Businesses can reap considerable rewards when they invest in developing internship programs.
Internships are a fantastic way for businesses to tap into the wealth of talent available to them, opening the door to potential future employees and helping their teams to improve capacity and productivity.
Many organizations have discussed the prospect of starting or expanding an existing internship scheme, with figures published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) showing that 41 percent of U.S. businesses plan to increase their uptake of interns this year. It's therefore a hot topic in many boardrooms at present, but what can employers expect to gain?
How to benefit from internship programs
There are a range of benefits that a well-run internship program can provide for businesses, with some of the major advantages including:
1. Showcase the culture - Internships provide an opportunity to get an inside look into your company’s culture. What can an intern look forward to if they become a full time employee? What is the work environment like? Is there a lot of team collaboration, or areas to work independently? Are there regular team building activities, outings, and opportunities for community involvement?
2. Highlight the focus on diversity and inclusion – Build your company’s diversity and disability brand by showing all interns how diversity and inclusion is engrained in the company’s culture, and initiatives that have been taken to do so. From the first day of the internship, set the tone of an inclusive workplace by showing interns what the accommodation statement and process is.
3. Take advantage of novel perspectives - New faces help to bring in fresh ideas, different skills and new ways of understanding problems. Interns can therefore be a great addition to any team that needs new and creative approaches to achieving their goals or fixing problems, while also freeing up time for existing staff by helping with key projects and tasks.
4. Build a pipeline - In many cases, an internship can act as a means of assessing the suitability of individuals for potential future roles within your business - a 'try before you buy' scenario. You are also helping young workers gain a foothold and experience within your industry, and creating a pipeline of young talent for future positions.
5. Increase employee retention - Figures published by NACE show that interns who go on to achieve permanent roles with your business are more likely to remain faithful to their employer over the longer term. The body showed 40 percent of employers achieve a higher five-year retention rate among employees they hire via their internship schemes.
But how can I get the most from my internship programs?
All of the above benefits are great for businesses, but delivering a positive internship program is about more than just understanding how it can improve your overall prospects; companies must understand how best to support these individuals to get the most out of their time in your organization.
Key to this process is providing clear information on the role that interns will be expected to fulfill within your business from the outset, as well as helping them to connect with their peers to feel part of the organization as a whole. In addition, clear instruction on individual tasks will help to build an intern's skills and confidence, but don't be afraid to empower them to come up with their own ideas or methods - you might be pleasantly surprised by the result.
Finally, businesses should take the time to issue a mentor to each intern; this ensures they always have a trusted figure to turn to with questions, issues or to flesh out their ideas. This can be a great way to build core skills and relationships for individuals that could one day return as a permanent addition to your workforce.