Workplace Learning Opportunities

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Secondments and Shadowing


What are Secondments for?

The secondment will be to enable staff to undertake specific training normally involving attendance at formal courses recommended by the Faculty (or other appropriate body in the case of academic related staff) which would be of clear benefit to the University as well as being directly relevant to the applicant's employment with the University, for example, by enabling the member of staff to take on alternative duties in the University. (It should be noted that Study Leave is the appropriate form of leave for academic staff wishing to pursue normal academic scholarship and research.)

How do secondments work?

Secondments can be agreed for any period exceeding four weeks during semester time but are not usually more than one year in total.

Decisions about replacement staffing will be made by the Academic Development Committee or other appropriate body, taking into account the departmental budget position and the effect of the financial arrangements agreed in the particular case.

What else do I need to know about Secondments?

As with other forms of leave falling within the Leave of Absence regulations, secondment for training purposes will not be a financial cost to the University. While each case will be dealt with on its merits, applicants might expect full salary and payment by the University of its share of superannuation and national insurance contributions during the period of secondment. It would nevertheless be expected that the applicant and/or head of department would take active steps to seek whatever external finance may be available to cover items such as fees for courses of training. This might be by way of national awards etc. In the absence of outside funding, fees would have to be borne by the departmental grant.

If a replacement is requested by a department, and if the request is approved, then the department would be allowed to make a temporary appointment if sufficient external funds had been obtained to allow this. It is therefore clearly in the interests of a department needing a replacement to seek as large an amount of external finance as possible. It is only from this source that a replacement could be financed.

The question of secondment for training purposes should first be discussed between the head of department and the member of staff concerned. Application should then be made using a Special Leave form (obtainable from the Department of Human Resources - Business Support). The form should be submitted to the Head of Department who, if supporting it, should explain the relevance of the application to the individual's work and how the training will benefit the department. The form should then be submitted to the Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor for consideration. If the application is supported by the Faculty, it will be forwarded to the Department of Human Resources - Business Support. In addition, the applicant will be required to submit to the Pay & Pensions Officer a financial statement (form obtainable from the Department of Human Resources - Business Support), so that the financial implications of the leave can be assessed. Final consideration will be made by the Director of Human Resource Management, who will consider each case on its merits.

Applications for secondment may be submitted at any time but must follow the above procedure.

When indicating dates during which they wish to be absent, applicants should include dates of departure from and return to the University.

Secondment will be treated as Special Leave for the purposes of determining future entitlement to leave. Thus for academic staff it will not be counted in the qualifying period for Study Leave, and it will be expected in the case of both academic and academic related staff that periods of secondment and Special Leave will together not normally amount to more than one year in seven. Any period of secondment during a probationary period will not count towards that period. Leave of Absence which for certain reasons falls outside the Leave Regulations has on occasion been classified as Secondment.

The University will consider applications for temporary Secondment to other institutions and organisations in the United Kingdom and overseas, provided suitable arrangements can be made for carrying out the necessary duties of the person seconded. Such Secondment will normally be granted at no cost whatever to the University and will normally be for a maximum of three years.


What is job shadowing?

Job shadowing is a process whereby a member of staff spends an agreed amount of time with another member of staff to observe their work. It may be included within an induction programme or general for general development of skills, knowledge and understanding on the job - where it is felt that it would be beneficial for a member of staff to either:

1) spend time with a member of staff undertaking the same role or some of the same tasks as the new starter and/or
2) find out more about work undertaken with a different area
to increase their understanding of an area of work or role to help their development within their role.

What are the benefits of job shadowing?

Job shadowing has a number of potential benefits for the individuals involved, as well as the department and wider University, by:

  • giving a new starter the opportunity to learn new skills by observing them, and having the opportunity to ask questions
  • providing networking opportunities for the new starter and the staff member being shadowed
  • providing a development opportunity for the member of staff being shadowed, and the opportunity to reflect upon the tasks they undertake
  • providing an opportunity for both the new starter and the staff member being shadowed to share knowledge and good practice.

Things to consider when organising or participating in a job shadowing exercise:

Line managers

  • what benefits the new starter will gain from the shadowing exercise
  • how the shadowing will fit in with the new starter’s workload and priorities
  • how long the shadowing exercise will last for – shadowing typically takes place from a minimum of a few hours to a maximum of one or two days
  • whether the proposed area to be shadowed is suitable – the nature of the work being undertaken, health and safety, and confidentiality issues should all be taken into account
  • whether training would be a better option where the new starter has specific skills needs
  • whether the new starter would benefit from observing any specific tasks
  • what form the shadowing will take – will it be purely observational or will the person being shadowed provide an explanation of the tasks they are undertaking, and the opportunity for the new starter to practice tasks themselves
  • how the new starter will use the knowledge they obtain from the shadowing exercise
  • how the exercise will be evaluated, to ensure that the new starter is able to reflect on what they have learnt, and provide feedback to the line manager, to inform consideration of future shadowing opportunities.

