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  • IBM In-Turn Up Celebrates, Elevates, and Motivates Interns on National Intern Day

    August 08, 2022 | By Kevin Gray

    A student listens to some music on her headphones.

    TAGS: technology, best practices, internships, branding and marketing, nace insights, talent acquisition

    In 2021, IBM developed a virtual celebration of National Intern Day that literally created the soundtrack to its interns’ summer experience. The goals of the music-rich, Grammy-themed “IBM In-Turn Up” were to:

    • Celebrate the achievements and highlight the memories from an unforgettable summer internship;
    • Elevate the voices of this generation, recognizing their unique ability to generate change; and
    • Motivate interns to continue to take pride in their work and follow their passion at IBM and beyond.

    2022 NACE Award Winner
    IBM is the winner of the 2022 NACE Award for Technology Excellence-Employers for its development of the “IBM In-Turn Up” virtual celebration. For more information about the NACE Awards program and the full list of award winners/honorable mentions, see

    “In continuing to excel in a virtual environment, IBM leaned on Gen Z data insights and IBM technology to create a memorable event,” says Bridget King, senior talent acquisition manager, North America early professional hiring.

    King explains that the IBM talent acquisition team developed an engaging in-person experience with more than 2,000 interns and IBMers across North America.

    “Preparation consisted of selecting an interactive platform that allowed a seamless experience of the dynamic agenda that kept the audience engaged and excited,” she says.

    “Diversity was woven in the ceremony's execution throughout the fun activities and embedded through speakers from different backgrounds. We infused inclusion through topics of conversations that resonated with the audience and reflected IBM’s priority for initiatives like climate action.”

    The virtual finale celebrated achievements and highlights from the summer internship program.

    “It was an energetic, virtual Grammy experience that had a Gen Z audience at heart, centered around music from the first beat to the final track,” King says.

    “Bringing in the musical theme from the first touch, IBM invited interns to the event with a chance to create their own unique remix through an interactive website.”

    The event registration process included asking interns questions that helped to personalize the creation of a summary song for the event by a group that creates interactive musical experiences.

    “Branded details—from T-shirts and backdrops to custom pictogram emojis—fueled the energy, look, and feel through each touchpoint,” King says.  

    IBM’s first-ever intern awards ceremony ensured interns felt recognized and had the opportunity to support each other with dedicated recognition throughout the show. “Intern-views” with show hosts and IBM executives were also interspersed throughout the program, along with a demonstration of how Grammy Debates with Watson works by an IBM Watson expert.

    “As an added surprise, the Grammy conversation segued into a three-song performance by Grammy Award-winning band Portugal. The Man, followed by a conversation with the band and hip-hop artist and activist X Martinez discussing the important topic of climate change,” King adds.

    “To wrap it all up, the summary song was debuted and played live, much to the excitement of all.”

    IBM had a strong live attendance rate of 74%. During the event, more than 600 comments were posted with 3,000+ emoji reactions captured; thus, the IBM talent acquisition team met its goal for engagement.

    Due to the success of the first IBM In-Turn Up, it has become an annual event. This year's celebration featured a hybrid format for more than 2,500 interns watching across 19 different offices in the United States and Canada.

    “We took all the technology from the first year, improved on it, and took it to the next level this year,” King says.

    “We focused on a hybrid approach since we still have a hybrid workforce. We had many interns who were working from home and another group of interns in offices. We built the event around incorporating everyone into the event, whether they were virtual or in person.”

    The theme was an interactive game show with interns grouped into teams by region. The event was live streamed from every office, and there was food and a DJ playing music.

    “The biggest lesson we have learned throughout this process is to understand what Gen Z likes and dislikes, and what keeps them engaged,” King explains.

    “We surveyed our interns and reviewed research about Gen Z attitudes. We found that they really like competition and a fast-paced delivery. The game show theme satisfied those.”

    King stresses that it is important for IBM’s talent acquisition team to elevate voices of the next generation of IBMers by recognizing their unique ability to generate change.

    “Additionally,” she continues, “it was essential to motivate interns to continue taking pride in their work and to follow their passions at IBM and beyond. The goal was to use cutting-edge technology to make the experience feel hyper-personalized. IBM achieved this by having a seamless, interactive, and flexible experience with fast-paced, rolling, and dynamic programming.”

    King suggests that others looking to hold a similar event unleash their creativity.

    “Don't be afraid to go outside the box and be innovative and creative when thinking about ways to engage this generation,” she says.

    “Also, look at options for both virtual and in-person engagement. This is the new norm, so we have to incorporate both groups of employees so everyone feels included.”

    IBM has achieved its goals with the IBM In-Turn Up event, which has strengthened the connections between the organization and its interns.

    “The overall objective was for the interns to feel appreciated, a part of the IBM family, and proud to be a part of their inclusive culture,” King explains.

    “Ultimately, the celebration has helped interns with return offers make a confident decision to accept their offer to return to IBM after graduation. The outcome surpassed what we had hoped for with the feeling of camaraderie and excitement, and the sentiment of being proud to be an IBMer.”