June 20, 2018
Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
Interns… you know what I’m talking about – inexperienced, naïve, and great at taking coffee orders. But what if interns weren’t only looked at as an opportunity to give a summer class with on-the-job experience? What if there was more that interns had to offer than lunch runs and Excel projects?
Well, as it turns out, there is.
It’s no secret that internships come with an expected level of inexperience, with very little to offer other than a basic level of understanding of the role and responsibilities along with a hungry drive for knowledge and improvement. Interns are commonly looked at in a very formulaic way – comparable almost to horsepower. Their responsibilities are so clearly defined that their performance can almost be broken down into single units of measurement. You know that you’re going to get a certain level of performance out of interns, but getting that performance requires careful guidance and clear instructions – much more-so than a permanent employee with a developed skillset and well-rounded understanding of the role they fill.
When interns need to be micro-managed and hand-guided, it’s easy for managers and team leads to become a bit complacent and resort to busy work in order to keep the intern occupied during their time with the organization. Unfortunately, this can sometimes mean coffee runs and reorganizing the supply room.
But this isn’t the fault of the intern.
The intern is hungry – they see the potential for a future career in the field and are eager to prove themselves. So why aren’t more organizations capitalizing on the initiative shown by the newest group of their team?
By most modern accounts, it takes about 9 months for a new employee to be fully trained and operating at an ideal level of performance. With most internships lasting a mere 3 – 10 weeks
On top of all of this, the average intern will spend a good amount of their time performing actual job functions for the role they’ve been brought on to fill – unlike a permanent employee who will most likely have a longer, more robust training regimen. This equates to even less time being available for interns to focus on training and development.
Simple math doesn’t paint the entire picture however.
A recent poll conducted by InternsNet.com, “full-time job access” is the number one criteria that candidates look for when applying for internships.
So what does this tell us?
Interns want to become permanent employees. And if interns want to become permanent employees, it’s reasonable to assume that most of the top talent interns are seeking out these internship opportunities that will eventually lead to permanent employment within the same organization. There will always be exceptions to the rule, but it’s worth noting that candidates willing to put in the work necessary to research organizations who tend to offer jobs after internships are probably going to be your top tier candidates – that level of effort is not typically seen without a tremendous drive to back it up.
If this is the case, would it not make sense to build more of a focus into your internship practices to attract these top tier entry-level candidates?
Introducing an internship program to capitalize on top tier candidates presents an opportunity to develop a highly skilled workforce through your own training and development methods. Hiring your typical high-performer with 10+ years of experience can be quite expensive, but if you’re able to attract similar candidates as they come out of college and develop them within your own system through an internship program, you could reap rewards within your organization for years to come.
“I accepted my internship knowing that 99 percent of the people get offered jobs after the internship,” says Mark Rosen, 24, who interned at Arthur Andersen the summer before his senior year at the University of Vermont. – Experience.com
Not only do internship programs that lead to full-time employment allow you to attract candidates, they also allow you to train your interns more thoroughly as they make the transition to full-time employees. This affords you the opportunity to present your interns with more technical and job-function specific tasks, as opposed to your standard Excel data clean-ups and food orders. This results in enormous benefits for both the intern and the team overall – they now have yet another contributing member to their team.
By attracting and developing these younger professionals, you can more easily get them to buy-in to your organization’s workflow and mission thus improving company culture and building a more efficient workplace.
Assigning work to your interns that results in actual value to the organization is the best way to get them to buy into your mission – they’ll feel like a true part of the team. This goes for anyone, not just interns. If the work that someone is performing is seen as “fulfilling,” you’ll build a core group of ambassadors that truly care about the well-being of the organization. This concept can result in a healthy company culture as well. People won’t be afraid to make decisions, and if you’ve built a psychologically safe environment
Teaching is the fastest way to reinforce your own knowledge. This is a tried and true method used in classrooms across the country and, if you’re concerned about the lack of time available to train interns, could just be the workplace hack you’re looking for to boost the speed your interns are able to learn the skills necessary for the job. Micro-managing may be an attractive solution to manage the influx of new interns, but this is when you need to let out the reins a bit. Your interns need to work together and with the rest of the team to accomplish the task-at-hand. Allow them the flexibility to work with each other to settle into an efficient workflow.
Too often, interns are split into teams where they function independently of the permanent staff. While this may make sense for certain organizations, it does little more than turn into an on-the-job classroom where interns can learn particular skills taught by key members of the organization. Again, this might be good for some of us but for most, it doesn’t set us up for a transition into permanent employment. Integrating your interns with their permanent counterparts allows relationships to bloom and valuable skillsets to be identified.
A key for many internship seekers is a clear path to permanent employment. As we discussed earlier in this post, this is what most talented internship candidates are looking for. As long as you can deliver once the internship begins and win them over – buying into your mission – you should be in a good position to use your internship program as a training environment to identify high-performing interns that would be a great fit for your organization as full-time employees.
Be transparent about this from the outset. Your interns will recognize the opportunity in front of them and as long as their values align with yours, you should be able to source some great team members from your own internship program.
After all, that’s what we did
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