If you’re like most talent acquisition leaders, then this crisis is probably the first time you’ve thought about running a fully remote internship program. There are obvious benefits to bringing interns into the office: they can pick up more ad-hoc work, build a network, and get a sense of what it’s like to work in an office. But as we all face the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to bring as many of those benefits to a remote internship program as possible—while also keeping your talent pipeline alive and healthy.
Here’s a quick checklist of what you’ll need to smoothly run a virtual internship program.
Most of the items on this checklist will fall under this point: You need to make a communication plan to provide instructions to both interns and managers. Whether it’s onboarding, building community, or keeping interns productive and engaged, communication is going to be the key. As always—but especially in a remote work situation like this—interns will turn to you with questions and concerns. Be prepared to provide them with as much relevant information as you can.
Take a survey of your incoming interns. Find out what technology they have access to, what their internet connection is like, and whether their computers can run your software. This will allow you to see what kinds of resources you’ll need to offer your interns. Something to note: Make it clear that there will be no negative consequences for sharing they don’t have access to tech.
Plan with your company’s IT department to distribute the necessary technology. Whether it’s shipping laptops or WiFi cards, these physical tasks require complex logistics, double-checking, and even more bureaucracy than usual due to the coronavirus. Start planning for this ASAP to ensure your interns have what they need before the start date.
Even for interns, onboarding is a complex process that can take weeks—and that’s when everything is normal. Even in quarantine, this process should still be exciting, informative, and engaging.
Prepare your speakers, teachers, and trainers. Make sure the people who were going to train your interns in person are now prepared to do so over Zoom, Webex, or another conferencing tool.
Plan events that are interactive—and not just for training. Keeping interns engaged throughout the onboarding process is essential to their success (and yours). Make sure that your training and onboarding events amount to more than virtual lectures. Give them frequent opportunities to interact with one another and ask questions. Finding time to give your interns and trainers a virtual break is important too!
Make sure that the work your managers are planning on assigning makes sense for remote interns to do. While providing real work to interns is always a concern, it would be especially difficult to keep talent engaged if they were doing data-entry for hours without even the benefit of human company or socializing. The best remote projects are ones that allow them to work both independently and with other team members.
Assign cross-functional group projects, if possible. These will allow your interns to forge bonds with their coworkers, interact with more members of the team, and learn about the company. These are always a good idea, but they’re especially important in an office-free internship environment, in which opportunities for making connections and learning about the company organically are fewer.
Virtual community is something we’re all getting used to. Whether it means Zoom happy hours, virtual lunchrooms, or even book clubs, virtual communities allow us all to stay connected to our coworkers—and our mission. Your interns won’t get the pleasure of spending time in your office, but they can still get the benefits of a strong community, like mentorship, social learning, and getting a better sense of company culture.
Here are some things you can do to help with this: Set up frequent virtual networking opportunities for your interns. Encourage your managers and full-time employees to reach out to them. Come up with creative ways to get your interns to connect with one another inside and outside of work hours, like online gaming, group chats, or fitness clubs.
Internships are one of the most valuable sources of entry-level talent—but you can only convert interns who had a positive experience in your program. Preparation and communication are the keys to successfully executing a new type of internship. More than ever, your interns and managers need you to guide them through it.
Need assistance recruiting for or planning a virtual internship program? WayUp’s experts can help. Fill out the form below or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.