How does offboarding interns differ in a totally virtual environment? For CDK Global, some components of its offboarding process that are traditionally in person have been transitioned to the virtual space, while new elements have been created that will allow interns to stay connected to the firm.
“Offboarding is always an important way to wrap up the internship,” says Molly Szabo, early career talent lead, human resources with CDK Global.
“We want to make sure that our interns have had a good experience, get their feedback, communicate to them what the next steps look like, detail the timing for receiving a full-time offer, and more. That is still the same, although the vehicle for delivering this is different.”
In their last week of the internship, each CDK intern does a final presentation to a team that includes their manager, their mentor, and several other key stakeholders. CDK has incorporated a mock interview into its offboarding process, during which interns articulate what they have done, learned, accomplished, and gained.
“The presentation and mock interview leave a good impression on our leaders and it gives the students some interview experience before they head off to their senior year and the fall recruiting season,” Szabo says.
This year, CDK has also added a StrengthsFinder workshop to its internship program.
“Now that our interns have had their first professional experience, the StrengthsFinder workshop allows them to discover what their individual strengths are and how those play into a team setting,” Szabo says.
“That was really interesting and something we have not offered previously. Especially with working virtually, we think it is important to understand team dynamics. You don't necessarily get that without being in person and spending time with one another, so that was an interesting concept for us to facilitate.”
Szabo says that CDK does not have projects that it defines specifically for its interns.
“Instead, we incorporate our interns into existing teams and give them project pieces that they can work on,” she points out.
“Because of this, there is always more work that we can give them through extensions into the school year.”
Szabo estimates that 60 percent of CDK’s interns received extensions, a higher percentage than in a traditional year. The extensions range in duration from two weeks to the entire academic year, and, like the summer internships, they are paid.
“We typically offer extensions to interested interns if it fits our business needs,” she notes.
“We definitely have more intern extensions than normal this year. I think a lot of that is because we realized that virtual internships are easier to facilitate and manage than we thought they would be. Interns have demonstrated how effective they can be virtually, so it is a no-brainer to keep them working with us during the school year.”
Keeping interns connected to CDK is crucial, especially in this uncertain environment.
“Obviously, recruiting is going to look totally different this year,” Szabo explains.
“We won't be attending on-campus events, so we have to be a little more creative with what we are doing as far as engaging candidates. We are encouraging our current interns to help us in this process.”
CDK is establishing an ambassador program with interns helping to host information sessions and a referral program that allows interns to earn cool swag if they bring their friends to these events.
“A lot of these interns will be working for us after graduation, so these are good ways to keep them engaged and involved,” Szabo says.
“We developed really strong relationships with these interns, which, in turn, means that they trust us, they are coming to us with the right questions, and we are collecting meaningful feedback from them to improve upon future programs.”
To develop these strong relationships in the virtual workplace, CDK’s recruiters had frequent one-on-one conversations with interns and checked in with them personally, instead of sending out mass emails.
“By checking in frequently and soliciting their feedback, there will be no surprises during the offboarding process,” Szabo says.
CDK’s internship program and offboarding process are also intended to help interns build their confidence going into their senior year, which, Szabo points out, is a “strange one.”
“Our interns might not be going on campus for their senior year or they might go back, but in a very limited capacity,” she says.
“Career fairs look very different now. If they are going out and exploring their career options outside CDK, we want to help build their confidence and make sure that they understand that they are supported by us.”
Szabo explains that CDK is committed to providing support to its interns, regardless if their career path does not include working for the company.
She explains: “If [our interns] say, for example, that this isn't necessarily the type of industry they would like to work in, our team continues to support them, whether that is preparing them for interviews, helping them with their resumes, or something else. Even if it means they are interviewing with other companies, we like to maintain that relationship with them because, down the line, they could change their mind and want to come back or they may have friends who are considering CDK. Providing this support helps us build our brand, but, more importantly, it is the right thing to do.”
Overall, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic did not have a devastating impact on CDK’s internship program. CDK did not cut any interns or rescind any offers, and it did not push back the start of its internship program. In addition, the move to virtual has not altered the goals of its internship program, including offboarding.
“Our goals for offboarding our interns have always been to celebrate their accomplishments, provide them with the professional presentation experience, receive feedback from our team, and allow them to offer feedback to us to improve our internship program,” Szabo says.
“These goals have not changed this year, but I do think the bonds our recruitment team has with our interns have become stronger, so there have been positive impacts for us now and going forward.”