Get to know the nitty-gritty of your colleagues’ work – in what way is shadowing useful?

Gabrielius Ruokis, Team Manager, Network Operation Centre, author of the Sneak Peek initiative

Once there was a popular TV series called The Pretender, whose main character could master any chosen profession. Most probably he would have no problem commenting on daily life, work or challenges faced by a data analyst, IT project manager or communications consultant, as he could easily try out any preferred profession. Unlike him, mere mortals probably don't have such special abilities – but it doesn't mean they can't get to know the specifics of their colleagues’ work in other ways. One such way is job shadowing, which can be tried by all Danske Bank employees involved in the Sneak Peek initiative in Lithuania.

 

Shadowing – employee initiative

 

The Sneak Peek initiative was born when, having joined the Danske Bank team in early 2016, I started looking for some ‘extra-curricular’ activities and ways to strengthen collaboration within the organisation. I was curious about the work of my colleagues on the other floor or unit of the office, the impact that some operating processes had on others, and in what way they were related.

 

I had tried the job shadowing method before, so I suggested the idea to my Danske Bank colleagues. Together with Ona Juodkienė and Raimonda Navickaitė, we explored the concept of the Sneak Peek initiative. The first Sneak Peek exercise with Danske Bank Group IT Lithuania (DGITL) staff was undertaken in 2017 and only lasted a week. Nevertheless, the exercise provided valuable insights for the further improvement of the initiative. And most importantly, we noticed that the initiative was interesting and useful for employees, so it became a biannual event.

 

Opportunity to ‘try on’ a different profession

 

Shadowing, just as the term suggests, allows you to learn about a particular profession or position for a period of time, as if you were becoming a shadow of the actual specialist. Such an unusual opportunity to ‘try on’ a different profession is a great way to practice and learn useful things. It should be noted that shadowing, at least through the Sneak Peek initiative, is not limited to observation only. Observation is merely the first stage, which is followed by an active exchange of information and, finally, a possibility to try out certain practical aspects. This process can be described in three terms: observing, interacting, hands on.

 

Now, the Sneak Peek initiative lasts for two weeks, and is open to all willing employees of Danske Bank in Lithuania. The initiative does not require any additional resources, as the only precondition is the involvement of interested employees. Both, the so-called Host (a person who agrees to be shadowed) and Guest (a person who shadows the Host during the event), mutually agree on the timetable and objectives for such cooperation and learning. The coordinators of the initiative only provide them with certain recommendations and guidelines. Available positions depend on who registers to be shadowed; they might involve a wide range of teams and occupations. It is important for these positions to represent a particular function or role, regardless of how different they might be.

 

It is worth remembering, though, that shadowing is about certain positions and not specific people; hence, after registering for the initiative, you do not know whom you will be shadowing.

 

A way to share knowledge

 

What are the benefits of such practice? Shadowing allows employees to get a more general view, gain a better understanding of how an organisation functions, how certain processes operate in it, and what their relationship is to each other. At the same time, it allows them to better appreciate their own work in a wider context.

 

"By focusing exclusively on the work and tasks of their team, the employees might unknowingly find themselves in a bubble, which may obstruct their personal and professional development. In other words, shadowing allows them to get out of their box."

 

At the same time, shadowing presents the employees with a possibility to absorb best practices from their colleagues, and use different tools or methods in their own work. Moreover, this approach can help in solving certain problems and make day-to-day processes more effective.

 

"For example, after learning more about what other teams do, our infrastructure and application team members were able to shorten certain shared processes from five days to five minutes."

 

This specific case alone proves that a deeper knowledge of what other colleagues are doing can also bring direct benefits for team efficiency and collaboration, thus adding to the value of the organisation.

 

Of course, some employees are also motivated to join the programme because of their interest in identifying possible career opportunities. They are driven by curiosity to test new areas, identify opportunities for self-realisation, and possibly take a new turn in their career.

 

Shadowing during a pandemic: new challenges and opportunities

 

Since the launch of the Sneak Peek initiative in Lithuania, it has already had around 1,000 participants. The initiative is so popular that 90% of the published shadowing positions are normally taken in just a day and a half.

 

However, this is not a limit for us. Our goal is to expand the initiative to the level of the entire Danske Bank Group, and the current pandemic-related situation only accelerated the achievement of such goals. This year shadowing, like many other processes, had to be moved into the virtual space, which gave us an opportunity to try international ‘exchanges‘ as well.

 

This year we developed a special Sneak Peek platform, which will facilitate more regular and frequent meetings and help in transferring learning processes to the virtual space. Although most of us might prefer live meetings and conversations, new solutions will remain useful when life returns to its normal rhythm, too.

 

Preparations for this summer Sneak Peek event are taking place at full capacity. We just closed registration for those who can offer their positions for shadowing. But, those who are willing to get acquainted with their colleagues’ work specifics are still able to make their selection from a published list of available positions. The remote Sneak Peek event will take place from 29 June to 12 July. Are you still wondering whether it is something for you? Let me tell you – it is really worth it, so don't miss out! Any employee can try on new professions, regardless of their position, or the experience at hand.