Designing and Managing a Virtual Internship Program

Virtual Internship Program
    Virtual Internship Program

The COVID-19 crisis has posed unprecedented challenges to the business world. Organizations are already struggling with business continuity, workforce management and talent acquisition as all these now are to be taken care of remotely. Over the last few months, the entire market scenario has drastically changed and it looks like it will remain so for a while. And now, with the arrival of summer, there is one more challenge which the companies need to address – managing virtual internship programs. There are a number of companies that believed remote work would be the future, long before the crisis began, and have a proper infrastructure in place. But there are many others that are still adjusting to this new normal. Several companies already have a list of selected interns and now they are wondering how to engage them remotely. Or, some were about to launch an internship program this summer for the first time and now they have no clue how to make it work. This is especially true for small businesses which now must rethink their strategies to recruit top talents as interns, remotely, so they can consider them adding to their talent pool in the future. It isn’t very tough though. A few changes and some creative problem solving could easily help you develop an effective virtual internship program. Here are a few tips to help you design one.

  1. Communicate Responsibilities and Compensation

You cannot just assign anything to your remote interns and expect them to complete the task. Clearly define and communicate the work they need to do and the number of hours your company expects them to devote. Assign tasks according to their capabilities and be thoughtful about helping them develop their skillset. Interns are usually college students without any negotiation experience and many accept offers even if the companies are underpaying them. Be a considerate employer and decide on a compensation based on their skillset and task assigned. Nurturing a good talent in the right manner would pay off in future.

  1. Remote Onboarding

Your remote interns wouldn’t get the formal team lunch or handshakes during onboarding. This calls for making their onboarding experience rich. Develop an effective onboarding process to make them feel integrated right from the start. Companies need to evaluate and identify the gaps their remote onboarding process has and must use tools and techniques to improve every intern’s experience as a new member of the team. Encourage your virtual interns to interact and put forward their queries. Some companies also rely on providing them with access to the company resources and social media site to learn about the organization before they start working. Also, provide them with learning opportunities so they can work on their professional skills.

  1. Make Your Interns Feel Valued

When an intern is working remotely, they have no idea about your team dynamics or work culture. Even if you have an amazing work environment, they wouldn’t be aware of it. As a mentor, you need to instill the team spirit in your intern. An essential aspect of managing remote interns is making them feel like they are an important part of your team and help them bond with other members. Team building activities like a welcome email or a team video call could be helpful. Involve your team and brainstorm effective virtual internship program ideas.

  1. Fix a Schedule

Many interns are college students and if you expect them all to be available in the usual office hours for discussions or work, that might not be possible. Some of them may have classes during that period of time. Discuss with them and fix a schedule when your virtual interns can coordinate with the team on a regular basis. Maintain clear communication, inform them about changes if any and try sticking to the schedule as much as possible.

  1. Assign a Good Mentor

A good mentor is essential for helping the interns grow their knowledge and skillset, especially when they are working remotely. The mentor needs to develop a good professional relationship with them. Nurturing the talents of your interns can be beneficial for your company in multiple ways. A good virtual internship program is a great way of brand building and attracting top talents. Also, you can later hire your intern as full-time employees in which case all your efforts put in the virtual internship program would contribute to developing a powerful workforce.

  1. Provide Continuous Feedback

When interns work remotely, there are high chances of them running out of motivation. It’s important to understand the working style of your interns, what they like or dislike doing, what kind of challenges they are facing and how they could be helped. Identify the areas where they need to improve and provide regular feedback to them. Also, the feedback must be given in a way that keeps them motivated at work.

These tips would certainly help you in managing a remote internship program effectively but as an organization you also need to think what suits you the best. Analyzing your company structure and requirements would help you better understand how to tailor your program for best results.

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