Need development ideas? Consider job shadowing, McLean & Co. says

Employees often leave organizations due to a lack of development opportunities, according to McLean & Co., but when budgets are tight, employers can consider learning opportunities outside the traditional L&D structure, the company said in a March 21 report.

One option? Job shadowing.

In a typical job shadowing program, employees observe what McLean referred to as “job hosts” as they perform their duties. Shadowers may also practice the tasks themselves. The challenge, the report noted, is ensuring job shadowing brings value to both the shadower and the host.

“Achieving mutual benefits requires that the program be designed to facilitate learning and engage the right participants,” Rachel Stewart, associate vice president of HR Research & Advisory Services at McLean & Company, said in a statement. “As observation doesn’t always lead to knowledge or skill transfer, hosts must be carefully selected to ensure they are competent in their roles and have a desire to build mentoring, coaching, and leadership skills.”

Job shadowing programs may traditionally be thought of as programs geared toward high school students to interest them in career paths — and while certain industries have found a place for that, McLean’s report indicated that may not be the only use for shadowing.

A job shadowing program may improve internal mobility and organizational awareness, at a lower cost than other training methods, the report said. It can also serve as a way for employees to preview certain career paths and practice new skills while hosts gain mentorship abilities and networking opportunities.

Job shadowing also can improve company processes by obtaining an outsider’s perspective, the report added. However, such programs may incidentally pass on negative habits and impede productivity as job hosts adjust to new expectations on their time, the firm cautioned; that means HR may need to provide ongoing coordination to ensure success.

Work-based learning overall has garnered new attention, especially as employers push toward skills-based hiring.