With graduation and intern season upon us, we want to focus on Millennials and Generation Z and share how internship programs can be mutually beneficial for both the company and the employee. This post is written by Elizabeth Meyer, exaqueo’s Marketing and Communications associate, rising senior at the University of Richmond, and a seasoned, three-time intern.
Did you know, there is higher retention rate among employees hired out of internship programs? This is because the opportunity to “test drive the career” helps them better understand the expectations of full-time role at a company. Interns can also provide different perspectives or a fresh set of eyes on projects and processes in support of a variety of business functions within your company.
However, it can be challenging to find the right interns. There may not be enough students in your area, your organization may not be able to pay the going rate or offer housing, or the interview process can be difficult. The key is to think of your intern pipeline as a whole. Even if you do not hire them all, converting even some of your interns to full time employees is worth the investment.
Once you find and hire the right interns for your program, it is important to understand the impact they can have on your organization. Think about it… today, consumers don’t just believe what companies tell them. Now, more than, ever, people care about reviews and trust their peers’ opinions over all others. Therefore, it is crucial that your interns come away from their internship experience with a great opinion and positive understanding of your company.
This is how your interns can become employer brand ambassadors (official or unofficial) for your company.
Whether you’ve already hired your interns or are just starting to think about hiring for the future, here are questions to ask yourself to help put yourself in an intern’s shoes. Doing so will help ensure they buy into your employer value proposition and sing your company’s praises at the end of their internship.
1. WIIFM - What’s in it for me?
It is crucial to show your interns that you value their work and commitment. Millennials are sometimes known as the “Me-me-me” generation for a reason. Make it clear what value they will receive from an internship with your company. A clear way to do this is through compensation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to break the bank.
There are alternative ways to compensate students if you do not have the funding for an intern salary. Having a recruiter spend time running workshops on resumes, cover letters, or how to articulate their intern experience is a reward in itself. It creates a clear value in the experience for the student. Other means of compensation could include lunch with an executive, a “intern appreciation day,” and/or a LinkedIn recommendation from a supervisor.
2. What’s expected and how will I be evaluated?
Students are accustomed to being graded and getting consistent feedback on their work. Throughout the internship, be deliberate in articulating your expectations and how they are measuring up. This feedback can be given in a formal setting (periodically or a final review) or casually as positive progress is made. However your company decides to evaluate and provide feedback to interns, make sure that it happens regularly and is constructive.
3. Am I making a meaningful impact?
This ties back to the first question and making sure interns feel, and understand, what’s in it for them. It’s all about making them feel valued through valuable work. Provide opportunities for interns to learn new skills, develop professionally, and expand their network. Give them a project your team is stuck on or needs a new perspective. Encourage them to find ways to improve your current processes to make your company more efficient. Anything but busy work. Hiring interns only to do busy work is a waste of your time and energy (and theirs).
4. What will I share about my intern experience?
As mentioned above, reviews play a critical role in your employer brand reputation and your company’s ability to recruit future talent. Your interns will talk about their internship experience with friends, family, and social networks. Take the time to educate them on your company’s social media policy, as well as where and how they can share their feedback internally. It is important to let interns know that if they are having a negative experience, they can share that feedback internally, versus externally, and the process for doing so.
By empowering your interns to become employer brand ambassadors, your internship program can lead to filling your talent pipeline, meeting your early career hiring goals, an increased employer brand presence across your target universities, and greater retention of employees.
For more information on hiring or managing interns, check out our monthly news update about interns and Generation Z.
Elizabeth Meyer is a Marketing and Communications Associate at exaqueo, an employer brand experience firm building employer brands and the talent strategies that drive them through research, consulting and creative and digital execution. Contact exaqueo to learn more about our employer brand innovation, workforce research and recruiting strategy offerings.