HRM Five: Internships that work for everyone

Internships don't have to be an obligation or burden.

Taking on interns doesn't have to be an effort that results in less return than investment. Here are HRM Magazine Asia's tips for building internship programs that benefit both organisations as well as interns.

1. Provide guidance

It's always nerve-wracking to start a new job, and that also applies to an internship, no matter how short it is -- everyone appreciates a bit of guidance when starting something new. An internship programme is a great a opportunity to give your employees some experience at coaching and mentoring.

Of course, you will need to make sure they are sufficiently trained beforehand, but it will give the organisation an opportunity to review if certain employees are ready for higher responsibilities, such as leading their own teams or projects.


2. Give them meaningful work

Interns are freqently full of ideas and enthusiasm, so why not take advantage of that, and give them a project with a specific start point and end goal? You might be surprised at how hungry some of them are to succeed and leave a good impression.

Of course, some interns might just be there to tick a box on their resume. But with a proper recruitment process -- interviews and application essays, for instance -- you should be able to sift out the ones who really want to be there.

Interns also come in all shapes and sizes, so you might just end up with someone who is looking for a mid-career switch -- and who comes with their own skills, maturity, and experience.


2. Compensate them appropriately

Horror stories abound about organisations that treat their interns as free labour. A day of work shadowing or two-week student placement is one thing, but if you expect your intern to serve office hours, five days a week, for a few months, it is only fair to at least provide for living expenses such as transport, meals, and rent.

Employers that refuse, however, can expect their employer branding and reputation to take a hit -- your interns might very well end up blogging about their experience, talking it up on Glassdoor, or even adding it as a review to Glassdoor.


4. Leverage internships for your talent pipeline

An internship can also function as a very long interview and onboarding process -- for both the intern, and the organisation. At the end, you'll have some idea of the intern's skills, work ethic, and culture fit, and likewise, the intern will be familiar with the organisation's work, cultures.

Some companies tap into their intern pool to populate their graduate training programme, or even just re-hire interns if and when the opportunity arises.

Whichever path your organisation might decide to choose, it's useful to implement formal evaluations at the end of the internship period, so that both HR and the intern have a record of what was achieved.


5. Other activities

When I did a one-year student programme at a big pharmaceutical, I and the other student-interns were treated as full members of staff. We were invited to the Christmas parties, and department meetings with the big boss. And at HRM Asia's last holiday party, it was ensured that the intern also received a Secret Santa gift.

These are fairly simple actions, but they don't just make for a better experience for your interns -- they also contribute to an office culture that is open and welcoming to everyone at all levels.


Yamini Chinnuswamy offers five important points on everything you wanted to know about HR practices today, but were too afraid to ask. Check out previous editions of HRM Five here.


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