Making interns your future star employees

By Aditya Mishra | October 27, 2019

Four years ago, we started with a belief that we could make a difference in the way companies acquire talent for themselves. We were quick to get a bunch of folks who were excited about the prospects of the journey and passionate about co-creating an institution. We were bootstrapped and didn’t have much on the physical side of the company to attract new talent. We had to sell our vision and a dream to prospective employees. We thought, we would start with a large bunch of interns and home-grow them who would eventually form a significant part of our talent base.
Typically large and established organisations run internship programmes. For a bootstrapped start-up, this is not a very conventional approach. However, it has worked well for us and we pursue this as a best practice.

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Leadership commitment

I have seen companies invest energies on internship programmes without realizing the potential returns they offer. They invest energies in carefully selecting the campuses they visit, send senior managers to visit those campuses to attract students, deploy rigorous selection processes to pick the best, design elaborate programmes to give a good experience to the interns; and market-leading compensation is offered to the interns. Often there are meaningful projects assigned to them and they are asked to work under the mentorship of experienced managers in the company. HR teams engage with the interns on an ongoing basis. Projects are reviewed by the senior managers and pre-placement offers are given so that the best-performing interns would potentially join the company. These are often indicators of a well-run internship program.
How do we measure the effectiveness of the programme? Clearly, it has to be the experience of the interns and the number of joiners who grow well within the system over five years.
For a program run efficiently, interns definitely get a good practical experience about work life. However, the more important question is if the right people fell in love with the company and aspired to build their career there.
Leadership team has to invest its time and energy in telling them the stories about the company, its journey, how they are different from the others in their industry, the future prospects they see for themselves and their vision for the future. This effort of the leadership team makes an efficient program effective.

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Rigorous Execution

Managers often know that an internship programme helps their organisation’s employer brand to grow stronger. They know, top talent can be attracted easily to their company and a leadership pipeline can be built for them. However, they sometimes cannot organise their schedule well and push the task of guiding and mentoring the interns to the lowest priority. As a result, the interns do not get to work on the projects with the desired rigour and depth. The organisation loses out on the opportunity of getting some meaningful work done and engage with a potential talent for the future.
Sometimes, an organisation offers highly attractive compensation and rewards for the internship programme and thus, draws the top talent. However, the projects assigned might not be substantial or the program is not structured well enough. Sometimes, the organisation is not ready to absorb the quality of talent the programme draws. These situations point towards over-projection of the opportunity and create disappointment among the interns. Naturally, the programme becomes a damp squib.
We need rigorous execution to make sure that all the stakeholders are well-aligned and prepared to attract the right talent, select the best and engage with them meaningfully.

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Detailed Planning

Execution can take place only when there is a detailed plan. Many internship programmes are planned on-the-go and resources are mobilised dynamically. As a result, execution suffers due to lack of details. Right from describing the career path of an intern to the choice of campuses, the stipend to offer, the selection process to the choice of projects, aligning the mentors with the projects, setting expectations of all stakeholders, assessment and recognition for the interns are matters of detailed planning. We need all of these to be detailed so that execution can happen rigorously.
Some of our star employees are home-grown. They started with us as interns. You can home-grow your stars!
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