With that in mind, internships can be of great benefit to both interns and their hosting companies. Interns are able to gain valuable hands-on experience in their chosen field and companies are able to know and evaluate them before hiring potential employees. But when the basics remain the same, dynamic changes occur when the environment is transferred to a virtual setup.
When interns are behind the scenes, rather than in the office, they and their programs need extra consideration and purpose. To make this easier, members of the Young Entrepreneur Council list some of their top tips for setting up and running a virtual internship program and share how you can ensure its success.
1. When possible, meet in person first
Whenever possible, find a way to meet with interns in person before moving to a remote work environment. That’s how I built my core team of remote staff. Before working with them remotely, I spent a day with their shadow in a co-workplace to understand their process and respond immediately to any aspect that needed improvement. Once I am confident that they are appropriate for our company and can positively impact our workflow, I have no problem transferring them to a remote internship and final full-time position. – Bryce Welker, CPA exam guy
2. Make time for connection
The mechanics of running a virtual internship are like a personal one. Your intern needs a mentor, a training or performance plan and the desired goals and outcomes. The biggest difference is making connections with your interns, who can’t physically communicate with their coworkers. Schedule regular check-ins, zoom coffee connections and even virtual lunches so they can feel part of the party. – Trivinia barber, priority VA
3. Include an aspect of accountability
One thing that must be included in any internship program is accountability. It becomes more challenging in a virtual format, but it can be done. The best way to do this is to create a system where you can see them at certain points before the end of the work to make sure they are doing as requested. Interns can sometimes misunderstand what you want and you can inadvertently treat them like an employee of yours who already knows what you want. Doing their job at key points can eliminate costly mistakes. It allows you to give advice and guidance. I would strongly recommend that you hold a virtual team meeting once a week so that you can take assignments and allow questions from your interns. – Baruk Labunsky, Rank Secure
4. Create a system for easy distribution of information
The needs of the company will determine how you create your internship program. An essential piece of advice is to communicate frequently with interns; Otherwise, they may be disconnected from their work. In addition, it pays to create a system for virtually delivering information. Physical offices have clear lines of communication, divisions and practical arrangements, which is not always the case with virtual companies. Create and place files in department-specific directories to achieve similar organizations online. Remote interns or staff can then find what they need without the help of a colleague. They can communicate quickly without being distracted by requests for help. This makes it easier for virtual interns to access organizational docs and files without side-tracking other people’s work. – Tonica Bruce, Lead Nisley, Inc.
5. Keep communication flowing
For some candidates, remote work may be as convenient as it may be, but managing staff successfully and running internships can be a challenge. The struggle is real, but there is something that can be done to make it better. One thing I have seen to be effective is to keep close and good communication. The person conducting the internship must submit instructions, goals, guidelines, expectations and more regularly and on time. Must have a defined goal, milestone and always have the right support from the manager. You will also need a clear channel to keep communication flowing when needed. Even if this is important for personal programs, personal touch and interaction need to be purposefully included in virtual programs, since this will naturally occur during individual programs, but not necessarily in remote times. – Ricardo Conte, Vertus Flow
6. Make sure the interns feel like part of the team
The most important thing to remember when running an internship program in a virtual environment is to make sure the interns feel like they are part of the team. This can be done by holding regular team meetings, assigning tasks that contribute to the overall goal of the company and providing feedback on their performance. Additionally, it is important for interns to have a clear understanding of the expectations and goals of the internship program so that they can be successful. The difference is that everything has to be written down and communicated electronically. So, you need to be creative and create videos, graphics and easy-to-read content that appeals to your interns and leads them to success. – Syed Balkhi, WP Beginner
7. Provide plenty of structure
The structure is important for someone like a new intern to be new to your company and an employee. Regular calls (a video call is better than audio only) and a written list of regular responsibilities is what an employer can “pay” an intern, especially if you can only offer unpaid positions. – Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts
8. Manage expectations
When moving from a physical to a virtual-first internship program, the first thing leaders need to keep in mind is that the expectation setting is a two-way street. In a physical setup, micromanagement, as far as we want to deny it, exists. In a virtual setup, micromanagement leads to scattering and lack of empathy. For leaders who want to avoid it, it means being transparent about expectations, limiting front and back, communicating guidelines, and more. For interns, this means setting realistic expectations, communicating about progress, asking “dumb” questions, and much more to keep their managers in the loop. Ensuring the right management of expectations is an additional burden on leaders, but it leads to a pleasurable experience for both to remember. – Candice Georgias, Digital Day
9. Engage an intern with a partner
One way to run a successful internship program is to assign your interns a partner to help them become comfortable and learn their roles. In a traditional office, the two employees will work together physically. However, your intern and partner employees will communicate through chat programs and video software in a virtual setting. Your intern will get more value from your time with your company if they work closely with someone who is knowledgeable and experienced. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC
10. Coming from a place of empathy
When creating a virtual internship program you need to start with complete empathy. Put yourself in their shoes and fully realize how unusual it can be to do an internship without setting foot in the building. This is a strange thing! So, it’s only natural that potential interns would feel a little out of place. Conduct activities that make things feel a little more normal. Introduce the team to the intern in the same way you would if they were in the office. Additionally, make sure everything is explained thoroughly. Talking to a work environment is more difficult when you look at it through a computer screen. – Nick Wendy, Stitchgolf