Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
October 10, 2012
One of the goals of successful internship programs is providing interns with exposure to the different parts of a business—such as senior management, technical and leadership training, extra project work, and social activities—that help them to grow and develop, and leave a lasting memory.
“It’s a win/win because interns develop into more well-rounded people and we get to observe them in a variety of different situations and are able to assess their overall fit for the organization,” says Donna Norton, talent acquisition manager for Burlington Coat Factory.
To ensure its interns get exposure to the different areas of its business, Burlington has developed an internship program schedule populated with activities for interns to connect with the company, build skills, and bond with one another.
Following are several tips from Norton for developing and implementing an internship program schedule:
- Have enough time to build the program—It’s critical to ensure you can enlist the people and obtain the resources you need. A reasonable allotment of time is five to six months.
- Develop an orientation—This could include a welcome from your CEO, a team-building activity for interns, time with managers to review specific objectives and see the work area, sessions such as an assessment focused on communication styles and time management, and more.
- Plan a community project for interns—If you do a group project, be sure to include the weekly meetings and the final presentation to senior management on the schedule and send invitations to all attendees as early as possible to ensure strong attendance.
- Look to have an event at least once a week—Be sensitive to any days the interns may be tied up with normal work events, e.g. Burlington’s buying interns are in the market on Wednesday and Thursday; so Norton and her staff schedule intern events for Monday, Tuesday, or Friday.
- Plan events during which interns will be all together so they can bond—Be sure to plan at least one big social event. Invite their assigned mentor or buddy when appropriate.
- Understand what the interns need to be successful, not only during their internships, but long-term as well—Provide them with skills they can use in the real world or if they join the organization full time. Burlington offers “How to be Successful in Your First 90 days” during orientation and weekly leadership skills training, which includes personal accountability, communication skills, and presentation skills. In addition, it offers interns retail math and business intelligence training.
- Ask your training and development team what training it has that would be beneficial for the interns—If they don’t have anything that fits, then see if they can build it. This is one of the reasons why you should start early. Doing so gives your training and development team the time to develop training if needed.
- See what training, presentations, or other events the organization as a whole is offering during the intern program—Norton and her team were able to incorporate into its internship program schedule a company picnic and several “lunch-and-learns” that Burlington had planned for the entire organization.
- Get management involved—Burlington’s president and CEO, and senior management team are involved in the orientation and host an executive reception during the first week. Book these dates as early as possible to ensure a good turnout.
- Set dates for interns’ mid-term and final evaluations—Be sure to send reminders the week before so these are completed.
- Include a “shadowing day”—This provides the interns exposure to another potential career path. Select a date and include it on the calendar.