Best Practices for Employers With Interns

Mature businessman assisting intern on screen
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Working with an intern is both a privilege and a responsibility for an employer. Interns can be a boon to your business and give you an extra pair of hands, current educational thinking and enthusiasm all businesses can use.

You can use an intern’s fresh knowledge of your field to look at possibilities for expanding and improving your offerings for customers.

An intern brings a fresh perspective and the vibrancy of someone new to a field. Interns are accustomed to learning, writing, researching, and producing work on a schedule. A business and its employees can gain a lot from the contributions of an intern—if you manage the internship effectively.

Employers Should Value Interns

You may or may not be aware that consumers and societies are increasingly demanding that businesses act more responsibly in the communities and geographic areas they operate in. Businesses are expected to be both socially and environmentally responsible in their practices and relationships.

An internship program is an opportunity to give back to the community that pays you for your services and allows you to operate in their area. As a business, you become a key influencer in a community. If you are to remain a respected entity, it might be a good idea to treat the young people in your area as respectfully as you would their elders.

Treating younger people well might ensure you have a pool of smart, ambitious prospects to choose from in the future. This is similar to purchasing stocks in the hope that they pay dividends and increase in value. Interns should be thought of as an investment opportunity for a business.

If you would like to attract the best and brightest students to work for you once they graduate, a paid internship can make working for your business more attractive than working for your competitors. Interns will remember the way they were treated and will want to work for companies that show they value their employees.

Employers should select interns as they would an employee. Use your existing hiring process to screen and interview the applicants. This will give the young, impressionable people experience in a hiring process while giving you an opportunity to train new recruiters or recruiting staff.

Pay Your Interns

Some companies and people stick to antiquated and draconian practices with interns, convinced that because they were treated in a certain manner all people should be.

Evolve your internship programs. You should pay your interns for the work they are doing. Costs of education are increasing annually, and interns are people with the potential to become valued employees or tough competitors. You should pay them a standard beginning wage at your business.

Treat Interns as Employees

Interns should not be treated as someone to make copies, file paperwork, and sit at your reception desk greeting visitors and answering phones.

This teaches interns about the lower-level work at your firm. You should want to show future employees what the work is truly like after they dig through the trenches. Let them know that everyone starts at the bottom, but give them something to work towards. Involve them in the work that is the core of your business, the work they want to do.

You should want your interns to experience the totality of working for your organization. Holiday parties, community and professional meetings, TGIF meet-ups at your local tavern, and departmental lunches make the internship experience real.

Including interns in cohesion-building events adds to your potential to attract the best interns to your company after graduation. The interns get an opportunity to experience your company’s extended culture and events. This helps both the intern and the employer assess cultural fit and the their possible success as an employee.

Plan an Interesting Work Experience

If you have departments requesting interns, have them produce a written and progressive development plan for the intern's experience before they are allowed to hire an intern.

Similar to an employee training plan, the internship plan should provide an experience with specific outcomes—one of which is to attract bright young employees. The best internship plans also provide an onboarding component so that interns are quickly assimilated within your company.

The written plan should provide a plan for the utilization of interns. It should include real-world work for the interns such as meetings to attend, projects to work on, time spent with various staff members, and skills development.

A well planned and documented intern program will give the interns you may want to later hire a good picture of your business and industry. You can create a competitive advantage for your company if you are in a market in which employers compete for employees.

Your program or the department requesting an intern should assign a mentor for interns. An internship is an opportunity to develop someone new to the industry or work. It is not in the best interest of any party to hire an intern to wander around looking for something to do or someone to talk to about the work.

Regular meetings, goal setting, and receiving guidance are critical for an intern. As with a regular employee, their progress toward goals should be monitored. This attention will not only encourage an intern’s growth and interest, but it ensures the business is benefitting from the intern’s time and contributions.

Forge Intern-To-Employee Relationships

Interns may want to experience different company settings. Encourage your interns to explore other possibilities. If your company has been treating them as valued employees, with a structured intern program, they might decide your company is where they want to work.

If an intern fits your culture, has potential, and works well with your employees you might consider offering a return engagement. If they accept, you know that you are making a positive impression and you are creating a culture of developing employees.

If an intern continues to accept, you may have created a valuable and loyal employee. Offer jobs to the interns that have the skills and talent you want in your company.

Nothing is more important to an intern who has come to love and value a company than to join it as a regular employee. By creating a pipeline for a student to become an employee, you have had the opportunity to mold them for your organization and evaluate them more effectively than a newly recruited and hired employee.

Through a well-conceived internship program, your business will benefit not only in the young talent you attract, but you will be seen as a benefactor for the youth of the community that your business serves.