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Laying the foundations for a sustainable future:
How to start a successful internship programme


August 8 2013 - As well as presenting an opportunity to free up your workforce's time for essential tasks at low cost, not to mention bringing fresh and potentially innovative ideas to the table, a strategic internship programme can give you the satisfaction of training future employees for a successful, enjoyable career.

It's worth considering the following points when embarking on any internship programme, one that's a rich and rewarding experience for both parties:

4 HR Tips for Starting a Successful Internship programme
  1. Define clear goals

    The key to fostering a successful period of internship is the defining of clear goals. You as a business or HR department need to know what you'll be getting out of it and so too does your intern. Once you've established this element, you can then begin to go about getting them really invested and interested in the company and its vision.

    If they truly believe in the importance of what the business does and feel passionate about it then not only will they be keener to work hard for you but will also be more willing to evangelise the company externally, a good thing in terms of brand awareness and reputation. A key factor in building up that sense of ownership in your intern's mind is making them feel like a full-time employee, so set up a profile on your HR system for them with goal and objective documents to work towards, just as you should do for all of your colleagues.

  2. Identify a mentor on your team

    The last thing you want is for your intern to feel lost at sea, something that can easily happen if you simply leave them to their own devices with little help or support. This can foster an environment of negativity and unhappiness, emotions unlikely to result in a successful programme. Again, this is something that your HR software can automate to a certain extent as you can interact digitally, but nothing beats dealing face-to-face.

    In order to allow you to focus on running the business, identify a member of your team with strong leadership qualities who can support and mentor your intern on your behalf. Ensure that the mentor works closely with your intern and that they are encouraged to share both their ideas and their work with the team. Take the two of them for lunch on the first day to ensure that everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet in order to give you all piece of mind. A free lunch in an informal setting goes a long way towards fostering that all-important happiness right from the off.

  3. Recruit for cultural fit

    As mentioned previously, it's important that interns are invested in the company and its vision. A key method of ensuring that this is the case is to factor the issue of 'cultural fit' into the recruitment process. Establish what your business culture is and what it stands for and then tailor the process towards individuals who fit the bill. It sounds easy but certainly requires prior planning, starting with creating a tailored job description. The HR department will then want to properly assess CVs that come in. If it doesn't sound like they fit the company culture, don't pursue an interview.

    When it comes to the interview itself, tailor questions towards company culture. Record results on your HR software as you go along in order to inform future recruitment processes. That way you can learn things about your company culture and people's perception of it that you perhaps didn't know before.

  4. Reward good performance with new opportunities

    When thinking about how to reward your interns for good work, consider two aspects: performance and behaviour. In other words, don't focus on simply results and output, but also look to reward passion and commitment.

    In terms of the rewards themselves, these needn't be merely financial. The best prize an intern can get is a job, so aim to base your rewards on the promise of future employment, an opportunity to develop a new product or a glowing reference that will be invaluable to that person's CV. They could even be integrated into the very recruitment process itself, inputting new ideas into your HR system that can be used for future processes.

  5. In addition to the four points above, it's always important to ensure you are managing and monitoring the performance of your internship drive. Thankfully, there is now a good selection of HR software and systems on the market, with companies such as Breathe HR being geared specifically towards SMEs and renowned for integrating 'objective' and 'goals' sections into their platform.

    Photo courtesy of kool_skatkat.

About the author

This guest article was written by HR professional and freelance writer Marilyn Vinch. Follow her on Twitter for more HR tips: @mary_vinch..



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