The purpose of internship is to select suitable future employees for your SME. Life is a two way street and many interns may just take their intern experience and move on; many employers may not adequately evaluate interns during their short work experience. Making an internship programme more robust involves creating a systematic business process that will benefit your SME and the interns that you hire. This will help everyone get the maximum benefit from the minimum time.
An internship may last a few weeks or a few months. SMEs all over the world are likely to be bombarded by applications for internships. Who to select and how to gainfully employ those selected should be part of a systematic business process.
If you have run internship programmes before and the programmes have not worked out for your company and for the interns, then you need to reevaluate your internship programmes to make it more robust. What went well and what didn’t and why? Once you have done this evaluation, take some steps to learn from previous failures.
If you are launching an internship programme for the first time, for example if you are a new start-up, then you need to plan the internship programme, in every stage, before you get started.
As an employer, it may be useful to create and implement an ‘internship process’ for your SME to maximise the value to your business. Start with an overview that includes outcomes.
Sifting through application letters from interns may be time consuming and tedious. Avoid wasting everyone’s time by creating clear guidelines for applicants.
As an employer you will face with different motivations of internship applicants. Some are on fishing trips, others may be serious. Sifting out the wheat from the chaff can be helped by using behavioural interviewing techniques.
Some interns may be unknown people, others may come from your own network. Take a look at the gender and ethnicity of applicants and decide how many interns you need and can handle, what backgrounds they have in terms of education and experience. Then look at their aspirations. What do they really want to get out an internship with your organisation?
Goal setting should be planned and explained at the initial induction. Hiring SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, Time-bound) interns is beneficial for you and for them. In the internship period of time, what are your interns going to learn and achieve? How are you going to measure their work? What are they going to contribute to your business whilst they are working there? You may take a formal or an informal approach running your internships but make sure you follow an underlying internship process.
While your interns are beavering away, make sure that you give them feedback on their progress. Not too much, but just enough and at carefully selected times, so that they remain engaged.
If the intern didn’t perform well, then evaluate what went wrong, talk it through with them. Don’t let them go back into the market place with low self-esteem and a bad impression of your company.
When the internship period is over, the most suitable interns for your future business should be waiting for your follow-up offer letter. Make them an offer. Good interns who don’t accept your offer can also refer other good internship candidates to your future internship programmes. This will create a pipeline through referrals and may save you time in screening and hiring future interns.
Making your internship programme more robust involves creating an ‘internship process’ that is easy for you to implement, improve and easy for your interns to follow. This will add value to your SME business.