Updated: Apr 23, 2019
What are the elements of a good internship model? We are trying to create one from scratch. Any insights on how to design our selection process and accompanying training programs would be especially helpful.
—Starting From Scratch, HR consultant, services, Sydney, Australia
Dear Starting From Scratch:
Internships are a popular way to attract new talent to your organization, with some estimates showing about one-fourth of all new hires from campuses are sourced through employers' own internship programs. In a tight talent market, a strong internship program can be a significant way to attract new hires.
It also provides many benefits to the interns selected. Students know that a successful internship can be the ticket to a great job. And the relationships built during an internship can be the basis of a professional network that helps launch a successful career.
Once you've decided to use interns in your organization, it is important to take the time to carefully plan for an effective program. Here are the key elements you should consider:
Think of the big picture. Chew over your organization's needs well in advance of launching the internship program. Consider areas where your workload needs support, where you anticipate projects that can be assigned to a new hire, and the supervisors you can assign to manage the intern. In your planning, consider also the timeline for screening and selecting qualified interns, as well as the payroll budget, office space and computer. Before you roll out the internship program, it's a good idea to create the job description, eligibility requirements, compensation structure and the ways the intern will be evaluated at the conclusion of the program.Give interns a meaningful assignment. Setting aside the right projects for interns is a key step. Having an intern shadow other employees without producing specific results—or work on menial assignments that guarantee boredom—will not help build your company's reputation as a great place to work. You'll need a sharp eye to identify projects with just the right amount of challenge. Projects should be meaty learning opportunities with a definite business payback.Clarify those objectives. As with other positions, it is important that you develop clear accountabilities for the intern, with measurable goals and objectives. This helps to reduce the likelihood of misunderstanding or disappointment on the part of the intern and the company.Tap your best supervisors. An intern can require a fair amount of supervision, so your internship program needs to take that into account. Select a supervisor who understands the importance of the internship program and who will work effectively to ensure the person is both learning and doing.Plan and budget. While some internships are unpaid, many are not. It's a good idea to do some research in your area to see what other employers are doing, so you have a program that attracts the talent you want. Internships also can be designed to offer academic credit; if so, your program must have strong documentation that shows the educational value and learning objectives. Pay attention to selection and on-boarding. Just as with other positions, you should select interns carefully and provide them with the same orientation that you give to other new hires. Be clear about company expectations, work rules and protocols, since interns must adhere to the same policies as other employees. Some interns are new to the world of work, so a solid orientation improves the odds of success. Be clear about who the intern can go to for assistance, and help the intern get a sense of both the formal and the informal communication processes.Evaluate performance. An effective internship delivers on the goals established at the outset of the program. People should be evaluated at the end of their internships on strengths and achievements, as well as areas that need improvement. Start with the end in mind, by setting goals for interns and measuring their ability to meet those goals. That will give the best shot at creating a high-quality internship program.