Archive for April, 2010
by the Intern Coach
A. You’ve timed your question perfectly. Inc. magazine just published an excellent piece, “How to Manage Interns.” (April 22, 2010). The article is loaded with great tips to help you structure your program to everyone’s advantage. The author writes that companies should first consider what internships can do for them, such as evaluate an intern as a potential employee. Also, the company can use internships as marketing tools to develop and promote its brand among potential employees, consumers, and the local community. Among the many helpful suggestions are the following:
- Offer interns practical work experience that matches their academic interests. Supplement their assignments with a speakers’ series or introduce them to colleagues in your industry, who might provide a continuing network after their internships.
- Select a company mentor or point person who can answer intern questions and resolve any issues. Encourage interns to move around the company, meeting various professionals, learning about the corporate culture, and developing new skill sets from numerous “teachers.”
- Estimate how much time the company will spend on training and advising the intern. Before the intern begins, ensure that he/she is willing to commit a certain number of hours a week to the internship, whether onsite or remotely.
- Be aware of generational conflict that could arise if most of your employees are of middle age. Having young people in the office may create tension, especially in use of social media and technology, and in terms of appropriate dress and behavior.
- Avoid legal snafus is one of the best pieces of advice in the Inc. article. Unpaid internships must meet several criteria, including focusing on the value to the intern and offering relevant educational training.
Nothing harms a company more than employees not “showing up” to work. Absenteeism or long-term in the way of employee turnover has obvious negative consequences on an organization’s effectiveness and success. The impact of turnover, for example, has financial costs when you consider the time and expense of recruiting and training a prospective employee. Another way that an employee might miss work, or not “show up,” occurs when he or she is at work but is mentally “absent” due to lack of motivation, frustration with a supervisor, or lack of support. This combination of physical and mental absence might be viewed as a lack of commitment to the company. Organizational commitment can be described as the degree of an employees’ connection with a company, which is typified by their belief in organizational values, motivation to perform organizational activities, and desire to stay engaged with the company.
As an employer it’s important to understand why Hispanic interns might have unique perspectives regarding organizational commitment. Numerous management studies have shown that Hispanics have a higher sensitivity toward bias in workplace. Despite having comparable qualifications and experiences, research has shown that Hispanics in the workplace still face discrepancies in income and fewer promotional or career opportunities. Given this research data and perhaps based on their personal experiences, Hispanic interns might also be more conscious of organizational inconsistencies. Taken together, Hispanic interns perceiving any supervisor partiality or unfairness might question the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. This could eventually lead to decreased motivation or engagement with the company.
Of course, this is a broad illustration; however, by beginning to understand that Hispanics have unique perspectives about organizational commitment, employers can enhance the way they communicate and manage Hispanic interns. To thoroughly benefit from the potential returns of diversity efforts, employers should be fully aware of these characteristics. One of the many positive aspects of diversity initiatives is the opportunity to increase personal effectiveness and communication with employees as well as create an environment of fairness and equality. By engaging and understanding their perspectives as it relates to organizational commitment, employers have a greater opportunity to make Hispanic interns feel they’re part of an organization where their skills and diversity are valued. Building this positive awareness will allow Hispanic interns to feel they’re part of an organization where they can potentially begin a career and develop long-term professional opportunities after graduation.
The concepts of diversity and inclusion have evolved dramatically in recent decades. Looking back twenty years ago to the 1990s, it’s hard to imagine diversity concepts and practices of that period still being applicable to today’s work environment. At that time, a concept like diversity was mostly about creating awareness rather than a strategic business requirement. Today, many U.S. businesses are not only global in scope, but they also function within a social and work environment that is characterized by a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-generational domestic population. Different demographic groups like Hispanics and other people of color are driven by different needs, perspectives, and challenges. So as the external environment has changed, employers must make sure ideas and practices related to diversity and inclusion have changed as well. Consequently, as you employ more Hispanic interns into your organization, it’s important to understand the meaning of diversity and inclusion and how these two concepts might influence Hispanic interns’ experiences in your organization.
Generally, diversity can be viewed as individual similarities and differences. These are characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, race, physical abilities, sexual orientation, etc. Inclusion provides a sense of belonging which provides an employee a sense of confidence and commitment from the organization. Ironically, an organization is still able to achieve diversity without attaining inclusion and vice versa. Hence, when managing Hispanics and other people of color in your organization, it’s essential to accomplish both. While most organizations’ diversity and inclusion efforts initially focus on recruitment, just as important, if not more, is their focus on the retention and development aspects of diversity and inclusion. While many companies are satisfied in recruiting diverse employees, many are still hampered by high turnover rates of Hispanics and other minorities associated with a lack of growth and opportunities.
