Interns are a great resource to get more done in your business without breaking your budget. And, if you create a great internship program, you will get more than one intern who will get valuable experience as well.
As much as interns are free help, there is a cost to you. You do need to manage the intern to get the best results. Effective management begins with hiring the right people (yes, even interns) and continues with regular, frequent communication and recognition of success.
1) Hire the right people. The successful intern is a disciplined self-starter who is productive in an isolated environment but is wise enough to maintain connections with other outside communities. The person must also be trustworthy, self-reliant, organized, efficient, and dedicated to their own and the company’s success.
2) Get to know them. Hold one-on-one, 20-minute meetings (or longer) at least once every two weeks with direct reports. Let the intern set the agenda, and encourage him or her to discuss any questions or concerns. Assure him/her of your trust and respect, and ask questions about his/her aspirations, and quality of work life. Work to resolve any problems quickly, and keep the intern apprised of your progress.
3) Make them feel like a part of the team. Interns should be included in all team meetings. Teleconferencing and web-enabled tools like free teleconference phone lines, webinars, live chats, etc. make team meetings easy.
Include some form of recognition in these meetings, such as acknowledging an insightful comment, remarking on small accomplishments that contributed to the end result, and praising those who honor their commitments.
4) Communicate, communicate, communicate. And do it in as many ways as possible, including newsletters, electronic message/discussion boards, the company intranet, etc.
5) Set realistic benchmarks and expect regular status reports. Establish criteria for measuring progress and success – for example the total articles written or the amount of social media buzz created. Reserve a particular time of day or the week for check-in chats and/or web-enabled meetings. Set interim deadlines for projects to avoid surprises or gaps.
6) Reward and recognize. Reward interns’ desirable behavior in ways that are meaningful to them. Some may like things like a Starbucks gift card (since many of them work from coffee shops from time to time), learning and development opportunities, or simply time off. Ask interns to list two or three rewards that they would find motivating and then recognize them accordingly.
Managing interns is challenging but gratifying. Give them room to innovate and grow, and you’ll be rewarded with success.
Want to learn more about getting good free help including interns – and how to manage them? Check out this month’s Tweak It and Profit, where I share checklists, templates and examples to create your own ongoing internship program that gets things done! Visit www.TweakItandProfit.com