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Guide to Launching an Internship Programme

David Lloyd

Is your organisation thinking about starting an internship program? If so, there are plenty of ways the experience can be beneficial for everyone involved. Contributor The article is by David Lloyd, the CEO of The Intern Group.

For one, an internship program can help your team accomplish more immediate projects. It can also be one of your strongest recruiting tactics and a great way to give back to the next generation rising up in your industry. According to a 2017 report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), approximately 60 percent of organizations that worked with interns ended up hiring those interns as employees. The report also uncovered that approximately 40 percent of new college hires were once interns for their employers.

There is plenty of evidence that implementing an internship program can be an incredibly valuable way to develop and retain talent within an organization. However, starting an internship program from scratch can be challenging. To start unlocking the benefits of your own internship program, consider how you will tackle the following steps in the process.

Creating a valuable experience and establishing a pipeline of talent
Launching an internship program is one of the top ways organizations can build a pipeline of talented, entry-level hires. In a survey by Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute, 57 percent of companies said the primary purpose of their internship programs is to develop talent for full-time employment.

According to NACE’s 2017 report, interns were converted into full-time hires at a rate of 51.3percent on average, and the five-year retention rate among interns that were converted into hires was 51.8 percent. An internship program can be a great opportunity to test out new working relationships and evaluate whether or not you have any candidates with the potential to become new hires. In just a few weeks or months, your team can quickly figure out if an intern would be a good fit for your organization, helping you make fewer hiring mistakes as well.

Opening up your internship program to allow people from around the world to participate in the program can also be beneficial for your organization. For one, your full-time employees have the opportunity to interact with other cultures and learn from different ways of thinking. International interns can also be exceptional candidates for long-term hires.

To keep your interns around, it’s important to make sure they’ll be spending their time doing meaningful work that aligns with their career goals and interests. Think about what sort of one-on-one mentoring opportunities you can provide them, and how you can ensure there will be opportunities to interact with different people and teams across your organization. The more time and effort you can commit to providing a valuable internship experience, the more likely your efforts will lead to quality new hires.

Gathering and giving feedback
Having a system in place to gather and give feedback on performance will be extremely important for your internship program. In many cases, receiving feedback can be one of the most valuable things your interns will take away from their experience with your organization.

Today, young professionals and students are used to receiving information instantly. Unfortunately, many organizations are stuck in the past and provide feedback only after the internship program has ended. To show that your organization is up to speed, consider how you can relay feedback on your interns’ performance on a continuous basis. Not only will your interns appreciate the real-time advice, but they’ll also be much more likely to make changes right away, improving productivity across the board.

Nowadays, there are plenty of innovative feedback and workplace culture tools that can help your organization quickly and easily gather feedback from your interns, including: 15Five: With this platform, your interns can take a 15-minute survey and you or your organization’s managers only need five minutes to review it. The platform also allows you to help your interns or employees plan out their goals.

Polly: If your organisation runs on Slack, you can quickly gather opinions by setting up a Polly poll within a Slack channel. Polly has anonymity features and allows you to create simple polls or ask more open-ended questions.

6Q: 6Q allows managers to ask six simple questions each week and send virtual “high fives” to recognize a job well done. You can also pull reports on past surveys to examine intern or employee engagement trends.

Providing a proper send-off
Besides organising personal exit interviews, one of the best things you can do at the end of your organisation’s internship program is to celebrate the contributions your interns have as members of your team. The off-boarding process is just as important as the on-boarding process, so don’t let your interns walk away without a proper send-off. Whether it’s a simple gift, a day of fun and games, or a farewell brunch, they’ll appreciate you taking the time to celebrate all of their hard work.

Helping your interns take the next steps in their career paths is important as well. Regardless of whether or not your interns are staying with your organisation after the program ends, writing a recommendation or offering your contact information as a reference can be very valuable for them and another good way to show your appreciation.

There are plenty of reasons why you should launch an internship program, but it’s more important to consider how you can make it a success. Keep these things in mind as you plan your internship program and you’ll avoid wasting any precious time or resources. Following these guidelines will not only give your organization an edge, but it will also provide your interns with a valuable experience and maybe even turn a few of them into lifelong advocates for your brand, a win-win for both sides.

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