How many times have you seen a young hire, brimming with energy and enthusiasm, suffer from a lack of guidance and feel overwhelmed in just a few months? Or seen discord within a cross-functional team who cannot understand each other’s job roles? Or noticed junior managers feeling unsure about taking added responsibility? All these cases call for a simple but hands-on training method that is oft forgotten – job shadowing.

Job shadowing is commonly used to acquaint young adults with different career options, but not many employers consider its benefits for employees as well. Here are some surprising ways job shadowing can help not only that new hire, but also a functional expert or a mid-career professional:

Gaining knowledge

Professor Art Markman at the University of Texas, Austin, suggests that supporting subordinates in their growth and development trajectory requires more than just delegating tasks. Job shadowing lets them observe you take key actions and decisions throughout the workday and soon emulate them. A senior coder, for instance, can help a junior learn the ropes by explaining how she employs a particular tool or code, as she actually uses it.

Developing empathy

Bruno Bergher, VP of Product and Design at Gladly, recounts how designers tend to feel unconnected to the engineers and product managers they work with. For cross-functional teams, a week or two of job shadowing can help build empathy and better understand where a team member may be coming from and what affects his or her responsibilities. This helps reduce discord within the team, as well as improve cross-functional thinking and innovation.

Building confidence

Many mid-career professionals aspire for a management role – it is the next big step in their career. However, few feel confident about pulling it off. While training programs help, getting up, close, and personal, with the aspects of leadership in everyday operations may not be easy. By job shadowing a senior consultant, manager, or partner, an emerging leader can see what the role entails and develop the confidence to grab upcoming managerial roles.

Keen to see if job shadowing can help your team? Test it out for a week or a month and exchange notes to see how your team benefitted.

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