3 Tips to Promote Inclusion in Your Remote Internship Program
By Ellen Zhang
An inclusive workforce starts from the ground up with interns and other young professionals, who are our future corporate leaders. Promoting inclusion requires a lot of thought and preparation and is far more complex than increasing racial or gender minority representation.
Inclusion in the workplace is only successful when it is a sustained effort backed by specific and measurable actions. Managers and HR professionals must lead by example and encourage employee participation in diversity and inclusion initiatives and incorporate them into the core of the company’s culture.
For interns, being in a junior, oftentimes seasonal, position can make it difficult to feel included. With remote internship programs becoming more commonplace, it is crucial to address a new set of challenges when fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for interns. Here are three tips to promote inclusion in your remote internship program.
1. Encourage participation and open communication.
One of the challenges with internships in general is making sure your interns feel seen, heard, and acknowledged. This can become even more so in a remote environment. As a manager, you should give space to interns to discuss their ideas and thoughts. During your 1-1s, encourage them to speak up and ask questions, and be open and receptive.
In addition, you should schedule time to let your interns get to know their teammates on a more personal level through team-building activities or coffee chats. Even sparing a few minutes during standups to talk about things other than work can make interns feel more included. Managers should strive to get their interns involved in meaningful conversations and projects and make them feel like members of a team.
2. Acknowledge and celebrate differences and individuality.
Young professionals are increasingly looking for workplaces where diversity is a key value. Appreciating and celebrating differences in ability, communication, experience, and culture will help interns become comfortable and confident and in the end, perform better.
Find ways to engage your remote interns through fun activities. Host virtual lunch and learn sessions during which interns can present something that’s significant to their individuality. For example, interns can do a cooking demonstration on how to make dumplings or perform a drag show or teach a kizomba lesson.
3. Inclusion is everyone’s responsibility. Hold yourself and others accountable.
Set goals for you and your team when it comes to these diversity and inclusion initiatives and regularly measure against them. How many of your interns are attending these events? How many are actually participating? Send out surveys to be completed anonymously for feedback, and use the feedback to shape your initiatives. These tactics will help keep yourself accountable as an intern manager.
Your interns may interact with others outside of your immediate team. Invite them to get to know your interns. Everyone who is participating in your interns’ career growth should participate in virtual training to prepare them for engaging with and supporting virtual interns.
HR professionals and internship managers have the opportunity to attract, develop, mentor, and retain talented interns. Creating an internship program that intentionally fosters and promotes inclusion at its core will ensure that its participants have a fulfilling experience.