A common roadblock for employers when it comes to working with interns is that it takes time and preparation to lead a great internship program. (Of course, we can help with all of this!) However, bringing on interns doesn’t have to be that daunting. If you are considering bringing on interns to help with your team’s workload, but are a little uneasy about the idea, we have some starting points to help you and your team become great first-time intern managers.
Lead by Example
As a manager, especially when it comes to interns, you set the tone for the way interactions go moving forward. How do you want your intern to interact with you? Do you want them to share their ideas? Maybe ask more introspective questions? Or do you want them to have more initiative?
Portray the qualities you want them to reciprocate. If you welcome questions, ask your interns questions about their ideas on projects. Ask them for feedback on systems. Ask them if they have any questions at all, and listen to the feedback they provide and questions they ask.
If you value an open mind that’s always willing to learn, then allow this and represent this. If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification before shutting an idea down or giving a biased opinion. Interns and employees alike will take note of this behavior and emulate the same compassion and patience when listening to others and learning new skills.
Listen not only when they ask questions, or when they ask for your undivided attention, but listen and pay attention all the time so that when they drop little nuggets of information and personality, you’re able to catch them. Observing the behaviors and communication styles of those around you will lead you to learn more about your team members without having to ask direct questions.
And if you think this is too much to keep track of, remember we do this all the time at a more subconscious level. When forming concepts of people in your mind, be careful to not quickly jump to assumptions or biases.
A Harvard Business Review survey reveals that 58 percent of people say they trust strangers more than their own boss. Genuine listening will put an intern at ease and cultivate trust in their manager. Better listening builds trust and more trust creates a better relationship, resulting in better cooperation and outcomes.
Celebrate Small Victories
Interns make mistakes, that‘s not surprising. But what is surprising is that many managers forget to point out the successes or send a genuine thank you to their interns.
Don’t take our word for it. The importance of positive feedback is proven around the world:
- Global studies prove that when it comes to inspiring people to be their best at work, nothing else comes close to recognition.
- Global studies also reveal that 79 percent of people who quit their jobs cite ‘lack of appreciation’ as their reason for leaving.
The seemingly simple act of inviting your intern to team meetings shows them that they are a valuable part of the company. Not only does this build trust and help interns better understand the greater company strategy outside of their day-to-day work, it also builds a sense of belonging, which oftentimes leads to more engagement (and retention).
Intern satisfaction leads to higher retention:
- Results from a NACE study of student attitudes, behaviors, and preferences suggest that interns who were satisfied with their internship were 5.08 times more likely to accept an offer from their internship employer.
- If interns thought their co-workers were helpful and friendly, they were almost 14 times more likely to say their experience was very or extremely satisfying, and they were 3.3 times more likely to accept a full-time offer from the same employer.
Understanding the direction a company is going can reveal the purpose of your interns’ projects and the impact of their work, which unsurprisingly leads to a more inclusive culture and a more positive internship experience.
Give them Meaningful Work
The more useful an intern feels and the more opportunities for success there are, the happier they will be. Intern happiness leads to a larger pool of internal hiring candidates (which saves time and money). When assigning meaningful projects to interns, it also reduces the amount of work for full-time employees, which can lead to less employee burnout.
Take the interns interests, career goals, skills (or lack thereof) into consideration when looking for meaningful projects to assign. Encourage them to take initiative in suggesting task ideas and assign tasks that are both challenging and doable. Once you have the ideal projects for your intern(s), provide clear guidance, expectations, and deadlines/review dates.
Pro tip: encourage them to send you a rough outline of their project before diving deeper into it.
While successfully managing an intern is an important experience for both a company and their interns, we hope this guide eases some of the worries you may have been experiencing. Is there anything we left out that you’d like clarification or guidance on? Leave it in the chat box. We’ll be more than happy to dive into the conversation.