(Editor’s Note: Today’s post is brought to you by our friends at Kronos, a global leader in delivering workforce management solutions in the cloud. Ventana Research recently named Kronos a technology innovator for their mobile solutions. Congratulations! Enjoy the post.)
There’s been quite a bit of news lately about internship programs. Unfortunately, not all of it has been positive. I want to change that today.
Internship programs serve a valuable purpose for both organizations and individuals. For companies, it gives them an opportunity to work with young professionals and gain insight about what’s being taught in today’s colleges and universities. It allows them to work with someone who they might want to hire someday. And it gives them the opportunity to help students start their professional careers with relevant work experience.
For students, internships provide a glimpse into the real working world. It’s an opportunity to see how the theories and models they’ve learned in school apply in a real-life work setting. They get to show a potential employer what they’re made of.
In order for both companies and students to gain the full benefit, an internship program should be formally created to support the effort. I recently had the chance to learn more about Kronos’ internship program and wanted to share with you the components that make it successful.
- Determine the company point of view about internships. Top down support is essential for success of any program. Aron Ain, chief executive officer at Kronos, fully supports the company’s internship program. “It is our responsibility to provide the next generation workforce with an inspiring work experience that fosters personal growth and prepares them for the launch of their career. We see our internship program as a way for us to give back and help create a secure future for the next generation workforce. We are inspired by the knowledge, fresh ideas, and enthusiasm students bring to Kronos, and we are thrilled to share our experiences and corporate culture with tomorrow’s leaders.”
- Create meaningful work. An internship program is not a substitute for a filing and copying clerk. It’s also not corporate servitude. Smart companies are using internship programs as a “test drive” for talent, hoping that the student will want to return after they graduate.
- Confront the pay issue. The Department of Labor offers guidelines on internship programs. Just because you call someone an intern doesn’t mean they pass the test to be an “unpaid” intern. Make sure your program is in compliance with the law.
- Give managers the tools and resources to effectively manage interns. Since the goals for interns are different than for regular new hires, supervisors need to be given proper training and guidance. Marissa Beaudoin, an intern at Kronos, suggested that managers enhance their skills in the art of feedback. “Interns are constantly receiving feedback, whether it’s receiving grades or in class. We are always reflecting on what we do and thinking about how we can improve.”
- Provide interns with the tools to be successful. Just because an intern is only working with you a few months, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have office space, training, etc. If you want someone to be effective, give them the tools they need. Dave Almeda, chief people officer at Kronos, says interns are an essential part of the team. “From the moment the students walk through the door, we consider them Kronites. We provide a meaningful and rewarding work experience blended with fun and team building … an internship that builds their skill sets as they prepare to join the working world.”
- Set goals and hold interns accountable. It’s true that internship programs are providing a learning opportunity. This doesn’t mean that the company can’t hold interns accountable. Whether you pay interns or not, the goal is for an intern to learn certain things during the time they spend with you. Goals should be set and the intern should be held accountable for achieving those goals.
- Document the program. There are three reasons to document your program. The first has to do with the Department of Labor (see number three). The second is for recruiting. Interns want to know what they will be doing during their internship. They’re trying to get something out of the experience. Companies need to sell their program and the way to do it – by sharing what happens during the program. The last is to remember it from year to year. To keep track of what took place, it’s best to write it down.
- Get feedback and update the program. Think of this step as an exit interview for interns. To keep your internship program fresh, ask interns for feedback. Find out what they enjoyed and ask for one suggestion for future programs. Their feedback can be used to update the program and as information for future interns.
- Measure results. Graduates today don’t get jobs without internship experience. Being able to share data on how many interns land jobs is valuable information. Obviously, the company wants to know how many interns started and finished the program. They also want to know how many are hired. Depending upon your goals, it might also be helpful to measure program satisfaction from both the manager and intern perspective.
- Stay in touch with interns. Create a mechanism to keep in touch with interns. This not only gives the intern a mentor who will help them be successful but it also gives the company opportunities to share open positions the intern might be interested in.
My thanks to Kronos for sharing their internship program with us. I know during my corporate career, my senior leadership team was always looking for best practices with interns. And for whatever the reason, it was tough to gather information. It’s terrific to see companies like Kronos sharing their success so we can all benefit from it.