How Interns Can Fuel Company Success

Building a structured internship program is part of taking a holistic approach to your business.
Aug 7, 2019
Matt Massucci
Matt Massucci
Founder and Managing Partner
interns standing around a desk

Share This Blog

You want to build out your team and you need to be creative doing so during this tight job market. We recently discussed how you can achieve this through the use of freelance and consultant talent. Another creative approach to adding talent is through internships. 

Companies that hire a lot of people right out of school (college, graduate programs, etc.) realize that the best time to identify new workers is early on. With internships, you get the talent into your office to see what they can do, and then you have them teed-up to start after they graduate. 

The key is building a structured internship program to ensure that your efforts actually work.

And this isn’t merely about keeping  interns busy: the average employee retention rate is 20 percent higher for someone who has interned at a company and returns than for an employee who did not intern, and so building a structured internship program is also part of taking a holistic approach to building your culture. 

With this in mind, we interviewed Elise Gelwicks, a friend of Hirewell’s, and Founder of InternView, about how to craft a meaningful, effective internship.

How to Structure an Internship Program

A number of elements work together to create a successful, structured internship program:

  1. Interns take ownership over a longer-term project with a set number of weeks to finish it.
  2. They hit deadlines and milestones along the way, and work with mentors to break down large projects into manageable chunks.
  3. The intern is integrated into the day-to-day work of the office, including supplemental tasks.
  4. Interns have enough work to stay busy.

How to Provide Constant Feedback in an Internship Program

Fresh-out-of-school interns are accustomed to receiving grades. Work, however, isn’t like that. But they still need the opportunity to receive structured feedback. Gelwicks recommends:

  1. Managers check-in weekly with feedback.
  2. Include a form or report that enables the intern to share what they’ve been doing.
  3. Feedback needs to be grounded and constructive, and the intern needs to feel comfortable.
  4. Provide opportunities to network throughout the organization.
  5. Be transparent about next steps and whether there is a chance that the internship can lead to a job. (Make this part of the feedback loop.)

Challenges to Building an Internship Program

Gelwicks shared that one of the main questions companies face regarding interns is whether to pay them. By law, interns must receive college credit or payment. The average intern wage is $19.05 per hour. Not paying reflects poorly from the perspective of diversity recruitment because it raises questions about who can actually utilize the opportunity.

You also want to address how the interns will do the work and fit in. Baby Boomers often write off younger generations as “out to lunch”, so you need to address appearance and demeanor, even texting. 

Subsequently, training is critical. How do you do the job? Or even function in an office setting? It may be all new to your interns. 

Each intern needs a manager, but consider designating a mentor who they can talk with about anything they don’t feel comfortable sharing with their manager.

Who Does Internship Programs Right?

It won’t surprise you that the big tech companies do internships right, as do companies such as Target and Disney, both of which offer a range of opportunities. The global consulting firms have always hired the vast majority of their employees right out of school. They have also utilized interns as a key component of their hiring strategy. For our purposes, Deloitte offers the greatest detail and insight into what their program actually looks like. 

Deloitte offers internships during the summer and school year. These internships include: 

  1. Client work. Throughout the course of the internship, interns work on one or more client projects and are responsible for a particular set of deliverable. 
  2. Learning, networking and a National Internship Conference. Beyond exposure to “real life” projects, the program also delivers a variety of national and local learning and networking events. Interns work with clients and Deloitte pros who show them the ropes. Summer interns are also invited to a 3-day National Internship Conference.
  3. Mentorship and Professional Development. Each intern joins a mentorship team that includes a counselor and onboarding advisor to  provide guidance throughout the experience. Additional mentors, both formal and informal, are often typically identified during the internship.  
  4. Formal goal-setting and evaluation processes. These occur throughout the internship, and some interns receive a full-time offer at the conclusion of the internship program.

You can’t necessarily replicate or compete with Deloitte, but if you seek to implement the steps identified in this post, while aspiring to the programs that Deloitte, Target and Disney have implemented, you can still make your interns feel valued.

Final Thoughts

You have work to do. And you want someone who will roll up their sleeves and do it. 
This is where interns can thrive.

But interns need to feel valued. They’re an important part of the team.

And so, when you design a structured internship program, provide consistent feedback, mentors and networking opportunities, as well as payment. Show your interns just how valued they are.

Hirewell is Your Partner in Understanding How Best to Build a Structured Internship Program

As we like to say, you don’t always know what you don’t know, but in this case, we do know what we don’t know. We consider ourselves experts in all things talent acquisition, however intern programs are a bit outside of our wheelhouse. So, while we’ve utilized them first hand and are strong believers in this strategy, if your company is interested in developing your own program, we highly recommend getting in touch with Elise.  

Matt Massucci
Matt Massucci
Founder and Managing Partner

More Blogs Written by Matt

Sign-up for the latest recruiting insights because you need to know what you don't know.