Shadow [Whatever]

Dear Leaders, admit it. The most effective way in training new employees are by assigning them as ‘shadows’ to existing employees in the same position. The new recruit might be there to either replace, be a subordinate or even a manager to the existing employee. The advantages of implementing this shadowing technique are:

  • The existing employee, which nowadays is typically overloaded, gets the assistance s/he needs
  • The company saves cost for professional training, which normally are not so effective if not followed by real world problems
  • The new employee gets the experience, learning, and a new ‘friend’ s/he definitely needs to adapt to the new environment, without being burdened with full responsibility (yet)
  • (In case the existing employee is resigning midway from his/her position) the company gets the replacement right away

When we’re talking about shadows, there are actually 2 different approach with 1 similarity: the shadows are hidden from the outside world, i.e. other organizations doing business with this organization don’t know that these shadows exist.

  1. First approach, which is also commonly done, is putting the shadows as advisors/consultants to the company. This approach is normally used when an organization has to work on a big, complex project like it has never done before, and they don’t want to bother existing employees other than the ones assigned to the project but also don’t want to hire/contract professional consultancy service.
  2. Second approach is putting new employees as shadows of existing ones, the one we’re discussing in this post.

I might not be a good example when it comes to career path, but my many experiences have somehow enriched me to share. Please note that I’m a project manager, basically an individual contributor to a company, i.e. we work on our own with our own style at our own pace (hence we’re an ‘artist’ to our customer), without hierarchical subordinates.

  • I’ve been in a company where in my first months I was assigned as a ‘co-PM’ to other PM.
  • I’ve been in a company where I shadowed my assistant in my first couple of months before I was able to go on my own.
  • I’ve been in a company where I was ‘tried and tested’ to handle my own projects, closely controlled by my manager, followed by several formal training.

Out of all 3 experiences, I can say that all methods are good, depending on the nature of the company. If the industry allows, then training is the most constructive way to sustain and develop the employees. However, the quicker way to ‘use’ the new employee will be the shadowing technique because it is super hands-on.

*Confession: the title’s been there for more than a month now, but I was too lazy to update the post even though it’s been on my mind ever since. The original title is ‘Shadow Project Manager’ until I realized that this is applicable for all positions.*
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