The member of staff (shadow)

  • what do they hope to gain from the shadowing exercise
  • whether there are any particular tasks or work areas which they would benefit most from observing
  • how will they record what they learn from the shadowing exercise
  • how they will maximise the benefits gained from the exercise e.g. by sharing
  • information with other members of their team or department if appropriate
  • how they will evaluate how useful the shadowing exercise was.
  • The member of staff being shadowed (host)
  • how they will establish what the new starter intends to obtain from the exercise
  • how they will establish and accommodate the new starter’s preferred learning style
  • the timings of the shadowing exercise and how this relates to the host’s planned activities and the areas the shadow would like to focus on
  • how they will consider and address health and safety and confidentiality issues
  • where the new starter will sit during the shadowing exercise
  • how they will brief colleagues in advance about the shadowing exercise
  • how they will check the new starter’s understanding and give them the opportunity to ask questions
  • how they will evaluate the shadowing experience, and what they gained from it.

GROW logo

One to one mentoring provides a positive, developmental relationship, in which the mentor acts as a guide, supporter and sounding board, around work based challenges and goals.

The University runs annual mentoring programmes for staff; GROW (for Professional Services Employees) and Think Ahead (for Researchers). For information on the programmes and how mentoring can be useful for you, as well as guidance on what makes a good mentee and mentor, please visit their web pages.

Green Impact logo

Green Impact development

What skills can be gained or developed by working on a Green Impact team?
  • Increased knowledge about sustainability issues and what the University Strategy and targets in this area are.
  • Project management - auditing, designing, planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating outputs for Green Impact projects
  • Team Working - working with others as who may be outside usual operational teams, and having opportunity to share knowledge and skills with each other
  • Time management - managing workload effectively and working towards specified deadlines
  • Communication, including influencing skills, as some of the Project work could involve communicating sustainability issues with others and influencing them to adapt their behaviours or habits
  • Report writing through creating final case studies for team projects
What the benefits could be for the individual
  • Ability to transform your department/workplace for the better by introducing impactful projects that will engage with lots of people and make a difference to sustainability
  • Rewarding - sense of pride for your workplace and your contributions (88% of surveyed participants feel good about themselves through taking part in Green Impact nationally)
  • Increased sense of wellbeing - taking time to work on something different to your day-to-day work
  • Meeting new people in your workplace and within the GI community, including students and local community groups
  • Skill sharing - learning new skills and allowing you to utilise and build on the skills you already have
  • Knowledge sharing – learning more about other departments and the wider university attitude towards sustainability
  • Increased confidence and accountability through putting forward ideas and bringing them to fruition
  • Learning tips for being more sustainable which can be applied to personal life, such as ways to save energy, reduce waste, and travel smarter
  • Opportunity for your and your team’s efforts to be recognised and celebrated at the GI Awards Ceremony!
What the benefits could be for the department
  • Potential for financial savings as a result of sustainability actions and projects (e.g. through reduced waste & travel costs)
  • Sense of community created therefore a better working environment for all.
  • Staff building new skills that can be applied to their other tasks, and helping them to continue their personal development
  • Social opportunities created through various events, initiatives and volunteering
  • Department/workplace commended and awarded at the GI Awards Ceremony - efforts recognised across University
  • Demonstrate to potential new students and staff that the department is taking sustainability seriously (NUS research shows that 80% of students want their institution to be doing more on sustainability)
  • Potential for increased productivity from staff - allowing them to work on other projects means they are more productive when it comes to their day-to-day work
  • Knowledge and skill sharing of staff and students
  • Opportunities for students to work with the department on GI work – integration and increasing student-staff collaboration
  • Development opportunity for students – CV and building transferable skills through their volunteering opportunities with Green Impact (we offer central training and support to students who volunteer)
  • Being in-line with the university’s values and strategy on sustainability
What the benefits could be for the organisation
  • Actions and projects contribute to the University’s work towards being more sustainable, including achieving carbon reduction targets
  • Identifying opportunities for improved sustainability from staff & students across the university
  • Increased sense of community, providing an opportunity for staff and students to integrate across varied departments
  • The development of impactful sustainability projects organised by wider University community
  • University efforts recognized on a national scale through the wider Green Impact network - working towards being more sustainable
  • Financial savings - energy, waste, water etc.
  • Building relationships with the Sheffield community through Projects that collaborate with local community groups (many teams have done this through their Projects)
  • Opportunity for students to volunteer – NUS research shows that 60% of students want to learn more about sustainability and this is a way for students to learn through the informal curriculum
  • Projects can be replicated where successful to other departments so outcomes can be seen elsewhere and make a bigger overall impact

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working on green impact projects and have gained a lot of skills and confidence of my capabilities as a result”

“It is an excellent initiative and a good way to get like minded people together”

If you are interested in getting involved in Green Impact or would like to discuss this further, please send an email to

Evidence shows that "On the job" workplace learning opportunities are one of the best ways for supporting staff to acquire and retain the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need in order to realise their potential. There are many options for supporting this type of development, whether that be involvement in new projects, committee servicing, attending focus groups or engaging with consultations, buddying up with new colleagues, etc. Consider how you can best support this type of development in your team/department.