Internships programs have thrived over the years. An internship programme brings with it opportunities for both the employee and employer to expand their horizons. But a few organisations, to live up to a certain image, or considering interns to be a quick-fix solution during a busy month, onboard interns without a proper system. This situation is counter-productive for both the stakeholders, as neither is able to use the internship as a means to fulfil their goals. If you are of the opinion that interns are a worrisome lot and require too much of your time and bandwidth with minimal returns, let us convince you otherwise:
- May result in a great hire: As is the norm, interns with an impressive performance are often asked to join full-time post college. Studies done in USA have shown that this rate of conversion was as high as 70% in 2013, and internships were fast becoming gateways for freshers into entry-level jobs in with large employers.
- Challenge the status quo: Since the intern comes with a fresh and different understanding of how the organisation and the market work, they bring a new perspective to the table, which has most likely dried up in your existing employees. Not only are they likely to foster creative approaches and solutions to existing problems, but also give you insights to latest trends and how their generations operates.
- Interns are motivated Individuals: The basic reason why a college student or graduate joins an internship programme is because they want to learn and experience practical understanding of the industry, something maybe that has only been restricted to classes for them up until now. The fact that they come with a blank slate means they are motivated and committed to understanding and working the dynamics of the job.
- Help with complex and difficult projects: If the nature of your organisational work is project or client based, and a few difficult short-term projects require more hands on deck, hiring a few interns is the best way to go. The nature of internships, make intern a need-based and short-term employee, which saves you the trouble of looking for a full time person, incur their costs, and then keep them occupied once the project at hand is done with.
- The costs aren’t huge: As mentioned above, since the intern is a short-term employee, you do not have to pay hefty joining bonuses, severance packages or other capital-intensive schemes. This however doesn’t mean that the internship is unpaid, and their work is not rewarded.
- Hone Brand Ambassadors: If you offer a good experience to your interns, you are most certainly creating an army of ambassadors, no matter how small, who will speak highly of you in their circles. If need be, your organisation can also leverage the people in their sphere of influence for various processes like FGDs, product-testing, surveys, feedbacks etc.
- Great for start-ups: With all the above points in mind, an intern looks like the best suited employee for a start-up! Think of it, a young, driven, need-based, low-cost, well-connected employee checks all the boxes in the list. Several start-ups, both in India and abroad, rely heavily on interns for their integral tasks and processes.
Now that we’ve established that internship programs can hold great value in an organisation, it becomes equally important to stress on the fact that any internship program will fail to be fruitful to the employee and the employer, if it is not well though-of or executed diligently. Several organisations onboard large number of interns only to realise that the need for a small team. If you have an internship programme at place, or want to kick-start one, make sure you go through the check-list:
- Back to the Basics: Spend as much time as needed to clearly define the role, duration and nature of the job that the intern will be responsible for. Getting interns for menial jobs like data entry, doing tasks that are laborious and time-consuming, or simply because you want ‘free labour’ is likely to end in bitter experiences on both ends. Understand why you need the interns, how many of them are needed, when you will need them, and what it the best possible medium to reach out to them. Since the number of applicants is large, and most of them have applied to several places, make the process quick, yet rigorous.
- Make room for training and growth: Like any other employee, interns need to trained and oriented, no matter how briefly, according to the organisation and work culture. During the planning, delegate time, space and resources to help them gain knowledge and skills, which will be beneficial to them, and something that they can utilise once the internship is over. Add more than just your brand to their CVs.
- Give feedback and help them improve: Remember they joined your organisation to learn, and want to learn right now. Asking them to write a report, and then heavily editing it, without telling them where they faltered defeats the purpose of the internship. Brushing them off as ‘newbie’ will only set them up for failing every time. The structure of the internship should be such that it lists clear indicators and interventions for the growth and development of the intern.
- Nothing like a fixed stipend: Even though the idea of running an unpaid internship is alluring, owing to lesser costs, it is not the best model to imitate. The fact is that your interns will be working for you, like any other employee, helping you achieve targets and goals; they deserve to be compensated for it. The best model is wherein a stipend is fixed per month, and bonuses are added occasionally, however, performance-based stipends, or rewards will also increase accountability, motivation and punctuality.
- Reward and benefits: Following the above point, it is possible that the current balance sheet of your organisation leaves you with lesser capital to pay you interns, despite your intention to do so. Figure out creative ways to reward them in kind, which could include merchandise, discount coupons, movie tickets, lunch with CEOs, access to cultural events, and whatnot. The good thing is since the intern’s focus is on learning and gaining experience and exposure, they will fold early, but it is your responsibility to ensure that they are justly rewarded for their work.
- Listen to what they have to say: Probably the most underrated aspect of the programme, make sure you listen to what your interns say. Right from the moment they are taken onboard, to the time they exit, create spaces, both formal and informal, to interact with them. In the beginning ask them to lay down their expectations from the internship, and revisit the same while they are exiting. Include them in brain-storming meetings, discussions and presentations, and in off-the-clock office events. Lastly, when they exit, spend some time to gauge their experiences and ensure you integrate their feedback into the programme to make it more enriching for future interns.
The changing nature of the industry means that notions about work and employees are also changing. It is essential to explore the potential of young college students and graduates, for you may just be honing the next industry leader. An internship programmes gives the intern a chance to test-drive in the field, and opens avenues in countless ways. Once brushed off as irresponsible and self-seeking, the new age interns are rising up to give creative and cutting-edge solutions to existing problems, and are proving to be valuable assets.
Does your organisation have an internship programme in place? How does it work? Let us know!