Job shadowing is a way for employees to prepare for new roles or discover new opportunities. For HR, job shadowing is a tool that enables internal mobility in an efficient way. L&D professionals should monitor job shadowing sessions to ensure that any recognized skill gaps are dealt with, even before the employee makes their move.
What is Job Shadowing?
Job shadowing is when one employee follows a more experienced colleague or manager – we’ll call them mentors – as they perform their daily tasks. Most people think of job shadowing as a form of onboarding. However, it can be used in any situation where somebody wants to be shown around so they get a ‘feel’ for the work, even before they take on the job. For example, a classic form of job shadowing is a ‘ride along’ with an emergency responder by someone who is considering work in that field.
What are the Advantages of Job Shadowing?
Job shadowing provides many benefits to all levels of stakeholders.
For an employee, it can be an effective chance to explore opportunities before making a decision. Job shadowing lets them see their mentor in action, and understand what the work entails beyond the role description. Going along for a few hours or a day lets the employee discover what problems often arise and how to handle them. Job shadowing also allows an employee to think deeply about how they would fit – if they would do well in the new role, and enjoy it too. This can go a long way towards reducing disappointment and increasing engagement.
If an employee has already decided to accept the position, job shadowing is a great way to learn the ropes. Every job has its tips and tricks, and getting first-hand advice can put the employee in a better starting position than someone who needs to learn inside information on their own. If an employee has questions, job shadowing is a great opportunity to ask them in real time. Finally, job shadowing can be a way to minimize long training sessions that might be a bit too abstract.
Job shadowing is also beneficial for various HR responsibilities like talent development and organizational design. When employees like what they see while job shadowing, they are more likely to accept new roles. On a large scale, this supports organizational design because it allows moving workers to new strategic areas. By introducing employees to different roles, a company can achieve cross-training, which makes replacing absent workers and interdepartmental cooperation (including social networking) easier.
HR also benefits by getting employee input regarding skills. After a job shadowing session, a worker might realize that they require a bit more experience in a certain skill. Training the employee before they start in the new role will save time and frustration.
How Job Shadowing Works
To be effective, a job shadowing program requires several steps:
First, HR should create a framework that sets out the goals of the program. Is the objective to support onboarding, promote internal hiring, or develop cross-training opportunities? Each goal will require a different schedule and arrangement. For example, an onboarding process might involve several candidates looking at one set of responsibilities, while an internal hiring process for managers can focus on one candidate learning about various roles.
It’s also important to identify success metrics. Let’s say the objective is cross-training. The metric, in this case, would compare the performance of employees who engage in job shadowing to those who simply move straight into the role.
Next up is the recruiting of mentors. They must be willing to participate, have the ability to teach, and receive permission from their superior. The mentor should get a briefing about the importance of job shadowing and how they can add to the experience, perhaps by encouraging questions or detailing ‘secrets’ of success in the position.
Participants should also get some background. Explain to them what they can expect and what their goals should be. Let them know that asking questions is important, but that letting the mentor run through their tasks is the real goal.
Once the session is complete, make sure to review the process with the candidate and the mentor so that the program can be improved. Of course, if the target of the activity is to introduce the employee to new roles, get their feedback about why (or why not) they are interested in moving forward.
GrowthSpace – Before, During, and After
It may be called shadowing, but this process sheds quite a bit of light. By analyzing the employees interested in job shadowing, employers can discover which workers are lacking which skills. That’s where GrowthSpace’s talent development solution comes in: Our L&D platform lets organizations of any size pinpoint the skills their people need and design a personalized L&D program to reach their professional goals.