How can employers make sure they’re achieving both diversity and inclusion? The most important factor is assuring that diversity and inclusion are part of the organizational culture and incorporated into the overall business strategy. Diversity and inclusion are no longer just concepts to be used as part of training programs. To be successful, diversity and inclusion must be employed by senior level management to the supervisor managing an intern. Supervisors that manage Hispanic interns are the “glue” that leads to a successful internship experience. Ensure supervisors are demonstrating diverse and inclusive behaviors and sending key messages that parallel your organization’s commitment to these principles. Keep in mind that Hispanic interns will rely more on what they observe than what the organization says.
There are two common themes, or expectations, in the relationship between interns and employers. First, the expectation that interns will exhibit initiative and require minimal guidance during their work assignments. Second, during their work assignment, interns expect supervisors to provide direction and clarify goals when needed. Successfully obtaining a balance between employer and intern expectations is what ultimately leads to a worthwhile internship experience for both participants. However, there are situations when the anticipated constructive relationship between employer and intern is not achieved. Occasionally, expected performance objectives are not met or realized during the intern’s assignment. What’s an employer to do when an internship assignment is not meeting expectations?
Having managed both a company and university internship program, there were instances when I had to contend with this unplanned situation. My goal with each occurrence was to reclaim a bad experience, leverage it as a learning opportunity, and encourage a new start. And while circumstances might be different, here are some general considerations I recommend when dealing with an internship assignment that may not be meeting your expectations.
Reflect Before Acting: Before determining a course of action, remember that interns are not only employees but they’re also, first and foremost, students. Managing an intern takes unique attention to both personas. While the same management approach taken with full-time employees should be taken with interns, take into account their brief exposure to your company as well as this possibly being their first professional work experience.
Review the Work Assignment: Balancing the right amount of responsibility with skill capacity is a challenging aspect of managing an intern. In order to assure interns feel challenged and are able to grow, some employers assign work well beyond their current skill set. Determine that the intern’s qualifications are a realistic fit with their assignment. Make adjustments as needed.
Reset Expectations: Underperformance might be a result of unclear expectations, therefore resetting them as soon as you identify an issue is essential. As you did during their first week of work, review performance expectations. Communicate openly, discuss previously set expectations, and determine what performance areas are not being met. Set a new path toward a more positive experience.
Regular Feedback: With new expectations set, both employer and intern share the understanding that the internship assignment, as it continues, will offer the best experience possible. At this point, assure there’s a regular feedback loop in place related to meeting expectations and performance objectives.
Monitor Going Forward: Build flexibility into the intern’s assignment by incorporating feedback. While this reflection provides the intern with guidance and direction, it also provides the employer an opportunity to monitor for improvement and performance evaluation.
Educate: Teach interns about your industry and field, and share information about the basics of workplace success like workload management, regular communication with the team and supervisor, etc. Interns want to learn from you how to best get things done, what best practices will help them succeed and more. You have the opportunity to share your knowledge and experience, thus helping interns to learn and produce effective results.
One of the most gratifying jobs I’ve had over the course of my career was my time working at the career center at the University of Texas at El Paso. Being responsible for the University’s cooperative education and internship programs and helping college students gain their first professional experiences provided me with a lot of personal satisfaction. During the almost five years of working in that setting, I had the pleasure of seeing many of these same students return to campus as company representatives to recruit the next generation of UTEP graduates. Along the way, I was able to make lifelong friendships with many of these students, first as interns and later as professionals. One friend in particular is Mario, who is now a successful leader at an aviation company.
Sixteen years ago, Mario’s first major in college was marketing. In fact, his first internship experience as a sophomore was working in the marketing department for a large insurance company. When Mario returned, I realized his internship experience had not met his expectations. The root of Mario’s unhappiness wasn’t due to the work he did, but more so due to the work he didn’t do. Mario realized his passion wasn’t in marketing but in information systems. Luckily for Mario, his supervisor during the internship was also technically inclined so he introduced Mario to areas in the organization where he could begin to learn about his newly discovered passion. Needless to say, Mario switched his major to information systems, went on to complete another two internships in his new major, and today is still very passionate about his work.
