How to engage summer interns can be a challenging dilemma for busy managers juggling supervisory duties of both interns and full-time staff.
It’s a challenge for interns, too. Even the most eager, dedicated intern is likely to be inexperienced, unfamiliar with the nuts and bolts of company logistics and in need of daily guidance. They’re excited, scared and confused — all at once!
They’re also likely worried that, as low-level interns, they’ll be relegated to coffee-fetching and meaningless busywork.
But there are easy steps that savvy leaders take to make these short-term engagements beneficial for the organization and intern alike.
An internship is a chance to engage with potential future employees, so make the best of the opportunity! How you engage interns matters. Read on for the three key elements in how to engage summer interns.
Why Trust, Compassion and Gratitude Matter to Interns
Most interns have limited workplace experience. In fact, their internship with you may be their very first time working in a professional, non-educational environment. That puts them in a vulnerable spot — and can be frustrating for the managers and coworkers tasked with supervising them.
Use compassion. Workplace guidelines should always be communicated in the context of success.
“Be very clear about your expectations for their workplace conduct in the context that your greatest goal is that they have a successful internship with you,” recommends the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
When expectations are clear and communicated with compassion, it paves the way for the #1 predictor of job satisfaction: meaningful work.
“Task significance is the strongest predictor of job satisfaction for interns. Interns are likely to be more satisfied if their work significantly impacts other people and the organization,” according to an Employer’s Resource Council blog post.
When you trust interns with meaningful and important work, they’re more likely to engage with the work, learn skills more quickly and leave with a positive opinion of your organization.
Trust is an important component of the intern-employer relationship. Build your trust gradually, and watch the amazing effect it has on intern engagement!
The third key element to the summer intern experience is gratitude. At each step along the way, from orientation to the exit interview and beyond, your intern deserves gratitude.
“Showing gratitude and that you are thankful for your intern’s work and effort is a small thing you can do that will go a long way,” Kinga Skowronek writes in the UrbanBound blog post, “Time for Your Intern to Leave? Here’s How to Send Them Off.”
A small gift, a card and treats on the intern’s last day — sharing your gratitude doesn’t have to be over-the-top. It’s “just something to show that their time and effort was appreciated and that they were part of the company, even if only for a little bit,” Skowronek writes.
Gratitude isn’t just about saying “thanks.” It’s also in the actions you take. Is your intern deserving of a letter of recommendation? Do it right away, while your impressions are fresh. In the exit interview, listen and appreciate the feedback you hear from the intern about their experience. Fresh eyes can be insightful.
Compassion, trust and gratitude work in mutually beneficial ways. The more compassion, trust and gratitude you give your summer interns, the more you’ll get back in return!
For more great tips and insights into building a vibrant culture of workplace gratitude, engagement and appreciation, be sure to download our free downloadable Gratitude Guide today!
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