Internships are a fantastic way to get an extra hand in your business while building up a talent pool for future recruitment efforts. They are a low commitment, low-cost way of vetting talent. When I was scaling my first startup, we used interns to grow our business and hired 25% of them as full-time employees. It was the best talent sourcing solution we had. Christine Baxter, who is now CFO of Vancouver General Contractors, started off as a volunteer intern while in school, earning her way into a full-time position upon graduation, and then climbing the ranks to a C-Level executive all within a few years. There is no better way of finding hidden talent at affordable costs than internships. However, the success of your internship program depends on how you manage your interns. Five things to doDo have enough work to keep them busy throughout the entire internship. Many businesses bring on an intern for a project, only to have the intern sit idle once they complete the project. Ensure you have enough meaningful work for their entire internship. Do provide them a mentor or at least a direct supervisor. It's amazing how often an intern gets swallowed in a company with no one to report to and no guidance provided only to get a bad experience with the business. Introduce the intern to the person they will be directly reporting to and let that person know they are responsible for the success of the intern. Do listen to your interns. Many businesses view interns as cheap labor and don't fully understand or respect the breadth of knowledge they may have. Some of the best ideas and developments we have had at GenM came from the interns we worked with. Do give them flexibility, especially if they are volunteer interns. Students are busy with a thousand things, and value mobility highly. Giving them a flexible schedule will make them very motivated and they will perform better. Do understand the laws around internships, especially unpaid internships. Many business owners are in violation of labor laws because they don't know the 6 conditions that have to be met for an unpaid internship. At GenM, we designed our marketplace to meet those 6 conditions and ensure the students and businesses are treated fairly and compliant with labor laws. Five things not to doDon't give them critical path work. As much as you need that very important work done, they are still in training. Be conscious of the dependencies you build around interns because they are not a permanent employee. Don't have them do work unrelated to their vocation. There is nothing more frustrating to a student trying to gain career experience than doing meaningless work that teaches them nothing. Don't expect them to be productive immediately. In our apprenticeship marketplace at GenM, we track metrics on performance, and we noticed that students start becoming productive in month 2 of their training. Don't expect them to have a lot of prior experience. They are looking for experience, help them get it. Don't treat them differently than anyone else. It's amazing how interns sometimes get labeled and treated as a sub-employees in organizations. If you want to recruit them in the future, treat them as part of the team. Small vs. Large businesses internship programsWe recommend large and small businesses develop internships programs following the do's and don't list above. Many large businesses have established internship programs and relationships with Colleges. For many small businesses, however, they struggle to setup paid internship programs, so they often opt to bring on unpaid internships to help them grow. These small businesses end up breaking labor laws and providing sub par experiences for their interns.Regardless of whether you are a small or large business, student talent is the best value for your money so don't miss out on the amazing to hire them because you never know where your next rock star will come from.
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