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Future Proofing Your Internship Program

Published by Anna George on July 27, 2022
4 min read

Anna George

Anna George is a Digital Marketing Intern at Symba. Previously, Anna has worked as a Communications Intern for a nonprofit organization. She graduated with her BAJMC in Advertising and Minor in Sociology at Drake University. Outside of work, you will find her out and about searching for unique small businesses in her area or playing with her dog!

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Announcements of layoffs, hiring freezes, and rescinded internship offers have roiled the tech industry and startup community for the last couple of months. Now, companies across multiple industries are making staff cuts as executives worry about a possible recession. Meta is pulling back hiring significantly through the end of the year. DoorDash is slowing headcount growth—as are Shopify, Uber, Netflix, and others. 

With this economic climate, what does the future hold for internship programs? As life continues to adjust to post-pandemic norms, UR and early career talent leaders are facing uncertainty – do internship programs stay remote, go hybrid, or return in-person? How can you prepare your programs for the unexpected? And with the competition for talent so high, what are the best practices to attract and retain Gen Z and future early in career talent?

Here are some ways to future-proof your internship program:

1. Have a Concrete Program Structure That Is Format-Agnostic

There’s three key things to keep in mind while creating the structure for your internship program: 

  • Program Mission – What are the goals for your internship program and does it resonate with the company’s goals? In the long term, sustaining leadership buy-in will be easier if your program goals are aligned with your company goals. 
  • Metrics of Success – As you’re building your program, know how you’re going to measure program success. Some metrics you should be tracking include: Net Promoter Scores, conversion rates, and offer acceptance rates. 
  • Program Fundamentals/Pillars – This involves thinking about ‘how are we actually going to implement this program?’. While figuring out program logistics, it’s important to make sure that whatever you’re implementing can be transferable between formats. For example: if you are planning to purchase a community management platform, ensure that it has functionality to accommodate hybrid, remote, and in-person interactions, and is not restricted to any one format. 

Taking one step back to think of your internship program’s foundational structure can take you a long way. Once the foundation is strong, it can be adapted to any format while facing low to no difficulty in securing leadership buy-in.

2. Get Buy-In at All Levels of Your Organization

Like any company initiative, an internship program’s success depends on stakeholder support. The senior leadership, program managers, HR leaders, intern managers, HRBPs, and all other employees who will interface with the interns must commit to the program’s objectives and sustainability. One of the most effective ways to reach all levels of your organization is through data. When everyone is on the same page about the value an internship program provides to the company, regardless of the economic environment, these stakeholders will encourage sustaining the program. Getting buy-in right at the start is key to future proofing your internship program. And don’t just get it right at the start and call it good, continue to show data and ROI to sustain buy-in throughout your internship program.

3. Document Program Details and Success

It’s essential to document every aspect of the program to ensure the process is clear to everyone in the organization. Documenting also allows you to keep track of what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, which is critical in building on past successes and avoiding recurring pitfalls. Here are some important aspects you can include in your written plan:

  • Internship start and end dates
  • Job location
  • Intern sourcing and onboarding
  • Intern roles and responsibilities
  • Supervision and mentorship
  • Evaluation procedures and metrics for success
  • Compensation plan for the interns
  • Who will be in charge of every program aspect

Having a pre-internship checklist can also help you implement a successful internship program for your company.

It would also be beneficial to document program success from previous years that go beyond success metrics such as: 

  • Who you can reach out to for buy-in/ support based on the support they have provided in the past
  • Anecdotes from program champions on how the program has helped them achieve some of their department goals or overall business goals

4. Focus on Company Culture

Gen Zers prefer working in an environment where they can really make an impact. You can do this by ensuring your recruitment marketing materials reflect your company’s career growth opportunities. Set up your interns for success by immersing them in your company’s culture, such as including them in social gatherings, employee resource groups, and group meetings. You can also organize introductory events with important team members to help them feel valued.

5. Harmonize Remote and On-site Teams

The trend of remote working is expanding. If it works for your business, consider offering remote work options and a flexible work schedule as an intern incentive. While some employers are reluctant to permit interns to work remotely, it’s a potent approach to show that you value and respect your employees’ time. If you do offer remote work, it’s important to harmonize your remote and in-person interns’ social interactions by leveraging a platform such as Symba that allows your interns to engage with each other seamlessly.

6. Create a Contingency Plan

In the job market, budgets get cut, programs get downsized or canceled, and plans are constantly altered. In the midst of a market downturn, it is important to stay active and mindful about recruiting efforts. Though your company may not be actively hiring, you need to be prepared for when the market bounces back. And it will, it always does! Here are a few areas to focus on during market downturns so you can prepare for the next bounce back:

  • Revisit headcount planning and align your resources to meet demand.
  • Expand your diversity recruiting efforts. You will set yourself up for a strong and diverse team down the road.
  • Upskill your current team members, it is one of the most effective ways to retain your current talent.

7. Benchmark Competition

Study the internship programs offered by competing firms by looking at the places they recruit interns from, the number of internships they have available, format of their internship program, and the departments they offer them in. Familiarizing yourself with other programs within your industry can help you position yours more competitively! Benchmarking also ensures you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you roll out the program.

Let’s start future-proofing your internship program today without increasing your UR team’s headcount.  Schedule a demo with Symba today to future-proof your internship program! 

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