How can I make sure virtual internships stay on track?
As you know, virtual internships offer a number of benefits to both large and small businesses alike. But some employers worry that keeping remote internships on track might mean installing spyware and a hidden camera. Not so. Managing remote interns is actually easier than employers imagine… especially with the help of the following tips:
- (Still) Assign a supervisor. Just because interns aren’t in your office, doesn’t mean they don’t need a manager. And virtual interns certainly shouldn’t be “on their own” after training ends. In fact, designating a strong supervisor may be even more important when a student is offsite.
- Schedule twice-daily updates. Have interns touch base by phone or email with their supervisor at both the beginning and end of each day. In the morning, the conversation should confirm what they’ll be working on. At the end of the day, they should provide a report on their progress.
The advantage is twofold: First, the check-ins will ensure a structure to the flow of work—and that more important projects are prioritized. Secondly, when students know they’ll have to account for their activities at the end of the workday, they are far less likely to procrastinate or slack off.
- Calendar a weekly call. Have interns set a standing weekly phone call with their supervisor. During this call, the supervisor should give feedback, answer questions, and preview upcoming projects.
While some employers prefer email check-ins, phone calls allow much more personal interaction. Since you’re not getting to know the student onsite, talking every week gives you a better idea of how an intern might fit with fulltime employees on an ongoing basis.
- Implement a time-tracking system. Especially for paid internship programs, it is absolutely crucial you set up a standard time-tracking system.
Essentially, you have the option of setting up a manual system or a computerized method. For manual systems, interns are sent a timesheet template. The student simply types into the document each day and time-period they work. At the end of the week or month, they email the sheet back to the supervisor.
If you have multiple interns, you might invest in a computerized time-tracking system. This software enables hourly employees to log in and out at the press of a button and automatically tallies time at the end of each pay period. Whichever method you choose, however, make sure you tell interns to log or timeout for breaks and any personal interruptions.
- Instruct interns to track time by project. You don’t want to get a timesheet that simply says “17 hours”—or you’ll be left struggling to recall the specific assignments. Instead, include a space on your sheet for “task or project,” and instruct students to write what they worked on during each block. This will let you know how long tasks are taking, so you can make modifications if necessary.
- Encourage questions. Interns should feel like the lines of communication are open for questions. Many times, offsite interns are timid to reach out for information or clarification because they worry they’re bothering supervisors. Errors are often the result… errors you have to remedy.
- Consider an initial in-person meeting. Even though it’s a virtual internship, you might consider meeting face to face at first or training onsite. For interns who live locally, actually seeing how things work can be beneficial. Some companies even have virtual interns come into the office on a weekly or monthly basis.