How to Guide: Managing and Training Interns

If you're an organization that has recently decided to bring on an intern to your team, you may have some questions about how to go about managing and training interns as effectively as you can. 

Internships are intended to provide meaningful learning experiences for the intern early on in his or her career, while also addressing capacity gaps in your organization. However, how can you ensure that your organization as well as your intern are getting the most out of the experience?

We’ve included a few tips and general information for welcoming and engaging interns:

Not an employer? Read this article on how to make the most of your internship!

 Setting the Intern Up for Success

How to Guide: Managing and Training your Intern
An intern who feels welcomed and comfortable in the workplace will be happier and more effective in his or her role. 

The first portion of the internship is an opportunity for you to welcome the intern to the organization. Here are some activities that will help you welcome the intern during orientation:

  • Conduct an office tour with the intern.
  • Introduce the intern to the staff and departments. The intern will want to know everyone's role and what they will be working on during the term.
  • Explain the culture, mission, rules/policies, expectations, and structure of the organization.
  • Discuss a regular communication and check-in plan. How can the intern best contact his or her supervisor? When and how often will the supervisor be checking-in?
  • Discuss the short-term objectives (for the following three months) and the long-term goals of the organization that the intern should keep in mind.
  • Provide the intern with initial reading materials to become familiarized with the organization and ongoing or upcoming projects.
  • Provide opportunities for the intern to learn and ask questions. Allow the intern to shadow his or her supervisor and other colleagues.
Designing the Work Plan

How to Guide: Managing and Training your Intern
By the second week, the intern should have a solid understanding of their role and the organization's expectations for the course of his or her placement.

This section is applicable if your organization has brought on a general intern, with the intern co-creating a work plan. These tips can also be used if you’re open to making amendments to an existing work plan provided to the intern. The following are some things to consider:

  • The work plan should be in accordance with the intern's existing skills, background, and interests, while also providing learning opportunities through new experiences.
  • When developing the work plan, consider the intern's role, the projects that will be assigned to him or her, and the resources available or needed for the intern to perform his or her role.
  • What training is required? How will necessary training be provided?
  • How does the organization want the intern to deal with clients or the community, if at all?
  • What tasks can be completed without supervisory approval?
  • Do other employees in the organization understand the intern's role?

For the work plan to be used effectively, the intern and supervisor should review the progress of the work plan during regular check-ins.

Training the Intern

How to Guide: Managing and Training your Intern
Allow the intern to shadow, ask questions, and then perform the role you require under observation, and then independently. 

For the intern to sufficiently perform in his or her role, it may be required to provide training in a variety of areas:

  • Allow the intern to shadow the activity being performed. This is an opportunity for him or her to take detailed notes and ask questions about the process. Then observe the intern performing the activity on his or her own.
  • Explain the process before demonstrating how it's done. Outline key details, tips, and things the intern should look out for when shadowing.
  • Provide feedback. Determine next steps based on the intern's demonstrated understanding. This may involve providing more opportunities for shadowing or allowing the intern to start performing the activity independently.
  • The complexity or type of activity may necessitate that the supervisor repeat the process mid-way into the intern's placement.

Managing and Engaging the Intern

How to Guide: Managing and Training your Intern
Making sure the intern is constantly engaged and active in their role will ensure both you and your intern are getting the most out of this experience.

Managing the intern is an ongoing process, requiring the intern supervisor to:

  • Conduct regular check-ins with the intern. We suggest meeting with the intern on, at minimum, a weekly basis. Use this time to review the intern's progress with the work plan, assign tasks, provide feedback, and address questions or concerns.
  • Ensure that the intern has all the resources (s)he needs to get the job done.
  • Be accessible. As mentioned previously, the intern should be aware of communication structures and norms within the organization and with his or her supervisor. Be sure to follow through and be reasonably accessible via phone, email, and in-person.
  • Provide ongoing learning opportunities. For example, the intern can be introduced to other employees or projects, be taken to events and meetings, or can work on his or her own projects.
  • Watch for signs that the intern is confused or bored. As often as silence means that an intern is busy, it also could mean that he or she is confused and shy about telling you so. See whether the intern is trying to do anything that requires someone else’s input.

Keeping these tips in mind will aid you as an employer in ensuring your intern has the best and most productive experience they can have. What your intern gains from their role in your organization, you also gain in helping establish a well-adjusted intern ready for the workforce. 

 

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