One appealing aspect of an internship program is its ability to serve as a bridge between the world of theory and practicality. However, the bridge that connects both worlds also needs to have a support structure. Within an internship program, “the glue” that holds together this support is an intern’s supervisor. And while a supervisor’s role is to offer an intern guidance and direction in a work environment, another role should be one of an advisor. Mario often points to that one supervisor, from 16 years ago, as having made a significant impact on his career. From a Hispanic perspective, being an advisor or consejero is an important element of the supervisor/intern relationship. Hispanics are a determined people and are culturally wired to complete one task before starting another. Hence, changing his major after two years of college was not something that came naturally to Mario. Whether Mario’s supervisor at the time knew it or not, his timely advice made the difference between a successful professional and someone that might still be searching for his passion.
I’m often asked by clients what Hispanic professional organizations serve as good resources for employers. Although there is no shortage of exceptional Hispanic professional organizations, I wanted to share information on a few organizations that I’ve worked with over the years that can provide a variety of help. While many of these Hispanic professional organizations are often utilized to help recruit Hispanic college graduates, many of these same organizations can also offer employers excellent support once Hispanic interns are brought on board. Employers can benefit by partnering with these organizations to provide networking, training, and workshop opportunities for their interns and other employees. They can provide management advice as well as internship program suggestions. If you have a Hispanic professional organization to recommend, please share it!
Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA): As the leading professional organization for Hispanics in the finance and accounting fields, ALPFA is an exceptional resource for employers in this area. ALPFA local chapters offer workshops and symposiums in partnership with other organizations on topics related to Hispanics in this industry.
Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE): Serving as a link between Hispanic professionals and organizations, HACE provides employers with a variety of helpful programs aimed at educating organizations in the areas of diversity, mentoring, and internship programs. HACE also provides great informational workshops on research regarding Hispanics in the workforce.
National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA): The premier Hispanic organization supporting Hispanic MBAs, NSHMBA’s mission is to improve Hispanic corporate executive representation. It does this by providing education, professional and leadership development through 32 local chapters around the United States. http://www.nshmba.org/
Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Associations (LISTA): This organization is focused on supporting Latinos and employers in the science, mathematics, information sciences, new media, telecommunications, and technology fields. LISTA councils around the United States provide information and trends regarding Hispanics in the technology and science fields.
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE): As a leading organization supporting Hispanics entering engineering, science and other technical professions, SHPE offers both interns and employers numerous resources. Through its Industrial Partner Council (IPC), SHPE partners with employers on ways to increase the representation of Hispanics in the engineering and science fields.
by internships.com writer
Do you have a vacancy at your company that needs to be filled by a competent, valuable employee? Great! Are you worried about the cost incurred during the recruitment/hiring period? Not great. It’s time to think about another option for finding and hiring the perfect person to fill the empty office—hire an intern.
I don’t mean hire an intern as a permanent solution, rather create an internship that will allow you to vet various candidates, give young people good experience in your industry, get extra (probably much needed) assistance in the office, and choose the perfect employee from a pool of possibilities that you already know. It’s a win-win situation.
A recent survey, conducted jointly by the Employment Management Association and the Society for Human Resources of 636 professionals, produced the following statistics regarding the most common costs included in a Cost Per Hire:
- Advertising and event costs (76%) – Converting an intern to a full-time hire means no expensive job listings in newspapers or journals
- Internet services (63%) – Reduce fees needed for individual job postings
- Third-party agency contract and fees (52%) – Unnecessary cost if hiring from within
- Referral bonus costs (49%) — Reduce staff time spent at job fairs, preparing job ads, resume review, interview time, phone pre-screens. These are just a few of the places your staff will save time and effort by hiring from a current intern pool.
- Signing bonus (37%) — No need to pay a signing bonus if you are converting an intern to a full-time employee. Also, employers report that salaries tend to be lower when hiring a current intern.
- Technology-based hiring management (19%) – The Internet has increased the number of resumes submitted for positions. Reduce the time spent sorting, reviewing and organizing the paperwork by converting an intern to a new hire.
SHRM surveys report that exempt positions are at $6,943 CpH (Cost Per Hire). Non-exempt positions are reported at $2,546 per hire. And CpH for high skills range from $9,777 to $19,219. Overall, it is reported that companies typically spend $10,000 – $50,000 in tangible costs alone to replace and retrain when a single employee leaves the company.
Basically, it’s a large expense for a company of any size—astronomical for a small company, but nothing to ignore even for a larger company. Converting an intern to a new hire is worth it if you are just looking at the numbers, but when reviewing all of the mutually beneficial aspects of the conversion it’s clearly an excellent solution for all involved.