Employee Shadowing Teams: 9 Reasons To Create Them - Build Your Numbers

Employee Shadowing Teams: 9 Reasons To Create Them

by Diane Gilson, Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor

What might you be able to accomplish for your company if you create employer or employee shadowing teams for a couple of hours? Or even a couple of days?

Employer or Employee Shadowing – Could It Work For YOUR Company?

Employer and Employee Shadowing Can Create Higher Levels of TeamworkA client recently told me that she wasn’t as pleased with the performance of a couple of employees as she would like, so she decided to periodically sit in with them for a few hours at a time as they performed their jobs.  The idea wasn’t to critique their activities, but to learn more about WHY things weren’t working as smoothly as desired. She also volunteered to help them with what they were doing as she joined them.  That gave her some hands-on experience actually doing some specific parts of their job. We discussed what she discovered, and also brainstormed together to come up with a few additional ideas.  The benefits seemed to be substantial – so I decided to spend a bit of time to list them and add a few more thoughts and ideas. I hope you find them to be thought-provoking! There are several team/shadowing possibilities that you could try:

  • The business owner tags along with an employee (and helps)
  • An employee tags along with the business owner (and helps)
  • One employee tags along with another employee (and helps)

9 Potential Benefits of Employer or Employee Shadowing:

For the listing below, I’ll refer to the person tagging along as the ‘Shadow,’ and the person being shadowed as the ’employee or business owner.’

  1. Employer and Employee Shadowing Can Provide Insights and Cross-Training OpportunitiesThe Shadow will discover what his/her co-worker really does all day long!  This provides the Shadow with a deeper appreciation for what the other employee or business owner faces, problem-solves, and handles, on a day-to-day basis.
  2. The Shadow gets a bit of cross-training about the most critical aspects of the employee or business owner’s job. If the employee is terminated or leaves the company, or the business owner or employee becomes ill or is on vacation, the Shadow will have (at least basic) insights regarding any critical tasks that need to be addressed!
  3. “Disaster Recovery”?  Most employees are NOT so critical to the company’s operation that it would create a disaster if they suddenly encountered that fantasy bus (the one that’s waiting to hit all of us unsuspecting souls!).  But, especially for key employees, it never hurts to know what you’d do in an unanticipated “they aren’t available” scenario.  This is a good time to think about coming up with a “Top Priorities and What Needs To Be Done Right Away!” list for those employees.
  4. As a Shadow, you’ll bring a unique, independent perspective with you.  You may be able to spot easier, better, more efficient ways to do things.

    TIP: Before assuming that you’ve come up with a better solution, try to understand how and why current processes are followed.  THEN if you believe you have an idea for a better approach, jot it down for further thought and discussion…
  5. By “tagging along” as a Shadow, you may be able to gain a deeper understanding of problems you might otherwise overlook.  Examples of issues that may come to light include:
    • Lack of resources (e.g., tools or equipment, information, procedures, or needed repairs)
    • Continual work interruptions
    • Mis-communication between employees
    • Interpersonal tension
    • Dis-organization
    • Outdated procedures
    • Problems with assigned “Accountability vs. Responsibility”
    • “Catch 22” situations (generally speaking “Catch 22” means that no matter which path is chosen, failure is guaranteed).
  6. If an employee is evasive or resentful about openly sharing information, it’s an indication that you need to dig deeper.  Are there other underlying issues that should be looked into? Please remember that fraud is always perpetrated by trusted employees. The loss is typically discovered when they get ill or someone else steps in to do their work. Don’t hesitate to investigate further if anything looks or sounds questionable, or just doesn’t “feel right.”
  7. Employer or Employee Shadowing Can Help to Set Common ExpectationsAs a Shadow, if you act as an observer and helper, employees will (in most cases) be glad to share the value of what they do – and how it contributes to the company’s success.  And, if you ask, they’ll usually volunteer ideas about how company operations or internal processes could improve.
  8. I once read that management’s concept of what they want from an employee, and an employee’s concept of what management wants them to do can be completely different.  This is a great time to compare expectations!
  9. Employer and Employee Shadowing can create a more cohesive team:
    • Use your Employee Shadowing information to look at the structure of the team.  You may spot duplication of efforts or discover that certain inter-department activities are being missed or overlooked.
    • “Sense of Teamwork” can be greatly enhanced when individuals learn more about each other.  Work involves a huge part of our time and emotional life.  Taking the time to build understanding and positive relationships can make a big difference in company success.

Build a Stronger Company From Employer or Employee Shadowing – 2 Final Steps…

First, you’ll likely want to create a short form listing the above concepts. Both the Shadow and employee or business owner can use the form as a way to organize their thoughts and ideas during, or shortly after, their “Mini-team” engagement.

Then you’ll want to schedule a follow-up team meeting to constructively share impressions and insights.  Good topics to add into the discussion could include “2 or 3 Ways We Found That We Can Support Each Other” as well as “2-3 Ideas We Discovered That Could Help the Company Run More Effectively, Efficiently, or Profitably.”

These 2 final steps should convert the time you’ve invested into your Employer & Employee Shadowing program into both major and minor company improvements.

An Employee “Shadowing” Story (Take Your Kid…)

Employer and Employee Shadowing Can Create a Stronger CompanyI remember a very old TV episode of “The Wonder Years.”  It started out with Dad getting home from work, bursting through the back door, shedding his suit coat, ripping off his tie, and then settling into his easy chair with a scowl on his face.  His son Kevin (played by Fred Savage), couldn’t figure out why his Dad came home in such a bad mood – or why, later in the evening, his Dad would spend time outside looking through a battered up telescope.

Then it was time for “Take Your Kid to Work” day – and it was NOT a good day at the office!  Things went from bad to worse, and the next thing you see is father and son arriving home from work with the same “shedding of the office routine.”  But this time Dad’s explosion though the back door was immediately followed (and mirrored by!) Kevin’s.  They experienced a workday together – and Kevin ended up with a far greater appreciation of what his Dad faced each day.

The bigger, and happier, outcome however was that because of their common experience, when Kevin saw his Dad looking through the telescope later that evening, his father shared that, as a young man, he wanted to be an astronaut, but gave up that dream in order to marry and have a family. He said he’d never regretted it for a moment but that, when he’d had a tough day, he still loved to re-connect with that inspiration.

The part of this story that I especially wanted to share is this.  Whenever we can create ways to work more closely together, and to problem solve with a common goal, the more likely it is that we’ll gain a deeper understanding of each other’s problems and dreams and, ultimately, with that understanding, how we can succeed as a team within our companies.

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