Human Resources

Interns: Managing Them Effectively

By Nick Morpus

Interns can be a great resource for your organization. Even if their stay at your company is brief, they should be considered trainees; you should aim to prepare them as future members of the workforce. Today we present an article by Nick Morpus from Capterra Inc., who has guidelines for how to manage interns effectively.

Sure, you could have your interns fetch coffee, take out the trash, and send a few e-mails here and there, but if you wanted just another lackey, you could simply put up job ads for a butler and achieve the same results. An internship is an opportunity for those entering the workforce to acquire new skills in an office environment, not an opportunity to perform tasks that any minimum wage job would require.

Interns are a fantastic resource for cash-strapped organizations that “make or break” on the basis of the amount of money it can raise, so it is wise to make the most of your interns while teaching them useful skills that they can use in the future. I would know, I did my time as an intern, and the skills I acquired have been used many times over in my career so far.

Here are ways that you can make the most of your interns for your organization.

1. Identifying the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Interns

Just as you wouldn’t put a member of a NASCAR pit crew in charge of running a major hedge fund, you don’t want to put your intern in a position for which they have no passion, knowledge, or drive.

A common mistake for organizations is assigning its interns to tasks without first considering strengths and weaknesses. While I was working at my first internship, I was put on shipping materials and kits to college groups. Excel spreadsheets and logistics are not skills that I am built for. As hard as I tried, keeping up with the shipments and entering data proved to be quite a challenging task—and someone with the right skillset could have made the process go far more efficiently.

Leave the number crunchers and organizers to the detail-oriented positions, and put creative interns in a position where their talents will benefit your company.

2. Making Your Interns a Part of the Team

In many ways, you and your employees are bound to form bonds and social hierarchies due to the amount of time that you all spend together. Interns are, by definition, temporary employees, but they shouldn’t be made to feel like they are excluded.

Higher morale contributes to higher productivity. Nothing will lower the morale of your interns more quickly than treating them as “the other guys” or the “out-crowd.”

Make your interns feel like they are important and that they are a member of the team. Invite them to after-work activities, give them meaningful tasks, and include them in major projects and events. Tribalism is an amazingly motivating (or demotivating) factor that drives human action. If your interns feel like they are a part of your tribe and that they belong, they will return the favor in higher quality work and better productivity.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, Morpus presents his final three guidelines for managing interns.