As spring inches closer and closer, HR teams can expect another round of resumes submitted for internships. Along with the flood comes the debate of whether you should be hiring interns at all.
As a former intern myself, I believe many organizations need to take a closer look at how seamless an internship program could be to the fabric of day-to-day operations.
Two Reasons for Resistance …
1. Legal Ramifications: First and foremost, an incorrectly handled internship program is a legal liability that you cannot afford. Recent years have seen examples of this as disgruntled, unpaid interns of publishing and entertainment companies filing suit, claiming they not only were taken advantage of, but that the duties they were asked to perform violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).If your organization is considering an internship program, it is crucial you review the FLSA, which establishes rules for minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and more for employees in the private or public sector. This does not mean all internships should be paid, but be sure HR is willing to dedicate enough time to understand the company’s legal parameters before accepting applications for would-be interns.
2. Leadership: Another reason organizations avoid internship programs is the lack of proper personnel. An internship is the training wheels to your bicycle, and it should operate as such. An effective program will balance structured projects with critical evaluation from a supervisor.
In case you were wondering, the junior associate one cubicle over doesn’t count. To be successful, a mentorship program needs oversight from an experienced leader. A capable manager will communicate the intern’s objectives efficiently and how the end result aligns with the company’s initiatives.
Even with the proper management, don’t expect your interns to succeed overnight. Like pedaling a bicycle, it requires time and energy for new workers to understand their role and how to accomplish its goals. Before opening the doors to an intern, be sure you have the right leader who can train and mentor one into a seasoned employee.
… and Two Reasons to Relax
A fluid transition from the classroom to the boardroom is important, and for many intern applicants, this is their first taste of corporate life. At the very least, these impressionable candidates are an excellent way to spread your company’s story.
1. Build Brand Advocates: For anyone who has undergone an internship, the memories instilled by the experience likely are still being shared with peers and family. These stories build a platform for your business to shine. A positive mentorship program has the power to create loyal advocates who essentially advertise your company for free, through word of mouth. To dedicate time and effort in helping interns reach their potential is to invest in your company’s future.
Having this attitude also helps you avoid assigning them only menial tasks. Instead of reducing them to paper pushers and morning mocha runners, empower them to make a measurable impact on the company’s success. You never know: They could be future employees who elevate you above the competition.
2. Get a Fresh Perspective: Another reason to hire interns is because they don’t fully understand the way your business operates. This may sound like a negative, but an intern who challenges the status quo may help you become more efficient. Although companies may hate to admit it, over time, it is easy for daily processes to become stagnant. Interns counter this by offering another set of hands and a fresh perspective on how to get the job done.
In the end, an internship is a great learning opportunity for both parties. The intern garners honest corporate experience while the company has a chance to see whether or not the individual “fits the bill.”