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Job Shadowing Is Effective On-the-Job Training


Man and woman pore over reports

Job Shadowing Allows Career Planning

iStockphoto / Jacob Wackerhausen

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Job shadowing is a type of on-the-job employee job training in which a new employee or an employee desiring to become familiar with a job, follows and observes a trained and experienced employee. Job shadowing is an effective form of job training for certain jobs.

Job shadowing allows a student, employee, or intern to gain comprehensive knowledge about what an employee who holds a particular job does in that job every day. Job shadowing provides a far richer experience than reading a job description or doing an informational interview during which an employee describes his or her work.

Job shadowing allows the observer to see and understand the nuances of a particular job.

Who Participates in Job Shadowing?

Job shadowing is effective when an organization is onboarding a new employee and when longer term employees want to learn about different jobs in the company. Job shadowing is also effective for students who may want to test their interest in a career by finding out what happens in a particular job day-by-day. Job shadowing is an essential component of any internship experience; interns need the opportunity to experience a range of jobs within a company.

Job shadowing is effective for any job in which the “seeing” is more graphic than the “telling,” or when the seeing is an important component of the learning. When job shadowing, the individual sees the actual performance of the job in action. But, in job shadowing, the participant also sees and experiences the nuances of how the service is provided or the job performed.

The participant experiences the employee’s approach, the interpersonal interaction required, the steps and actions necessary, and the components needed to effectively perform the job that the employee might never think to mention.

While all jobs can have a component of job shadowing as part of their training and employee development plan, job shadowing is especially effective for jobs such as these.

  • Restaurant employees: serving staff, bartenders, cooks, chefs, bus persons, cashiers, hosts, and so on.
  • Medical professions: physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, physicians, radiologists, surgeons, and so on.
  • Manufacturing jobs: supervisors, quality control, skilled trades employees, machine operators, tool and die makers, machinists, and so forth.
  • Administration: receptionists, administrative assistants, secretaries, clerks, and so forth.
  • Skilled Trades: carpenters, painters, woodworkers, electricians, plumbers, heating and cooling technicians, and so forth.

These examples demonstrate the types of jobs in which learning by job shadowing is an essential component. But, learning in any job is enhanced by a component of job shadowing. So, don’t automatically eliminate, for example, positions such as a management job. A job shadowing employee can attend meetings, participate in brainstorming sessions, take notes during planning sessions, debrief job candidates, and participate in a variety of non-confidential activities.

Find out more about why organizations might want to use job shadowing as an essential component in their on-the-job training methods.

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