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What is Job Shadowing?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated: May 16, 2024

Job shadowing is actually one of the most common of all training techniques for new employees. Essentially, it involves spending a period of time with a seasoned expert, observing everything that he or she does that is related to the work that is expected to be accomplished as part of the daily routine of the job. Involving one new employee to act as the observer, and one person to function as the demonstrator, this allows the new hire a chance to get a handle of what is involved in performing the tasks associated with the work.

Job shadowing can commence at one of two points in the job training process. One of the most common is to assign the new hire to an established employee on the first day. The new hire may spend one to five days following the routine of the employee, learning general job responsibilities, observing how the tasks are carried out, and getting some insight into methods that allow for efficient handling of the job.

Another option is to implement the job shadowing after a period of orientation in a classroom setting has taken place. With this application, the shadowing allows the new hire to already have some background into the workings of the company, with the observation that is picked up during the shadowing building on that foundation of orientation. The combination of structured educational classes with the job observation of an employee with extensive work experience works very well in a number of settings.

The concept of job shadowing has many advantages. First, the new hire may often feel intimidated about performing tasks for the first time. By allowing the new person to follow a long time employee for a day or two, this can often build up the confidence of the new employee. Along with this advantage, job shadowing allows the new hire to see procedures and methods in actual situations. This can help to bring to life some of the scenarios that were outlined in the training materials, making them much more real to the new hire than they were in the safe environment of the classroom.

A third benefit of job shadowing is that the new hire often has a chance to begin building rapport with other employees, which can help to integrate him or her into the job team more quickly. Acceptance into the group can often help the new employee relax and focus on learning the best ways to get things done, rather than being apprehensive about fitting into the corporate culture.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including SmartCapitalMind, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon282858 — On Jul 31, 2012

The person shadowing me didn't quite understand that I could tell that I was being shadowed. (i.e. mouse would move on it's on, etc.) Also, I had more experience with the software so the trainer/supervisor was slower than I was. You can see where this was going! For my dignity, I had to quit my job and there was no way to explain what was going on to HR because they wouldn't get it either.

By anon252778 — On Mar 06, 2012

When was job shadowing first used as a training tool by employers?

By anon129607 — On Nov 24, 2010

Any precedence out there for job shadowing at the Senior Management level? Similar to BADinPA post, any measures and expectations of outcome? What about duration that has worked for others at this level (lot of money tied up in two senior managers for five days). Thanks.

By anon63932 — On Feb 04, 2010

well i'm in job shadowing in willmar, minnesota and it's really great.

By anon52183 — On Nov 12, 2009

If this is a student coming for job shadowing and is not employed at the company, does he/she get remunerated and an injury on duty occur while on the premises of the company what liability should the company bear?

By anon22716 — On Dec 09, 2008

All your questions would make excellent wiseGEEK articles. Please consider submitting them by using the "wiseGEEK features" drag down menu at the top of the page.

By BADinPA — On Dec 09, 2008

I have multiple questions about job shadowing...

1. Are there specific types of assignments where job shadowing is most effective and are there specific type of assignments that do not lend themselves to job shadowing?

2.What are the responsibilities of the shadowing employee and the shadowed employee? What role is played by the managers of these employees?

3.What are the specific outcomes expected from the shadowing experience?

4.What is a reasonable expected duration of a shadowing assignment in a computer systems integration assignment? If it is more than a few weeks, it it really an apprenticeship?

5.If the anticipated outcomes are not achieved, what happens next?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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