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Job shadowing (or work shadowing) is a popular on-the-job learning, career development, and leadership development intervention. Essentially, job shadowing involves working with another employee who might have a different job in hand, might have something to teach, or can help the person shadowing him or her to learn new aspects related to the job, organization, certain behaviors or competencies. Organizations have been using this as a very effective tool for learning. Some of the applications of job shadowing are the following:
- New job training: Consider an individual planning to take up a different role in the same organization. The individual may be asked to shadow the current incumbent for a couple of days to months to get a better idea of his or her role, as well as understand the particulars of the same without the commitment of the responsibility. This helps the individual to be more confident, aware, and also better prepared to take up the role. For the organization it reduces the chances of failure and reduces the time required for the individual to be fully productive.
- Career development: With multiple options available for somebody to grow in an organization, job shadowing can help to get a better sense of options available and the required competencies for the same. An employee may shadow senior employees in various positions/functions to appreciate and get a better idea about what it takes to build a career there.
- Developing expertise: At the core of job shadowing is its ability to transmit knowledge and expertise to another person. By doing a planned work, job shadowing can support knowledge management and ensuring that deep expertise and knowledge are not lost.
- Leadership development: Many organizations use job shadowing as an effective tool for leadership development. Aspiring leaders are given opportunities to shadow senior leaders and learn from them. It effectively complements classroom learning and aspiring leaders get to experience first hand what it takes to be a leader.
Job shadowing helps both parties to learn and exchange ideas. It helps in networking, exploring opportunities, giving/receiving feedback, and collaboration with different departments.
Cyber-shadowing refers to a type of job shadowing that relies on use of IT remote administration software to remotely view another workers computer screen to track their progress and learn from their work at a distance, often without the knowing that they are being spied upon.
In the late 2000s, cyber-shadowing evolved into a technique of abuse used to cherry-pick the trade secrets and knowledge from experienced engineers that due to economic conditions had become partially employed and forced to work as contingency workers during this period of time. This led to an era of contingency workers scams in the engineering field for a period of 5–10 years where companies were purposely hiring and firing experienced engineers repeatedly only for the purpose of using cyber-shadowing to steal trade secrets and without intent to really use the services of these contingency workers, until these permanent workers in the companies had amassed a huge collection of the personal software tools and programing techniques from the abused contingency workers for handing jobs that were otherwise thought to be difficult and unpleasant. This problem was particularly acute in the semiconductor field which has shown very strong demographics changes of employee towards people from India and Asia as a result of the prevalence of cyber-shadowing inside of companies in recent years.