What’s Job Shadowing and How to Implement It in Your Organization

By Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder
Published: Apr 5, 2024
Job shadowing is a simple yet powerful tool for learning and growth within an organization. In this article we'll explore all you need to know if you are considering to implement it.
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Quick Introduction to Job Shadowing

Job shadowing is a simple yet powerful tool for learning and growth within an organization. Here’s what you need to know in a nutshell:

  • What is Job Shadowing? It’s when an employee observes another at work to understand their role better.
  • Why It Matters: It helps in adapting to new roles, learning new skills, understanding workplace culture, and fostering teamwork.
  • Types: Includes internal, cross-functional, career-specific, and executive shadowing, along with virtual options.
  • Implementation Steps: Set clear goals, develop a framework, secure leadership buy-in, prepare participants, launch the program, and gather feedback for improvement.
  • Benefits: Speeds up onboarding, identifies skill gaps, prepares future leaders, and enhances job satisfaction.

Job shadowing aligns with organizational goals by ensuring the right fit for teams and promoting a culture of continuous learning and adaptation. Whether you’re looking to understand a role better, see if someone fits your team, or simply learn something new, job shadowing can be tailored to meet these needs.

The Relevance of Job Shadowing

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With jobs changing quickly these days, job shadowing can help employees pick up new skills. It’s good for:

  • Preparing for future job openings
  • Seeing if someone fits well with a team
  • Finding out what someone is good at and what they need to work on
  • Coming up with new ideas by seeing how different jobs work

Job shadowing makes it easier for people to adapt to changes by learning about different roles.

Key Aspects of Job Shadowing

Here’s what makes job shadowing special:

  • Short-term – It’s quick, usually less than a week. You get to see a lot without sticking around too long.
  • Observational – You’re mainly watching and picking up things, not doing the work yourself.
  • Immersive – You get a close look at what the job is like every day.
  • Hands-on – You might get to try a few things under someone’s watch.
  • Flexible – It can be shaped to fit what you need, like checking out if a job is right for you or learning something new.

Job shadowing is great for getting a real feel for a job quickly. It’s also handy because you can make it fit what you or your organization needs, whether that’s understanding a role better, seeing if someone is a good fit, or learning new ways to do things.

The Value of Job Shadowing

Job shadowing is really helpful for companies, the people who work there, and folks looking to join. It’s a way for people to learn by watching others work, which helps everyone get better at what they do.

Benefits for Organizations

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For companies, this practice helps by:

  • Making it easier for new people to get used to their jobs quickly
  • Spotting what skills are missing and where people can learn from each other
  • Helping future leaders get a peek at higher-level jobs
  • Figuring out who’s ready for bigger roles
  • Finding ways to make work smoother and more efficient
Benefits for Employees

For those who work there, this practice serves to:

  • Helps them learn new things from coworkers who know their stuff
  • Lets them meet more people and find mentors
  • Lets them try out different jobs to see what fits best
  • Makes them feel valued because the company wants them to grow
Benefits for Prospective Talent

People thinking about joining can:

  • Get a real feel for the job to see if it’s what they want
  • Meet people in the company and make connections
  • Learn what the company is all about and if they fit in

Types of Job Shadowing

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Job shadowing can happen in a few different ways inside a company. It’s all about letting employees learn from each other. This can help new folks get up to speed or let current employees learn about other jobs they might be interested in.

Internal

This is when employees learn from others in the same area of the company. For example, if you work in sales, you might watch what a sales manager does to learn about managing. It’s a good way to help people get used to their jobs.

Cross-functional

Here, employees learn from people in totally different parts of the company. Like, someone who works in IT might spend time with someone in HR to understand how they hire people. It’s great for getting everyone to understand each other’s jobs better.

Career-specific

If someone’s thinking about changing their career path within the company, they can shadow someone in that new area. It’s like if an accountant wanted to learn what a financial controller does to see if they’d like to switch to that role.

Executive

This is for employees who are being prepared for big leadership roles. They get to learn from top bosses to understand the company’s big-picture strategies. It helps make sure that when it’s their turn to lead, they’re ready.

Virtual

For employees who work from different places, job shadowing can still happen through video calls. This way, even if you’re not in the same location, you can still learn from others.

Implementing a Job Shadowing Program

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1. Set Clear Goals and Objectives

Start by figuring out what you want the job shadowing program to achieve. Think about the skills you want people to learn, the knowledge they should get, or how it will help your organization. Look at what your organization needs and pick areas where job shadowing can make a difference. Having clear goals gives you a plan for setting up the program.

2. Develop a Framework

After you know your goals, create a plan that explains:

  • How long the program will last (a few hours, a full day, a week, etc.)
  • How often and when shadowing will happen
  • If it will be just watching or if there will be a chance to try things out
  • How you’ll check what’s learned before, during, and after shadowing

Having a clear plan and expectations makes everything run smoothly.

3. Secure Leadership Buy-In

It’s important to explain to the people in charge how job shadowing can really help, like making workers more engaged and wanting to stay longer. Encourage leaders to join in and show everyone it’s important. When bosses are involved, it encourages everyone to take part.

4. Prepare Participants and Hosts

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Give the people shadowing and those being shadowed instructions on:

  • What they should aim to do, expect, and be responsible for
  • How to ask good questions and take notes
  • Surveys to fill out during and after the shadowing

Getting ready ahead of time makes sure both sides know what they should do, making it a useful experience.

5. Launch the Program

Start small with a test run of the program and then slowly include more people. Be open to changing things based on what people say at the start. Share the successes to get more people interested.

6. Gather Feedback and Improve

Ask for honest feedback from both the shadowers and those being shadowed, during and after the program, to see what works and what doesn’t. Keep track of how many people take part and how well it works. Make changes based on what you learn.

Improving the program over time, based on feedback, makes job shadowing really effective.

Key Takeaways

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Job shadowing is a smart move for many reasons. It helps people learn faster, work better together, and get ready for bigger roles. Plus, it makes employees more excited about their work and stick around longer.

What Job Shadowing Does

  • Helps employees learn quickly by watching and learning from others
  • Makes it easier for teams and departments to share what they know
  • Gets future leaders ready for their roles
  • Keeps employees interested and brings new ideas

How to Start Job Shadowing

  • Be clear about what you want to achieve
  • Plan how it will work and how long it will last
  • Make sure the bosses are on board
  • Get everyone ready
  • Kick things off
  • Listen to feedback and make it better

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Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder

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