on-boarding for summer interns - start planning today

On-boarding for summer interns includes communication, challenge, coaching, and connecting. Photo via thetaxhaven, Flickr.

As college semesters wind down, are you preparing to welcome student interns? If so, planning your on-boarding for summer interns should be front and center. You want them to love working with you, so you both have a successful summer experience.

The 4 “Cs” of On-Boarding Interns

In “What Are Best Practices for Onboarding Interns?” Brad Karsh, founder and CEO of JB Training Solutions recommends “the 4 Cs”:

  1. Communicate
  2. Challenge
  3. Coach
  4. Connect

As soon as someone accepts an offer, send a small gift with a personal note welcoming him or her to the company. A week later, send information highlighting your company’s culture, perks, and achievements to get your future intern excited about the possibilities. On his or her first day at work, fully communicate your expectations, his/her role, and general office protocol, so your intern feels comfortable. Introduce interns to your team and explain what each member does. Assign someone as a “buddy” for interns when they have questions.
Ensure your interns have challenging, but manageable work. Let them attend strategy meetings, give them projects to manage–ones that matter but aren’t too risky–ask their opinions, and recognize their accomplishments. If they have interesting roles, they’re more likely to accept full-time positions later.
Part of on-boarding for summer interns is teaching them workplace skills like conflict resolution, effective communication, even appropriate dress and etiquette. Remind their “buddies”–preferably fellow millennials–to coach interns in these areas as they impart information about projects, the company, and the industry. Assigning a senior mentor to help with goal-setting and career planning is helpful as well.
Ask your interns what motivates them, what causes are important to them, and what they hope to accomplish during their time with your business. Connect them with people and projects that help them achieve their objectives.
And, involve them in workplace fun. Host a welcome party for interns. Involve them in company softball or summer league teams. Get them involved in your organization’s community outreach events or ask interns to work across departments to plan a summer service event.
Ultimately, interns want what regular hires want – to feel respected, valued, challenged and included from day 1. Read on for creative on-boarding ideas and even an on-boarding check-list!

Foster Productivity

Your interns’ productivity levels depend on you–and proper on-boarding for summer interns plays a key role–observes Meghan Maher, senior talent manager, engineering, for Openview Labs, in “Tips for Onboarding and Managing Interns.” She, too, stresses challenge:

“The ultimate goal is to have your interns working on real projects that full-time employees would generally take on. … They will be given meaningful work and have expectations around the speed and quality in which the work is completed.”

Her on-boarding checklist includes confirming start date/time and dress code before interns’ first day, ensuring their workstations are ready, and registering them for the software applications they’ll need.

Creative Solutions

Today, businesses are incorporating many innovative practices into their on-boarding processes, and in 2015 ExactHire surveyed 150+ HR professionals to collect their ideas. The organization describes the most unique responses in a free eBook you can download: “All Hands on Deck: Best Practices in Employee Onboarding Process Improvement.”

While these ideas pertain to newly hired employees, on-boarding for summer interns follows the same principles. Here are just a couple of examples to consider:

  • “We send welcome boxes to new hires, which include the StrengthsFinder book, a small gift, and information on how to complete new hire paperwork (via HRIS).” — Leigh Crick, human resources manager at FirstPerson.
  • “We have a list of 15-20 nontraditional questions that we ask each new employee to answer about themselves. We have an online blog called ‘The Talk’ and feature those responses in the blog so our team learns unique tidbits about the new employee.” — Tricia Casey, talent manager at Briljent.

Use these examples–or come up with your own–to develop on-boarding for summer interns that fits your organization’s culture, helps interns feel welcome and appreciated, and creates a positive and productive internship experience for all. After all, interns are your employees of the future.
Happy on-boarding!

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