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UCD Research Skills & Career Development

Forbairt Ghairme & Taighde Scileanna UCD

Shadowing recognised ‘experts' in a particular area

Work shadowing refers to a process whereby a person ‘shadows’ or follows someone in their work role for a defined period of time, for the purpose of enhancing their own performance in a particular area.  While it may not be suitable for some categories of staff, it can be an effective way of gaining a skill or knowledge on a topic without attending a training programme. For example, one team member may shadow another team member on how to use a particular system, or to develop a particular skill.

Work shadowing has the potential to be particularly useful as a means of enabling individuals to gain a deeper knowledge of the role of others and with this increased knowledge comes a greater understanding of how different roles complement and interface with each other.

How does it work?
Staff should investigate whether work shadowing is possible in their area, by discussing it with their PI/Mentor at their planning meeting. It is important that the person they wish to shadow is willing to be part of the arrangement. The duration of the work shadowing should be defined at the outset e.g. one hour a day for two weeks. The person being shadowed should be identified and spoken with by their PI/Mentor.  If they are in agreement then the ‘shadower’ should be informed and they should then make contact with the person they will work shadow and agree an action plan and timeline.

Before the shadowing placement
The person wishing to become a work shadow should:

  • Think about how work shadowing will benefit them
  • Discuss with their PI/Mentor during their planning meeting and identify a possible person that they want to shadow
  • If agreed,  the PI/Mentor should approach the possible person to be shadowed to see if they would agree to a work shadowing arrangement
  •  If the proposal is agreed to, the person wishing to become a work shadow and the person being shadowed should meet to discuss any specific aims and how and when the shadow arrangement will operate
  • Prepare for the shadow by reading any information necessary in advance.

The PI/Mentor should consider a number of factors before supporting a work shadowing arrangement;

    •  Relevance: The relevance of the shadowing to their staff member’s current role
    • Workload: The staff member’s/team’s workload
    • Benefits: The weight of the perceived benefits of the work shadowing arrangement versus time out from their role
    • Equity: Are all members of the group receiving equal access to work shadowing?
    • Transfer of skills: How can the information and skills gained be transferred back to their job?

  • If the work shadowing has been agreed to, then the PI/Mentor should approach the person identified to shadow to see if they would agree to a work shadowing arrangement
  • The PI/Mentor should let the PD Fellow who requested the work shadowing know if the arrangement will go ahead
  • It is important to agree a set timeline for meetings and an end date.

During the shadowing placement
The person shadowing should:

  • Conduct the shadowing and keep notes in relation to what they have learned.

After the shadowing placement
The person that has shadowed should:

  • Discuss the learning outcomes with their PI/Mentor at their next planning meeting
  • All learning outcomes should be implemented as part of their role, where practicable.

Please note: Work shadowing should be agreed and arranged at a local level. It is usually a short term arrangement and timelines should be identified at the outset.