At 360Learning, we’re resolutely remote-first.
While we firmly believe in the advantages remote work has in terms of work-life balance, flexibility, and productivity, sometimes people do still wonder...can it be a tad isolating? Does it leave some employees feeling cut off?
If guardrails aren’t put in place, maybe. That’s why, among many other initiatives, our L&D team champions job shadowing training.
Not only does walking a mile in your colleague's shoes build empathy and collaboration, it can also open the door to a career shift, and ensure 360Learners are continually developing professionally. Plus, it helps HR teams accurately assess the scope of new roles.
In short, job shadowing training keeps employees motivated and working well together, especially long-distance. For any L&D team looking to launch their first job shadowing or ‘day in the life’ training, we’ve laid out our first timer’s guide, below.
Broadly speaking, job shadowing is a simple way to show what the day-to-day looks like for a particular occupation. Students or soon-to-be graduates turn to job shadowing to help them choose their next educational step, or assess whether a particular career path is right for them. Job shadowing can also be useful for employed adults considering a change in profession.
In these scenarios, the idea is to provide practical details to enable people to make the best decision for their goals. Those doing the shadowing may want to know what skills are needed to be successful in a certain role, if the routine of a profession fits their own preferences, etc. It can also be useful in setting up future contacts.
In our case, we had a slightly different aim. With our job shadowing (which we referred to as ‘day in the life’ training), we were essentially looking to build empathy and understanding. For teams to work well together, they need to have a firsthand understanding of what their counterparts are doing; their challenges, strong points, and constraints. We hoped this clearer view would foster better communication and collaboration across the board.
As an added bonus, it also helps our HR team to get a clearer picture of job descriptions, helping them accurately scope new roles for workforce planning.
What does a job shadowing course actually look like? First thing to note is that we kept each of our courses short—around ten minutes. Since we know everyone’s busy, we wanted this to feel like a microlearning course that learners could slip into their day when it was convenient.
Another important point is that we also used a Collaborative Learning approach, meaning that we asked our subject-matter experts—the people doing the jobs that were being shadowed—to create their own courses within the 360Learning platform. This is pretty easy since we have a built-in authoring tool that anyone can use. The L&D team was a facilitator, but the heart of the courses were created by employees themselves. (You can learn more about Collaborative Learning in our ebook, below):
Lastly, there are a few key elements we think should be a part of any job shadowing or day in the life training:
It may sound obvious, but you want to frame your training course and explain to the learner what they’re in for. Having the person whose job is being shadowed film themselves doing a quick presentation is a great way to set this up, since it adds a personal touch. The 360Learning platform has a built-in video recording feature, which we encouraged course creators to use for this purpose.
The learner wants to get a feel for what your daily routine is; recurring work and key projects, typical tasks, what happens in a normal morning vs. afternoon, when you make time for deep work and when you’re in collaboration mode…
What do you do for lunch? How do you take a quick break or unwind? We asked our course creators to include an informal activity that described what they do for downtime during the workday. We didn’t push anyone to reveal anything too personal, but we encouraged them to share a tip, like a recipe or lunchtime hangout spot.
Adding questions and generally getting the learner to interact with the material you want them to learn is much more effective than asking them to passively absorb information. Throwing in questions, quizzes, interactive media, or polls achieves this aim beautifully. The person who created the activity below used 360Learning’s Genially integration to build an interactive, didactic worksheet.
If each job shadowing course has these above elements, it’s complete and engaging enough to give learners a thorough understanding of their colleague’s job. If you set up your program using 360Learning, learners can even take the courses on the go (thanks to the mobile app), or in the flow of work—basically, whenever it suits them.
Your first step is to get your volunteers that are able and willing to create your job shadowing courses. Reach out individually to people, explain the stakes and workload clearly, and get a list of subject-matter experts lined up for the entire campaign before launching it. Pay special attention to roles or profiles you think could use the visibility—perhaps roles that are underappreciated or happen ‘in the background.’
When finalizing your list, you want to aim for a more or less representative sample of your entire company. Try to have an equal breakdown in terms of teams, gender, nationality, and even office presence (revenue vs. corporate, remote vs. hybrid, US vs EMEA, etc).
Make it as easy as possible for your course creators to know what’s expected of them. Share a template of yourself doing the exercise to show how easy it is and decrease the pressure on the first people signed up.
In order to avoid learning fatigue and give each course the individual attention it deserves, we scheduled one course to go live every week for a quarter—so 12 courses in total. This spaces out courses enough to give content creators and facilitators some breathing room, while maintaining learner interest.
It might be slightly intimidating for some people to share the realities of their workday with their colleagues. Setting up office hours or a systematic review of creator’s courses allows for some friendly feedback and can reassure people that their content is useful, appropriate, and correctly configured.
It’s time to publish the courses! We reminded each author to post their course on the 360Learning group newsfeed and to add it to the group’s catalog, so we were sure our colleagues would receive a notification. You can do the same if you’re a 360Learning client, or you can use the intranet of your own learning platform or even a third-party tool like Slack, Hangouts, or an internal newsletter to spread the word.
Some learners may not have the chance to get to your day in the life training until well after it’s been published and the campaign has ended. Make it easy for these latecomers to find your courses by consolidating them into a learning Path (if you’re using 360Learning) or similar.
After any L&D campaign, you’ll want to measure its success. Did the training accomplish what we wanted it to? In our case, we certainly had some very high engagement with the program:
Aside from the numbers, we received some nice qualitative feedback, including the sentiment that, “It really helps to have a 360 vision of everything that happens within 360Learning,” and, “It’s creating cross-team empathy!”
It’s creating cross-team empathy!
Our day in the life job shadowing program was set up as an asynchronous activity—360Learners could complete the course when and where it was convenient for them, without any real-time meetings with the person being shadowed.
This was an excellent way to launch our first job shadowing program, since it was open to everyone and easily accessible. Now, we want to provide a slightly more involved version of synchronous job shadowing, specially designed for those thinking about making a career shift, but also just to strengthen inter-team collaboration.
The idea is very similar to the model we just outlined, except it involves one-to-one meetings instead of a course on the 360Learning platform:
So, we hope this has been a clear guide for any L&D professional looking to get started with job shadowing training. You can get more tips like this by signing up to our newsletter below, or check out the Engagement Academy if you’re a 360Learning client.