Creating a valuable internship program is not only a powerful strategy to equip your organization with additional resources; but more importantly, offers an opportunity to provide access and experience to a diverse population of candidates, strengthen your brand as an employer, and develop your company’s pipeline of prospective employees.
The primary question that companies often ask about creating an internship program is not why they should take the time to create one, but how they should approach creating a program, and how they can make sure that it’s valuable for their interns.
Here are six valuable tips that will help you to create a rewarding and impactful internship program for the interns you hire, the managers who foster their growth, and your business as a whole:
Find the right employees to supervise your interns.
You need supervisors who will be authentically invested in helping their intern(s) to learn and grow. You also need supervisors who have the bandwidth to adequately plan and prepare assignments for their intern(s). You can start off on the right foot of building a successful internship program by finding employees who are excited and motivated to be mentors, and empower them to provide valuable coaching and mentorship to their interns.
Note: Make sure that your supervisors are diverse in nature – representative of a variety of demographics, levels, and departments within the company..
Find the right interns for each open role!
Be specific about the eligibility criteria, the type of roles that you have available, and the assignments that your intern should expect to collaborate on and complete during their time at your company.
Interview internship candidates thoroughly to understand their career goals, strengths, and opportunities for growth. Remember to also provide space for the candidates to ask you questions about the role.
Note: Make sure to prioritize intern recruitment from a variety of institutions and backgrounds - hire a diverse cohort of interns (a mix of identities, schools, regions, and fields of study). This rich diversity will bring new perspectives and ideas to your organization!
Host two thorough orientations – one for your supervisors and one for your new interns!
Prior to the first day of the internship program, host an orientation specifically for your supervisors where you outline what is expected of them as managers, resources available to support them, and define how they should handle situations that may arise during the program. For example:
- Will the supervisor need to provide a review of their intern at the end of the program?
- How should the supervisor address performance issues with their intern?
- You can also use this time to encourage your supervisors to be open to learning from the diverse perspectives of their interns!
On the first day of the internship, take some time to welcome and orient your new cohort of interns to the culture and expectations of your company and their role. For example:
- Does your company have any weekly gatherings that all interns should be aware of?
- What are the expected hours of the internship?
- How should your intern report any workplace issues?
- What resources and benefits are available to your interns?
- What are the best, and preferred, methods of communication within your organization?
Have a clear outline of what you expect your interns to gain during their program.
Make sure that the job description for each internship role is clear and concise - the ability for an intern to be successful in their role solely depends on having clarity about what is expected of them.
Ensure that your intern supervisors are thoughtful about the tasks that they assign to each intern, and are clear on how these tasks will help their intern to learn and grow in their desired field of study. Supervisors should avoid only assigning their intern(s) menial tasks (i.e. data entry, recording meeting notes, answering the phone, etc.). Make sure that your intern has an opportunity to experience the core functions of their role and gain useful skills that will propel them in their career.
Check-in with your supervisors and interns intermittently throughout the program.
Happy supervisors + interns = a successful internship. As a people team leader and/or as the internship program manager, it’s important to have periodic check-in’s with interns and supervisors on the progress of their program. This allows for immediate feedback and can help mitigate any potential issues early, but will also allow for you all to celebrate and duplicate any successes!
Send out pre- and post-internship surveys to gather data and feedback about the program and understand what you’re doing well, and where you can make improvements for future internship programming.
Celebrate and acknowledge your interns at the end of the program!
Completing an internship is a monumental and exciting accomplishment for the intern, and all that hard work and growth should definitely be acknowledged and celebrated! Whether in-person or virtual, consider sending your interns a gift to recognize them and celebrate their successful completion of the program. According to a recent survey of Gen Z, when asked how they wished to be recognized for their contributions at work, receiving a gift was ranked as their top choice.
Creating a valuable internship program, for your interns, your managers, and your business, will take dedication and thoughtful planning, but internships are a true value-add for any company! By creating a strong company culture, and an internship program that reflects that culture, you will position your organization to gain additional resources, benefit from diverse perspectives, and gain prospective employees. In exchange, you have the opportunity to provide the next generation with valuable work experience and will help prepare your interns to be thoughtful leaders and successful members of the workforce!