Posts tagged ‘management’
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.
A few days ago, I had lunch with a friend who works for a well known Fortune 500 organization here in Cincinnati. He’s been successful as a leader over the course of his career, which has included experiences on the international stage. During our discussion, we talked about a number of topics, including my on-going efforts of working with employers to increase their awareness and understanding of Hispanics in the workplace. I also mentioned the efforts I’ve made in sharing my thoughts through Intern Matters, my blog, and other social media platforms. Since my friend has extensive experience working in multicultural settings, I asked him to share his perspectives on successful management techniques in this regard. Ironically, most of his advice didn’t involve developing policies or guidelines; they focused on basic and personal efforts a manager can follow. Below are some principles he proposed and has employed:
1) Successful Managers Learn about Culture: Successful managers make a concerted effort to understand and learn about their employees’ culture. By understanding their culture, managers can use more effective motivational strategies and supervisory techniques. This process can just range from simply asking the employee questions to doing some basic research on theInternet. From his experience, my friend noted this minor investment of time can provide major returns.
2) Successful Managers Help Build a Culture of Inclusion: My friend described how he organized lunches or dinners, and invited employees of different cultural backgrounds to informally discuss their experiences. While this suggestion might not always be practical, the main idea is that effective managers are proactive in helping employees become more comfortable in their work environments by providing opportunities to have constructive informal dialogues.
3) Successful Managers Support Social Activities: Just showing up to a social event sponsored by an affinity group goes a long way in developing trust and camaraderie with employees. My friend would make every effort to at least drop in to demonstrate his support for a given event. In most cases, he’d stay longer than he thought!
4) Successful Managers Get Involved in the Community: Effective managers show a genuine concern for the Hispanic community by getting involved. Whether it’s getting involved in a reading program or becoming a mentor, managers that demonstrate their willingness to improve the educational and professional efforts of other Hispanics build a stronger bond with their employees.
How managers interact and communicate with employees has always been a vital ingredient in the work environment. One aspect of this relationship that has received increased attention in management studies over the last few years is empathy. Empathy can be described as the ability of someone to understand what another person is experiencing. In other words, putting yourself in another person’s shoes. A key characteristic of empathy is the support of others using skills such as active listening, encouragement, and motivation. There’s no denying that increasing one’s empathetic skills in the workplace can improve social skills and workplace relationships.
As I’ve noted previously on this blog, Hispanic culture is very much people-oriented; Hispanics value relationships and often demonstrate behaviors that promote strong and agreeable interactions. Hispanics value a person’s ability to maintain these cordial and positive relationships even in the face of adversity or stress. This cultural concept is known as simpatia.
Simpatia is an intrinsic quality in Hispanics; one that does not have a clear translation. The concept produces a strong sense of connection. Similar to empathy, simpatia highlights a person’s ability to identify with others’ feelings, and therefore, considers others with formality and respect. Minimizing confrontational situations and maintaining agreement is an important element of simpatia. This might translate into an individual encouraging harmonious social relationships and preferring cooperation over competition.
So what might this mean to a manager supervising a Hispanic intern? Some Hispanic interns might not feel comfortable openly criticizing or expressing disagreement, particularly when it relates to their supervisor, department, or team. Therefore, when it comes to asking for or sharing feedback, managers should assure to first develop strong relationships with Hispanic interns. If certain conversations are sensitive in nature or involve constructive criticism, discuss these matters privately to determine what your intern really thinks. Public interactions might not accurately reflect a Hispanic intern’s personal perspective.
Another recommendation would be to be more aware of your intern’s intrinsic motivations – become sensitive to his or her true perceptions. Keep in mind that Hispanics come from a collectivist background. The interests of the group are considered more important than individual. Be aware that in order to maintain group harmony and cohesion, Hispanics might be more diplomatic, supportive, and trusting in work settings. Because of simpatia, keep in mind that an intern’s personal attitude and behavior might deviate slightly from that shown in a public setting.
By internships.com writer
Sometimes the work assigned to interns is less than glamorous–data entry, research, scheduling appointments, copying and collating, etc. As any manager of interns knows, these tasks are the building blocks of critical business projects. Interns, however, may not understand this yet. There is a term that these interns, some of them just out of high school, are probably all too familiar with: busy-work.
A common complaint among students is that their teachers give them “busy-work” – work with no other purpose than to keep them busy. When interns are assigned tasks like photocopying, they might assume it’s busy-work and therefore, unimportant, and this attitude is sure to negatively impact their enthusiasm, commitment, and ultimately, their entire experience.
That’s why it’s important to explain to your interns that these types of tasks are actually essential steps to accomplishing the critical work objectives of your company. For instance, when I ask an intern to collect data and enter it into an Excel spreadsheet, I always explain before they begin the project what the data will be used for and why it’s important. I tell the student how the data will be analyzed and what decisions will be made based on the data. Whenever possible, I invite the intern to participate in those meetings or conversations, so they can observe the life of their work after completion.
It’s important to explain the larger impact of a task before an intern starts a project. This will help them to understand why it’s important to finish the task efficiently and with integrity. In my experience I have found this always leads to a better product and a happier, more engaged intern.
Everyone wants to know they are contributing to the larger business objectives or bottom line of a company, including interns. For an intern, this is probably their first foray into the business world and they probably have high expectations. By teaching the interns that tasks such as data entry and appointment scheduling are a vital step to accomplishing company-wide goals, they will feel invested and important. The intern will also learn a lot more about how business gets done, not just data entry!