The Ultimate Guide to Onboarding Interns: Best Practices for Success

Help your Interns to feel right at home from the get-go!

Internships are a valuable opportunity for students and recent graduates to gain hands-on experience in the professional world. However, the success of an internship program largely depends on the onboarding process. A well-structured onboarding program can help interns adjust to their new roles, perform their tasks effectively, and get the most out of their internships. Here are some best practices for onboarding interns.

1. Have a Vision for Their Entire Internship

Before the interns start, map out your goals for them. What do you want them to walk away with at the end of their time with your organization? What do you need them to accomplish to make your life easier? Plan it all out, week-by-week, and have that recipe ready to go before Day 1.

2. Give Your Interns a Warm Welcome

First impressions matter. Make sure interns get to meet everyone on the team and learn their names.

Introduce a habit of one-on-one coffee meetings for all new employees. These one-on-ones give a chance to learn more about the new coworker and gives them a chance to hear from us about what you do and why you do it.

3. Make Sure Your Interns Know Your Mission

Review your mission with your interns. Show, don’t tell, and things will stick. This will help them understand how each task fits in with that mission.

4. Kick Off Their Internship with a Training Session

Start things off by reviewing your goals for them, hear about the goals that they have for their time with you, and walk them through the major processes: HR, dress code, chain of command, and other top-level protocols. Then show your interns the roadmap you’ve planned for their time with your organization. Give them a chance to see their week-to-week or month-to-month laid out.

5. Handle Paperwork During Pre-boarding

To get them settled in as quickly as possible, do the following before their first day:

  • Confirm their first day and standard hours of work, ideally in a face-to-face call, which can help them feel confident and give them the chance to ask you any questions
  • Complete paperwork, including for banking forms and other requirements, such as an NDA
  • If they’re working in an office, have their desk space and computer set-up, ready, and waiting, along with any other equipment needs
  • Provide access and permissions for all the digital tools and services they’ll be using, for example, Slack, Google Drive, or LiveWebinar accounts ;-)

6. Share Goals and Expectations

Providing clear examples of what’s expected from new employees is particularly valuable to interns who may not have any experience of a typical working environment. One effective way to do this is by sharing key company or team meetings from the past year, quarter, or month. Not only will they have the chance to pick up on company goals, principles, and processes, but they’ll also be able to see how team members behave, communicate, and listen.

7. Engage, Engage, Engage

People perform best when they’re engaged. Engaged with their team, their objectives, and their tasks. This is especially crucial for interns as they’re probably only with you for a short time. So you need their buy-in from the start. We’ve already touched on some of the most important actions you can take to engage interns, such as mapping their internship journey, offering recognition for all their achievements, and creating live touchpoints with theirteam, peers, and managers throughout their first week and beyond.

8. Communicate with Their School or College

Maintain open communication with their school. In doing so, you’ll demonstrate a commitment to their wellbeing, and will be taking proactive steps to provide the additional support that all workers can benefit from, including interns. Listen to what their teachers have to say, adjust their schedule where necessary, and ensure you always have oversight of their workload and that it’s never unmanageable.

9. Map Their Journey

Share with your intern what they’ll get out of their time with you. Seeing the kinds of projects they’ll be working on and what skills they’ll learn will both reassure and motivate them. By mapping their internship with a timeline showing the tools they’ll use, the special tasks they’ll complete, and the technical skills they’ll develop, you can also more easily track their training and progress.

10. Tell the Team Who’s Starting and When

Let the team know there’ll be a new intern starting before their first day. This will give them the chance to prepare a welcome, set aside time for a meeting where applicable, and ensure your intern isn’t met with a succession of blank faces because everyone’s too busy to notice a new starter.

11. Give Interns a Fantastic Introduction to the Company Culture

How people start their new role can set the tone for the rest of their time with an organization or team. So demonstrate the care, attention, and togetherness you wish your interns to show in their future tasks and interactions.

12. Let Interns Make the Most of Their Internship

By taking care to provide interns with an engaging onboarding experience that connects them with peers, teammates, and managers, you can pre-empt many of the HR challenges they often face, such as a lack of experience in the workplace. This will not only give you more time to concentrate on providing the personalized attention that the best onboarding processes have, but it will also allow your interns to make the most of the fantastic opportunities that a successful internship offers.

In conclusion, a well-structured intern onboarding process is crucial for the success of your internship program. It helps interns adjust to their new roles, understand the company's mission and goals, and perform their tasks effectively. By following these best practices, you can ensure that your interns get the most out of their internships and contribute significantly to your organization.

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