Did you attend the annual URx22 Conference last week? Symba was honored to be the title sponsor. It was truly an incredible learning experience. We moderated a keynote and a breakout session, and our team tuned into all the invaluable conversations. The theme was “Forward Together,” and we truly felt that during the conference. Attendees and speakers alike shared the value of knowledge sharing with fellow UR and EIC leaders and being able to connect with and have the support of the URx community. Symba also sponsored the SF Happy Hour, and we were able to witness this camaraderie live in-person.
If you missed the conference, don’t worry! Below are 10 takeaways that stood out to us as being particularly thought-provoking:
- “HR Business Partners (HRBPs) are key to the success of your internship program.” - Katia Ratkovich from Splunk during Symba’s Set Up to Scale breakout session. When building a case for scaling your internship program, or simply starting or keeping one, it’s essential to work with your HRBPs. They can help provide insights into the structure of your organization. Show them how the intern hiring pipeline contributes to organizational growth and feeds directly into headcount planning. If your company has a Chief of Staff, make sure you are in touch with them as they can be a secret weapon to get executive support. Another key partner for your internship program are the hiring managers; leveraging them as advocates can help you expand the internship program into other business units and locations.
- One of the key points made in Symba’s keynote session, Forward Together: How to Future-Proof Your Internship Program was to gather data to show the ROI of internship programs to continue to get buy-in.
- Adriana Durante from Rippling mentioned how interns that are converted tend to stay longer at a company than industry hires, which has been backed up by NACE survey data. Interns are also more likely to accept a full-time offer than external new grad hires.
- Clifton Tay from Genentech discussed how when he worked at Uber, they conducted a study to measure the promotion rates and performance of intern conversions. They found that former interns performed better than non-intern hires at the same level.
- Renee Davis talked about how their internship program at Duolingo was significantly smaller two years ago, but they were able to get buy-in to keep scaling by showing how converting interns led to increased hiring efficiencies and reduced the time required for interviewing new grads in the fall. In fact, it sometimes took 3x to close non-intern new grad hires versus interns.
- “Do not boil the ocean.” - Lauren Berger from Roku Inc. reminded us that in order to build trust with your leadership team, you need to focus on specific goals that you can deliver on during your internship programs. Target no more than 2-3 specific goals for the next 5 years in order to actually make it happen. Achieving your KPIs, like increasing employee diversity, may require some energy. Your team may need to change philosophies, find new ways of engaging intern candidates, and shift evaluation processes to extend offers fairly. Commit to the work, and be realistic ~ you can’t boil the ocean but you can get a kettle started!
- “Leverage managers/leaders/interviewers.” - Lindsey Hickok from Box. To get leadership buy-in for hosting internship programs, leverage anyone in the organization that has some passion/enthusiasm for what you’re building. These people could be former interns (before the company had a formal internship program) who are now full-time employees or managers that have had interns before and saw the benefits of hiring interns.
- “Swag, swag, and swag.” - Jeanie Arciaga from Roblox. Sending swag is one of the most effective ways to keep interns excited from the time they sign to their start date. Other ways of keeping your interns ‘warm’ is by providing timely resources/access to workshops to help interns learn more ‘on-the-job’ skills. You could also leverage local universities to provide these short-term upskilling courses to keep interns warm based on their location. Giving them a sense of ‘we are invested in your development’ could help reduce reneges and act as an effective retention tool! Roblox leverages a Keep in Touch (KIT) program, which is a formalized process with various touch points from post-internship to when interns start full-time to keep them engaged.
- “Inclusivity is a spectrum.” - Ebitie Amughan from Pinterest. Becoming more inclusive as a company isn’t restricted to doing the bigger things such as expanding the company holiday calendar, forming inclusion councils, etc. It can start with smaller initiatives like: giving interviewees breaks during the interviews, checking in to see if they are okay, giving them interview questions to prepare in advance which is especially helpful for neurodivergent talent, opening up the conversation for nursing mothers during interviews to make sure they are taken care of, etc. Monique Aristy from Confluent advised, “Help folks feel seen.” One way to recognize and celebrate diversity within your team is by celebrating each other’s holidays. A manager at Twitter went through Ramadan with her Muslim co-worker, even though she is not Muslim, to demonstrate solidarity and help her feel like a valued member of the team. However, it is important to be mindful of how we call out each other’s differences.
- 1:1 intern hiring is not scalable. Caroline Cunningham from Workday and Julie Hetcko from Lululemon both touched on this point. It’s not a good idea to just hire one intern in one location or one department or for a very specific job profile - it’ll be isolating and is not conducive to program growth. Make sure you have critical mass (a good cohort size) and the right resources (leadership sorted out and a solid manager to intern ratio) in place before scaling. This will help ensure a well-rounded learning experience for your interns.
- “Survey intern applicants, recruiters, and hiring managers.” - Therasa Cha from ServiceNow talked about how it’s important to use this survey data to understand if there are diverse populations with lower full-time offer acceptance rates and why, and how your organization can make changes to the hiring process, internship experience, etc based off of that. She also pointed out how quality over quantity is important when it comes to DEI events and initiatives. It can be easy for organizations to just throw money into things but students are feeling fatigued with recruiting events and they can see through disingenuine efforts.
- “Redefine what it means to diversify our programs,” Celeste Hippolyte from Epic Games stated. “Not just in the lens of ethnicity, race, gender - instead think about forgotten communities. Think about next generation talent, K-12 and early career. What are the groups that we always forget? People impacted by the prison industrial complex, etc. People who are most impacted, with non-traditional backgrounds. Let’s talk about leveling the playing field. That’s how I approach programmatic success.”
- One of the key points made in the session ‘From Navigating Headcount to Managing Reneges’ was to understand the ‘why’ behind student reneges.
- Number one reason for high renege rates today is competition and prestige: a lot of students want to try something new after not having a lasting impression at their current company. Students' perspectives on reneging has changed over the past few years - they are much less hesitant to back out late in the game. It could be due to company culture, compensation, exposure to leadership, brand recognition, etc. Hence, understanding the ‘why’ behind this is important so you can course-correct wherever required.
- Leveraging university partners is incredibly important; having support for reneges from the college side is also a sign of a good partnership.
- Yuga Iyer from Adobe mentioned “treating all parts of the recruiting process as a whole and not different bits and parts is a good part of the hiring strategy..”
We hope to see fellow UR and EIC leaders in person at the URx Conference next year! Additionally, we’ve partnered with URx to offer community members exclusive discounts (up to 20%!) on our program management platform. No more running your internship program on Google Sheets and multiple tools. Get Symba-fied instead, and streamline your program right away!