Working out the best way to manage interns at a start-up isn’t easy. Without having the established practices and training schemes of the big corporates, it can be difficult to get the most out of the process.
But it needn’t be that way. Interns can be particularly effective at a start-up, bringing in fresh, exciting ideas, taking time consuming work off the plates of others and causing genuine change in the company almost straight away.
No matter how you plan to manage your intern though, it has to start with…
Attracting the best talent
Getting the most out of your new hire starts with making sure you attract the top students and graduates to your company.
The good thing is, it’s not all about the money, even if you should definitely be paying anyone undertaking an internship. Focus on what you can afford and make the opportunities to learn clear, along with the culture of your company and the benefits to an intern’s CV.
Make the role right
Preparation is key, especially for a small business. While start-ups will never be expected to provide the kind of comprehensive training schemes offered by bigger companies, it’s important to have a clear idea of the kind of day to day duties you expect them to be completing and the time you’ll dedicate to their learning.
Making this clear to candidates from the start will make the internship more effective from both sides as the chances are that you’ll get more effective work out of the intern and they will get to learn and develop as much as they can.
Perhaps more importantly you’ll get a motivated candidate in who knows what to expect instead of being surprised by the nature or volume of the work they’re being expected to do.
When the internship starts, make sure you set out some goals. This might be that you want a project completed, that you want them to have learned a set of skills or contributed a certain amount.
From their side, they will know that at the end of the internship they’ll have quantifiable achievements to put on their CV and this will keep them motivated. On top of this they’ll know what they need to aim for while they’re working.
From your side, you’ll be able to assess the effectiveness of their work and you’ll have a clear understanding of how they might contribute before, during and afterwards. This is useful not only to assess how effective the internship scheme was, but also on whether you might want to offer them a full time graduate job at a later date.
Project or variety
People tend to use interns in three ways. Either allow them to form a crucial part of completing a project, getting them to experience tasks across a different range of departments, or give them all the menial tasks no-one else wants to do.
The last way is rarely a good idea. While it might free up the time of other staff, you’ll be stuck with an unmotivated, inefficient intern who learns little and it can damage the reputation of your company and internship scheme.
A project will offer you the opportunity to achieve a genuine, completed aim, and will give the intern an opportunity to have a completed assignment on their CV. Working across a variety of departments will give the intern a great breadth of knowledge and the opportunity for different teams to give them a whole range of work to do.
Either way, pick your strategy and run with it!
Another great way to get the most out of your internship scheme is to get them involved in meetings and discussions from the start. At the beginning this will be useful for them to learn about the company and integrate as much as possible.
But later on, this can be even more effective. Any opportunity to on-board ideas from a new face at the company is crucial as they are fresh and aren’t held down by established practices. With interns, there’s an added bonus of not even be stuck in set ways of working from previous work.
While they may not have the experience to offer ideas across more technical areas, they may have an interesting perspective on work practices, or bring a new suggestion that you’d not considered.
Build a relationship
Building relationships with you employees is always key, but particularly if you find yourself with a really talented intern.
One of the main advantages of having an internship program is that they can be essentially an elongated interview process. If you’re impressed, getting them ingratiated in the company culture and building a relationship is a great way to encourage them to consider a full time role after they’ve finished their studies.
Many of the most talented graduates will be snapped up by big companies and won’t be available in the job market for a long time, and on an even longer wage. Give them the best experience possible, keep open communications and you may go to top of their list.