You have no doubt heard of work shadowing. It’s something which is typically used as part of an induction, or training process. The idea being that an employee goes and sits with another employee, to observe them working. Why? Well, the benefits are multiple. It’s a chance to observe working practises first hand. An opportunity to absorb knowledge and to learn new skills via direct observation. For new joiners to the business, it also provides time to get to know colleagues and start to build those all-important working relationships.
Many organisations incorporate work shadowing as part of a formal induction or training process, seeing the benefits it can bring. The percentage encouraging this as an ongoing means of learning and development, however, is far lower.
A valuable tool
At Benefex, I am an enthusiastic promoter of work shadowing for all employees, within all departments, at all stages of their career with us. Why? Well, I personally believe that it’s one of the most valuable tools we have in our armoury, and one which is frequently underutilised.
You see, work shadowing can deliver so much more than just the basic understanding of how to carry out a particular job role. Not convinced? Here are five benefits of work shadowing, which your organisation could be profiting from, right now:
If you’re encouraging people to spend time cross functionally, it stands to reason that communication is going to improve. Too often, we work in organisational silos. Where we do that, we directly encourage inefficiencies and allow things to fall between the cracks. Regularly spending time outside of our own team breaks down the barriers and can transform communication across the business.
We’ve all been in situations where one team has used another to be the fall guy. “Well, of course that project failed… it was Team X’s fault.” Or, similarly, found ourselves on the receiving end of an impossible deadline, set with the client by another team. Usually, this doesn’t happen through malice, but rather through a lack of understanding of what that team needs to deliver in order to make it happen. As we spend more time with other teams, we better understand the challenges they face and the realities of their day to day delivery, and can make decisions and judgement calls accordingly.
An organisation will live and die by its culture. The problem though is that sometimes that culture becomes siloed within teams. The culture of our call centre, for example, may be very different to the culture of our technical teams. While some variations in culture are normal, there is a danger that this can start to create friction between different teams: friction that risks eroding our culture.
By actively encouraging people to spend time with other teams, we allow positive cultural attributes to spread outside of that team, and ensure a culture which is both strong and inclusive, rather than divisive.
Work shadowing is the perfect opportunity to dispel once and for all the theory that learning only happens inside of a classroom. Encourage your employees to record the learnings they obtain through spending time sitting with their colleagues. Better still: work with them to establish clear learning goals, then show them the opportunities shadowing will give them to achieve these. If you are looking to foster a culture of continuous learning, then work shadowing should become absolutely central to this.
More Effective Delivery
Ultimately, our goal always needs to be to deliver. When we allow our teams to regularly spend time cross functionally, we start to uncover efficiencies and find better ways of working. A fresh pair of eyes allows us to question the way we do something, instead of just doing it that way because we’ve always done so. Work shadowing will directly lead us to greater efficiencies and more effective delivery. Which should be enough of a reason for any senior leader to implement it within their organisation today.