learning and development

A 7-step Guide to Building a Successful Job Shadowing Program

Learn how to build a job shadowing program that engages and develops your employees.

Together Team

Published on 

August 11, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

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Every organization is in the quest to attract, nurture and retain top talent.

A competitive market means that organizations need to prioritize investing in diverse training initiatives and innovative ways to keep up.

One such effective method is through job shadowing opportunities, a process that offers a unique and invaluable learning experience for employees.

A job shadowing program gives interested employees the chance to watch, observe, and sometimes perform the duties of another employee in the same role.

Incorporating job shadowing into your talent development and mentorship strategy provides opportunities for employees to learn from skilled professionals in the same organization for a specific period at no additional cost. But there is more to it besides affordability and efficiency.

What is job shadowing and its types?

Job shadowing refers to working alongside a professional to learn more about what they do on a daily basis.

And then adapt and improvise to learn that skill and grow.

There are three types of job shadowing:

Observation

Simply put, the shadow spends a mutually agreed-upon time observing the host's daily work. It's like getting a front-row seat to see what the host does day in and day out. 

This is a great opportunity for the shadow to gain a deeper understanding of the host's job role. The host will be open to answering questions and discussing the experience afterward for maximum benefit.

Regular Briefings

The shadow works together with the host for certain activities for a specific amount of time.

They both stay focused to learn a specific skill together.

This approach works best when the shadow and the host work very close with each other. It allows the host to plan for upcoming activities and give homework to the shadower to make the process even more effective.

Hands-On

With this type, shadowers get to roll up their sleeves and try their hand at some of the tasks they observed and learned. 

The host closely supervises to answer any questions and make it a valuable and convenient learning experience. 

This type of job shadow experience is sometimes hard to implement because it is resource-intensive and requires a case-by-case discussion.

Benefits of a job shadowing program

Without a doubt, job shadowing benefits both companies and employees, making it an essential tool for nurturing talent.

Its interactive learning approach offers a variety of advantages that contribute to building an empowered workforce within any organization.

Moreover, job shadowing allows companies to discover and develop emerging leaders while fostering a culture of mentorship and collaboration.

Benefits for companies

Job shadowing programs enable organizations to make the most of their existing resources for growth and development purposes.

This means they can avoid the need to hire resources while leveraging the talent already present within the organization.

Looking at the seniors, employees automatically develop a sense of purpose and a deeper connection to their roles.

They feel valued and this increased engagement leads to higher productivity and overall job satisfaction.

First, job shadowing can identify fresh high-performing talent and nurture them for future leadership roles.

Second, aspiring leaders gain valuable insight into the responsibilities and expectations of higher positions.

Cross-functional job shadowing fosters collaboration and breaks down communication barriers between different teams, leading to more cohesive and efficient workflows overall.

Benefits for employees

When employees get cross-training opportunities this equips them with additional competencies, practical skills, and a handful of hacks.

They learn new skills under the right supervision and become more versatile and valuable for the organization.

New employees gain firsthand insights into the inner workings of their team and the broader organization. 

This immersive experience is key to a deeper understanding of processes, workflows, and the company’s culture.

Employees get the chance to explore potential career paths within the organization for themselves due to an increase in internal mobility. 

This exploration not only aligns with their personal aspirations and career goals but also nurtures a culture of growth and development in the organization.

The individuals being shadowed get the chance to develop their mentoring abilities while reflecting on their own roles.

This reciprocal knowledge exchange fosters a collaborative learning environment in the organization, which boosts employee engagement and growth.

How to build a job shadowing program at your organization

Step 1: Outline your goals for the job shadowing program 

Ask yourself what you want to accomplish from your job shadowing program.

You may have different goals for different situations and purposes.

For example, having new recruits ramp up more quickly, promoting internal mobility, or cross-training employees for certain tasks are a few examples of aims you could have.

You should also consider how you'll measure this as well.

Step 2: Create a framework, build a list of professionals in different departments who are open to being shadowed

Once you are confident about what you are after, the next step is to come up with a well-planned framework.

Make sure it aligns with your organization's internal processes, some core elements like values and culture and will be able to address any potential issues. 

After this, build a list of professionals from different departments and engage with them.

Ask them if they’re willing to share their expertise and be shadowed.

Write down the names and departments of the employees who agree and build an internal application process.

Step 3: Educate your employees on the benefits

You must inform people about the benefits of the program in order to get their participation (both as hosts and shadowers).

For instance, you could send an email summarising the program or schedule a quick training session.

Discuss the program's advantages, necessary information about people participating, and frequently asked questions.

In addition, you can hold a web conference or a meeting with managers to go through the specifics of the work shadowing strategy's implementation and key benefits.

Mention the possibilities the program may bring and the solid case studies of businesses that have already implemented it and succeeded.

When gaining leadership support, emphasize how it benefits the organization's bottom line.

Step 4: Build excitement around the initiative

Your team plays a pivotal role in generating excitement for the prigram. Ask team members to encourage co-workers and raise everyone’s interest in the job shadowing idea. 

You can also use effective means of communication like a discussion forum, social media or a group conference.

Highlight the advantages and possibilities of the job shadowing program and share educational resources, wins, and success stories to pique employees’ curiosity.

Create a favorable environment for a fruitful and useful job shadowing experience at the workplace.

Step 5: Train participants, both the shadowers and the shadowed

It is critical to take the time to inform participants, both the shadowers and shadows of what to expect prior to their participation.

Make sure that everyone is on the same page and clear about what they want from the program and what they can dedicate themselves to.

Send them an email explaining how to develop a rapport with a senior employee, and encouraging them to ask questions and take notes. 

This helps them feel less stressed and become more involved in the program.

Moreover, by providing them with the appropriate questions, milestones, and goals, you may aid them in understanding what they're hoping to get from it.

Step 6: Give the program a structure

You can make the most of your job shadowing program if you have a well-thought-out structure for it.

You must respond to the following inquiries on each day of the work shadowing program:

Will there be meetings, and what will they cover, if there are?

What particular goals drive the actions or projects the shadower will undertake?

Does the coach require special instruction, support, or equipment to meet these goals?

Plan out each day of work shadowing with the help of the coaches, and urge them to socialize as much as possible with the shadowers.

Step 7: Gather program feedback

Obtain program evaluations and make improvements. Conduct a survey or brief interview to find out about the experiences of hosts and shadows. 

You will get fresh job shadowing ideas, and discover how to increase the outcome of your program.

It's possible that you won't complete any new endeavor perfectly the first time. 

Getting participant input helps you to determine what works and what you can improve upon moving forward. 

It's acceptable if you find that what works for other businesses doesn't fully apply to yours. Every learning curve involves trial and error.

Build job shadowing opportunities into your mentorship program

If you want to grow your organization at scale and leverage the right talent most effectively then a job shadowing program is the right move.

Job shadowing program promotes peer mentoring and helps to cultivate the best learning and growth experience for employees.

If you have a mentorship program in your organization you can introduce a job shadowing program as a component to boost the results.

Find out how Together’s mentoring software can help. Book a demo here

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