It's summer time again, which means summer interns--the workforce boost many startups rely on. Most interns are ready and willing to learn, but we've all heard the horror stories about the interns that don't work, try, or even care. But it does not have to be that way. Good management and approach can make a real difference. Since it's the company's job to manage interns well, here are seven tips will help you get the most out of your summer interns.
- Make Them Feel Welcome
On the first day of the job, an intern is most likely going to feel a little nervous and maybe even out of place. Nothing helps them relax more than a couple of friendly employees. A couple friends in the office will reduce their stress, and allow the interns to work efficiently on their tasks without feeling like all eyes are on them.
"From day one, senior leadership needs to make young talent feel welcome, by being accessible, dedicating specific time and making it clear that they are an important a part of your organization," said Hank Ostholthoff, CEO of Mabbly. Also, give them a nice, clean workspace. Very few people work well when crammed up in a small corner. Take some time to provide a space that shows you care about the quality of work an intern completes.
- Treat Them Like Full Time Employees
If you expect your interns to be contributing members of a team, it's important to show them the same respect and give them the same attention as any other employee. I avoid using the word "intern" as much as possible because it can sometimes come off as degrading. Consider giving them a descriptive job title to give them a sense of pride, and so other employees know how they contribute.
- Empower Them to Find and Solve Problems
Problem solving, especially in a business, is not a skill that's acquired overnight. If you want to grow culture of employees who actively seek out and solve problems, it should start with employees at the ground level. Interns are an investment, and if you plan to hire them full time in the future, it's important to start grooming problem solving and leadership skills early.
- Challenge Them With New Projects
A good way to bore your interns to death is by giving them the same repetitive tasks to do every day. Although you may rely on them for things like data entry and reporting, understand that tasks like that can be heavy on the soul. Even though it's important to make sure they have a clear "To Do" list with reasonable deadlines, keep projects fresh, and challenge them to learn new skills that they can apply to their work. Make sure they are both learning these skills independently, and dedicating time to train them and support them along the way.
- Encourage Questions
Few things are worse than leaving an intern to guess what they should do. Encourage them to ask questions to ensure that the project will be completed correctly. It is better to ask in advance than after the damage has been done. Good questions can not only make a better project, they may help you see work or goals differently.
- Schedule Regular Check-Ins and Provide Feedback
After an intern has been with a company for a while, invite them to your office or lunch to talk about their progress. Give them feedback on how they are doing. A little positive reinforcement may brighten their outlook for future projects, and a compliment from the boss can excite them as well. Also be sure to include top company leaders and team members from other departments--building the team approach and making the interns feel valuable.
- Compensate, reward
Paying interns isn't an option for all companies, especially startups. But pay helps. Even a stipend can make the workplace more like a real job which gives a better experience for the intern and, usually, better work product for the company. If pay won't work, find money to take the interns to lunch. And make sure you and your company are providing the rewards the interns are seeking. Many times, young people intern expecting letters of reference or to make a key connection. Ask what they are expecting and, when possible, give it.