Job Shadowing Programs Can Improve Employee Retention and Support Career Advancement: New Guide From McLean & Company

Career Climbers / 22nd March 2024

As the labor landscape continues to evolve in an unpredictable way, talent acquisition and retention remain critical HR priorities for organizations. In a new industry resource, Job Shadowing Guide, global HR research and advisory firm McLean & Company points to job shadowing as a tool organizations can use to address talent retention challenges, highlighting that the number one reason employees leave the average organization is opportunities for career advancement. According to the firm’s findings, job shadowing can be used across different stages of the employee lifecycle to support onboarding, career development, and knowledge and skill sharing, ultimately leading to improved employee retention as talent concerns remain top of mind for organizations across a variety of industries.

Job shadowing is defined in the new guide as what happens when employees observe experienced individuals, also called job hosts, as they perform their duties for a short period of time. Occasionally, the observing employee, also called the job shadower, may practice performing tasks. To achieve mutual benefits, such as improved employee engagement and productivity, a job shadowing program must address and provide value to the organization’s unique needs while also delivering value to the job shadowers and job hosts.

“When job shadowing programs are implemented correctly, there are additional benefits beyond employee retention for the organization, job shadowers, and job hosts alike,” says Rachel Stewart, associate vice president of HR Research & Advisory Services at McLean & Company. “These benefits include increased productivity, skill development enablement, and organizational awareness. However, achieving mutual benefits requires that the program be designed to facilitate learning and engage the right participants. 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.”

The firm’s resource acknowledges that, alongside ample benefits, there can also be challenges associated with job shadowing. For example, negative habits may be passed from the host to the shadower, and temporary reductions in productivity may occur as participants must balance their primary roles with the needs of the job shadowing program.

To assist HR leaders in understanding, planning for, and implementing the right job shadowing program for their organizations, McLean & Company’s new guide outlines 10 easy-to-follow steps, which include determining the goals and approach, selecting participants, and collecting feedback for continuous improvement. A dedicated full-page breakdown for each step is included in the complete resource.

McLean & Company advises HR leaders that ongoing coordination is required to maintain a formal program and that investing in employee learning and development through job shadowing can yield long-term dividends for all key players.

To access the full resource, please visit the Job Shadowing Guide. Please note that the guide is a component of the broader Implement a Job Rotation Program research and can be located by scrolling to the Develop the job rotation strategy section on the linked page.

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