The IQTalent Partners Guide to Building the Best Internship Program

The IQTalent Partners Guide to Building the Best Internship Program

In popular media and the news, there’s an ongoing flux of positive and negative light on internship programs from almost every industry. From politics to celebrity and fashion assistants, lawsuits in the internship sector are rampant. What’s most interesting about these lawsuits is they all have one critical common denominator: compensation. From political interns suing for better pay and benefits to celebrity and fashion interns suing for unpaid wages, compensation is the name of the game.

#Internships are growth and development opportunities for students to hone some skills and develop some work experience. Check out these tips from @IQTalent on building the best internship program: Click To Tweet

To build or improve your own unique internship program, you want to outline what your premise of compensation (or lack thereof) first. Is there any expectation of compensation from employers and interns? Is the internship tied to or similar to the intern’s formal education program? Will the intern be entitled to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship? Your responses to these questions all need to be set out and organized to determine whether your internship program should be paid or unpaid. Fortunately, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) offers a seven-part test on this.

If you want to hire top talent in the coming graduation season, your internship program needs to be prepped and ready to entice potential candidates to apply. Once you’ve structured your compensation plan in accordance with current labor laws, you’re ready to move on.

The Importance of Internships

The bigger issue here is that some executives and companies view internships like free labor, which shouldn’t be the point of the opportunity. Internship programs are a learning opportunity for students to hone some skills and develop some work experience before they dive headfirst into the growing American workforce. More than that, internship programs offer the chance for companies to scout potential great employees.

Should it really be common practice among internship programs for companies to keep interns at arm’s length? If your team is distanced from the true ins and outs of the business, how can they maximize their usefulness to the company or the value your teams strive to provide? These critical questions outline the solution internship programs need to realize in order to be successful: interns are more than paperwork jockeys and coffee runners – they’re a vital part of the team.

IQTalent Partners Tip:

Our interns apply for opportunities within specific departments and will have unique internship projects and responsibilities associated with that department. Having structure within each individual intern’s experience aids in bringing them in a part of the team and also provides genuine work experience.

Internship Programs: Some Assembly Required

Interns hold within their blank canvases the potential to mold into great employees! If we’re not viewing and treating them as such, how will they grow and learn the skills they need to become assets to our teams, or to the growing US workforce? Hello, I mean the global workforce is going to be comprised of 50% of millennials (i.e. new college grads) by 2020, so rethinking this issue is critical to the future of talent acquisition, employee development, and college recruiting.

"Should it really be common practice among internship programs is for companies to keep interns at arm's length?"

Here are 5 steps to consider when building your internship program, straight from the IQTalent Partners playbook:

Step 1: Establish Your Compensation – work experience, wages, or both?

To pay or not to pay? That is the question. Shakespearean puns aside, by this point you’ve gleaned some of what your internship program will require, but should you decide to pay your interns – how much you’ll pay them is just as important as determining the workload. Depending on your internship parameters, the FLSA can help guide your decision on this matter. If your internship program falls inside the “paid” side, how will you delegate wages? If it falls inside the “unpaid” side, what unpaid work experience can you offer interns to keep your program competitive?

IQTalent Partners Tip:

Get involved with local university career centers.  Go through their internal career departments and hire interns that work through the University’s programs. The career center will be happy to provide additional expertise and assist in navigating the internship and hiring process.

Step 2: Cover goals and workload expectations

What’s the scope of work you’re going to allocate to your internship team? What goals, benchmarks, and accolades do you have planned for their workload journey? This step is for setting that system up so your interns have a specified directive that drives their development.

Step 3: Assign your intern mentors

Every intern needs a specific guide to the ins and outs of your business. Evaluate your team and select your squadron of intern mentors to coach your newbie team members on their tasks and projects.

Step 4: Commit to intern development

Setting and forgetting just isn’t a part of a successful internship program. Interns need coaching, mentoring, and consistent guidance, so set regular check-ins with them to see how they’re doing, what they’re enjoying, and what could be changed.

Wondering how to build the best #internship program? Check out these tips from @IQTalent! Click To Tweet

Internship programs as a whole offer an abundance of labor value to businesses, but the most intrinsic value they bring to the table is the ability to expedite the talent acquisition and development process. For some companies, internships are a great way to “test-drive” potential employees and new hires to see how well they’ll actually perform in their position and integrate with the company culture.

IQTalent Partners Tip:

Many students need work to present to professors as proof that their internship was educational and not just a few months of coffee-running and making copies. Giving them real projects and tasks to complete is helpful to them in more ways than one. They have work to show to professors and they feel that they’re offering an authentic contribution to the overall team.

Remember, the intern is also assessing your company’s culture. Be sure to practice the same employee engagement principles with interns that you do with full-time employees. Don’t let a diamond in the rough slip through because the experience, from their point of view, did not meet their expectations.

At IQTalent Partners, we know that great teams require that special time and effort dedicated to growing and developing teams – it’s what recruiting and sourcing are all about! Interested to learn more? Contact us! They don’t call us “Your On-Demand Recruiting Partner” for nothing.

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