Showing Them How It’s Done

Showing Them How It’s Done

Job Shadowing Is One Way of Improving Recruitment and Retention

Is there a way to render recruiting less expensive? Well, yes and no. But some human resources experts argue that the up-front investment of time, effort—and yes, a little money—not only streamlines the hiring process; it boosts employee retention as well.

While education, skills sets, and work experience are all extremely important factors in assessing whether or not an individual is the right candidate for a job, one of the most challenging aspects of recruiting is determining whether that person fits in with the company’s culture. This is where job shadowing presents a dual benefit: Employers have the opportunity to discern whether or not the job candidate is a good match, as does the candidate in question.

Traditionally, job shadowing has taken the form of internships that are most often geared toward young people. For example, senior high school students may ‘shadow’ professionals in a given career to explore what that industry is actually like, with the goal of selecting an appropriate major at college. These programs are equally common in colleges and universities, where job shadowing programs or internships serve to both provide credits and assist individuals in making valuable contacts in the workforce. However, as the workforce has evolved into an environment where professionals change jobs every several years, combined with the fact that employers are growing increasingly sophisticated in the realm of recruiting itself, job shadowing programs have started to become part of the hiring, orientation, and onboarding process.

Sharon Armstrong, HR consultant at Sharon Armstrong & Associates in Washington, DC, noted that these days, job shadowing programs can take on a number of different forms. “Depending on the company, the need and the community, it can be a lot of different things,” she said. Not only can job shadowing be applied before a candidate is hired—it can also be incorporated into that initial probationary period. “It should happen when people are hired as part of an onboarding or orientation program, because a new employee can learn so much about culture, how decisions are made, the technology that the company uses, and about the key people at that company. It’s fabulous when it’s a built-in part of an organization.”

Matthew J. Smith, director of global human resources at Verrex Corporation in Mountainside, NJ, worked in information technology (IT ) before transferring over to the systems integration business. “While job shadowing is relatively common in the IT world, I’ve seen less of it in this industry,” he said. He noted that as part of Verrex’s orientation and onboarding process, new recruits do follow a form of job shadowing. “We do have some job shadowing here, and it’s one of my goals to expand upon that, because it definitely boosts retention.”

To launch a successful job shadowing program, it’s necessary to enlist someone to administer it properly. Management should also ensure that employees are aware of the existence of the program so that they’re not taken by surprise. Nothing contributes more to diminished morale than confusion—especially if it’s unclear as to why certain individuals are shadowing existing employees, said Armstrong. “You don’t want your employees to be asking themselves: Who are these people? Why are they here? Do they want my job?”

There are also the legalities to consider, and Armstrong emphasized that companies should check with both their insurance providers and their attorneys before putting the program into place—especially if it involves unpaid internships. “Unpaid internships are dicey, and many HR people refuse to do it,” she said. “They’d rather pay people minimum wage and not worry about it.”

Technicalities aside, Armstrong maintained that, when implemented properly, job shadowing programs can lead to happier, more productive employees. “If it’s done when employees are hired as part of onboarding, it can absolutely lead to retention,” she said. “It helps new employees to feel more connected and they learn what they need to learn in a quick, efficient way.”

Carolyn Heinze is a freelance writer/editor.

AVS and ITT Partner For Job Shadowing

As a part of last fall’s InfoComm AV Week, Audio Video Systems (AVS) conducted a presentation and Q&A session for students at ITT Technical Institute’s, Chantilly, VA campus. Nearly 50 students attended and were able to learn about the AV industry and what AVS does on a day-to-day basis.

This event was a part of an ongoing partnership between AVS and ITT. AVS sponsors a job shadowing program in conjunction with ITT that allows graduating students to experience the AV industry by shadowing an AVS employee so they can get a better understanding of working in the AV industry and what AVS does.

“AVS is pleased to be introducing upcoming graduates from ITT Technical Institute to the audiovisual world,” said Barry Goldin, CTS, director of systems integration at AVS. “It allows students to expand upon what they have learned at ITT, learn about career paths and trends in the field, and see audiovisual technologies in action.”

The program occurs four times per year (during the last four to six weeks of the students’ final semester) and students are selected based upon recommendation by ITT staff and selection by AVS.

Carolyn Heinze has covered everything from AV/IT and business to cowboys and cowgirls ... and the horses they love. She was the Paris contributing editor for the pan-European site Running in Heels, providing news and views on fashion, culture, and the arts for her column, “France in Your Pants.” She has also contributed critiques of foreign cinema and French politics for the politico-literary site, The New Vulgate.