Sustaining leadership support for an internship program is a crucial step towards leveraging intern talent pipelines. For some university recruitment teams, maintaining executive support for these programs may appear like an impossible task, especially during hard economic times such as recessions, high inflation, or rising interest rates.
When the going gets tough, internship programs are one of the first to experience cost-cuts. But it doesn’t have to be this way with strong leadership buy-in. University Recruiters, this one’s for you! In this blog post, learn how to successfully sustain leadership buy-in for your internship programs.
Why Is Leadership Buy-in Important for Internship Programs?
- Internship programs cost money, and leadership support allows companies to set aside sufficient budgetary allocation to run them.
- Running internship programs also requires non-financial support, such as staff resources.
- Company leadership also molds organizational goals, and having their support helps university recruitment teams develop a more culturally-aligned internship program. Making internships an integral part of company talent recruitment can insulate the program even during leadership transitions.
- Company leaders who are accountable to shareholders may also need to justify the investment, so assuring them that the internship program provides value for money is important. Leaders will typically defend a program that has a positive ROI for the company.
How Can You Sustain Leadership Buy-in for Internship Programs?
1. Determine the Drivers or Pain Points
The first step to getting leadership buy-in is listing out key pain points that made your company launch its internship program in the first place. Key questions to ask yourself and communicate to the executive team include:
- Why does your company need to have an internship program?
- What are the repercussions of not having an internship program?
- How can the company benefit from having an internship program?
Potential drivers for supporting internship programs can be lack of an early career talent pipeline, the need to promote equity and inclusion in the company, or to build brand awareness. If your company is facing an employee retention problem, having an internship program with high conversion rates can solve this problem and reduce the cost of recruitment. Identifying such factors can enable the company's leadership to continue supporting your internship program over the years.
2. Quantify Benefits of Internship Programs
The executive team is likely to support an internship program that accrues real benefits to the company. Here is a guideline that can help you quantify the benefits of an internship program to your company's leadership:
- Compare the cost of an industry hire to the amount the company can save by hiring an intern who is already well versed with the work and the company.
- Compare the retention rate of a former intern who is now a full-time employee to the retention rate of external hires (after one and five years).
- Emphasize the intern-to-full-time-employee hiring ratio.
- Collect DEI metrics within intern cohorts versus DEI metrics of external hires.
- Highlight the promotion rates of former interns.
3. Reference Industry Research on the Benefits of Internship Programs
There are many research reports that outline the benefits of internship programs. Get leadership support by referencing these reports in your presentation. Refer to government reports, such as those from the U.S. Department of Labor, that contain data on job market dynamics. The National Association of Colleges and Employers also runs surveys that can help university recruitment teams convince company leadership to support internship programs for the long haul.
When using industry research in your pitch, it’s important to quote reports from the same industry. For instance, if you’re a tech company, get tech-related industry reports since they can be more persuasive than non-tech industry reports. Critical highlights you can pick from previous research include:
- Retention rates among former interns.
- Benefits of internships as talent recruitment pipelines.
- How interns can be a better cultural fit than new graduate hires.
4. Map Program Stakeholders
Internship programs bring together various stakeholders from whom university recruitment teams require winning support. Some influential stakeholders include the Chief Human Resource Officer, the Chief Diversity Officer, Hiring Managers, and more.
Mapping involves identifying who the critical program stakeholders are and pinpointing their stake in the program. You must also outline how the internship program can help the stakeholders achieve their strategic goals. Stakeholders are more likely to support your internship program if it takes their interests into consideration.
5. Work with HR Business Partners
Get support for internship programs by working with HR business partners to establish how new graduate hiring is likely to pan out for the next 1-5 years. Engaging HR business partners can also reveal what succession planning looks like with the departments they work with. Leveraging this data can help university recruitment teams persuade company leadership that hiring interns can be a solution to succession planning in those departments.
6. Leverage Testimonials from Champions
Use testimonials from internship program champions who have had remarkable success working with interns. Champions can be human resource business partners and leadership team members, such as intern managers and heads of departments. Leveraging your champions' testimonials could tilt the scales in favor of sustaining the company’s internship program regardless of prevailing economic circumstances. Data and metrics are important, but experiences and the sentiment around your program can be powerful as well.
As an internship program manager, are you wondering how you can protect your internship program from getting paused or ways in which you can acquire the best talent, given today’s economic environment?
We have the perfect resource for you - our latest workbook on ‘Sustaining leadership buy-in for your internship program’.