Have you ever been an intern? Have you ever hired an intern?
There are many reasons to hire an intern. Sure some see it as a short-cut to cheap labor or to appease HR.
But if you’ve ever been part of a great internship program–on either side of the desk– you know that it can be a fantastic job preview–an extensive 2-way interview process. It’s an opportunity to try before you buy.
Internships give interns the opportunity to ask:
- Does this work align with my passion and purpose?
- Are these my people?
- Can I see myself doing this every day?
Of course, employers are asking similar questions:
- Does this kid have potential?
- What unique contributions would they bring to our company?
- Do they fit in?
Watching my MBA students in the great internship dance is fascinating. You can learn a lot about workplace culture and how to attract and retain millennial talent over a “How’s your internship going?” cup of coffee. (Even more over a beer.)
This observation is why I was so intrigued when I bumped into this best practice while I was doing some Winning Well consulting.
The senior leadership team had sent me to this location to understand what was going so right and to help them spread it to their other locations. The list of Winning Well best practices was healthy, but this one struck me most. And it’s going in our next book.
The Power of Internal Internships
The strong culture was keeping people there, but there was also a bit of stagnation. Employees were getting comfortable in their roles and afraid a lateral move would impact their performance rating or earning potential if they were not successful.
So the manager built an Internal Internship program. Employees could raise their hand to intern in another role for two weeks. They would receive some training, shadow, take on some tasks, and finally “try on” the job. No commitment. No risk. No guarantees.
If after two weeks, everyone loves it, they are encouraged to apply for the next open position. If they tried it and hated it, at least they knew without a lot of sunk costs or time on either end.
Benefits of Internal Internship
- Exponentially more discussion around career pathing, even for those who didn’t decide to intern.
- Frank career path conversations: “No, you cannot do an internship with that attendance record. Let’s get that cleaned up first.”
- A broader understanding of the big picture. “Oh, that’s why they do it that way.”
- Increased collaboration across departments, with more folks having walked a mile in the other guy’s shoes.
- Improved morale and retention. More people seeing a future–not just a job, but a career.
When I asked the manager about the ROI, she was all in. The value of getting the right people in the right seats, performing well, far surpassed the additional time and effort her team spent on the program.