Many small business owners are fortunate enough to be in industries where college students want to become unpaid summer interns for their companies. The struggling entrepreneur sees this as free labor and jumps at the chance for this type of help. Unfortunately, this is a particularly bad strategy for both the company and the intern.
For the small business owner, free is not really free. To make the intern productive, planning and training need to be invested into the process. Many companies welcome the intern on their first day without any preparation. This leads to unproductive interns and employees looking for something for them to do. The free labor ends up costing the company a lot of employee productivity.
The small business owner also has the responsibility to ensure that something is learned. In many large prestigious corporations, multiple summer interns sit in small rooms doing almost nothing or vying for the few pieces of work that are sent their way. In a difficult economy, some companies are even charging for internships.
Here is how to make that summer internship a win on both sides of the desk:
1. Establish a goal for the internship period
What will their role be in the company? What goals are they expected to achieve? What is the intern expected to learn? Make sure that the internship is also legal. Many times doing the internship in conjunction with a college ensure the proper written structure.
2. Train them
More than anyone else that works in your company, the intern needs to be trained in exactly what they are doing and how it will be accomplished. Also, give them a copy of your employee manual so they know what behavior is expected of them.
3. Monitor the intern’s progress weekly
Typically, the intern is only there for 2 to 3 months. They might also have the habit of not speaking up when things are going badly or they are just plain bored. Ensure there is a time every week to discuss the progress against their goals and any adjustments that need to be made. Also, make sure that the intern has memorable things to work on along with the busy work that naturally comes with this type of opportunity.
4. Get others in the company involved with the intern
It is beneficial for the intern to work with a variety of people as mentors to understand different styles. It can also be educational to have different employees manage the intern as a practice for them.
5. Conduct an exit interview
The intern’s satisfaction with their experience is just as important as the company’s results. With social media, the intern can be a future evangelist for the company or a detractor.
6. Pay an honorarium
Even if it is not promised, pay something at the end of the internship. Making a payment of $500 or another appropriate amount will send a message that the intern was a valuable member of the team. It also turns a voluntary internship into a prestigious paid one.
How is your company’s internship program going this summer?