Diversity and inclusion will increase, with positive impacts for business. 

You don’t compete with your buddy. Unlike peer or other colleague support, the idea of competition is removed. Because of the age related ‘buddyship’ dynamic, people are less likely to question each other’s motives, thus eliminating the feelings of ‘threat’.

The experiences are genuine and allow true collaboration to be formed. Expectations are clear; no one has to prove anything, including the lack of hierarchy. Not needing to defend your position or power opens the mind and heart. We learn and grow faster when we feel emotionally safe and buddyships provides exactly that. Being out of your comfort zone is best when you are supported. 

Whether you are upskilling, reskilling or simply training, there are moments of stress and self-doubt and the inevitable question of whether you can do it or not. We see this being the case when onboarding new starters, especially if working remotely. Buddyships allow for a more fluid learning style and making questions welcome. The fear of looking silly if asking your peer or manager remains, no matter the age. Access to advice, knowledge and information before it reaches escalation point and undue stress is critical in supporting all staff. 

Ultimately, the goal with business initiatives and strategies are to boost productivity and performance. Simple buddyships of teaming up with new hires have been in play for some time with proven success.

The concept of the buddyship I am referring to is valuable in terms of how to overpass the generational gaps/talent shortage etc., as well as vital for our new way of working. With high-performance expectations, low staffing levels, increased stress, and limited resources for training and support, why wouldn’t we look to an alternate model?

We have five different generations working together for the first time in Australia’s working history, a unique opportunity to leverage diversity and learning, and what better way to do so than through a buddyship.


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