3 steps to optimize intern onboarding and training

Internships are often used to help students form a decision of where they may want to continue their career, or what field they may want to pursue. Read this blog post to learn three steps on optimizing interns and their training.


HR leaders face myriad challenges in crafting a positive candidate experience and establishing a strong culture across organizations, and there's an added twist when it comes to internship programs: this must be achieved in an exceptionally short amount of time.

"As much as Facebook is evaluating interns for their long-term potential as future employees, we know for certain that interns are also evaluating whether Facebook is where they want to launch their career," Oscar Perez, diversity recruitment and programs manager at Facebook, told HR Dive. "Interning allows college students to make more informed decisions about the type of company they want to work for and helps them crystallize a vision for the type of employee they want to be."

The intern experience trifecta

Multiple academics and learning experts echoed Perez's sentiments to HR Dive, generally suggesting that HR can find success with three steps: a short, formal onboarding; building in mechanisms for continuous skill-building; and a focus on the value of exposure to the business world.

Some formal onboarding

While some experts suggest that employee onboarding plans should cover at least a new hire's first 90 days, that's obviously not feasible for an internship that may last only 90 days.

"Something on the order of 10 to 15% is not unusual," Brooks Holtom, a management professor at Georgetown University told HR Dive. "Two or three days of up front training, and then maybe two hours a week on a Friday helps to increase both the capacity of the people but also the probability that they enjoy the work and they come back."

Still, an employer's onboarding for traditional employees may provide a roadmap, especially when it comes to the early days. This should include administrative tasks, introductions and acclimation to tasks.

"For all interns [at Facebook], the first day of their internship is spent in New Hire Orientation," Perez shared. "Where you get to hear from employees around the company on guiding principles that we anchor in as a company, critical logistical information that you'll need to navigate your time as an intern, [and] get an understanding of the other interns that will be your ‘home-base' community during your time at Facebook."

From there, interns meet their teams and learn more about the scope of their internship project, Perez continued. They also attend role-specific training on tools, expectations and critical concepts for both their role and beyond.

It may help to think about onboarding in three parts — pre-boarding, orientation and ramping up to productivity — according to Leslie Deutsch, director of learning solutions at TEKsystems. Deutsch previously shared a model for onboarding traditional employees; a similar, albeit more streamlined, structure can help when thinking about interns, she said.

"You want to give them exposure to your organization," Deutsch told HR Dive in a February interview, adding that it's important to make clear company values, mission and vision. Although, if interns are there to support a specific project or initiative, it may need to be more detailed, she said.

Pre-boarding can also be valuable, both as a way to engage the intern as a high-potential full-time candidate and to ensure they are learning as much about the company as they can before their first day. "I've seen pretty commonly [that] the onboarding and training actually starts before they even formally start the job. It's about building the relationship," Nicole Coomber, a professor of management at the University of Maryland, told HR Dive. "There are a lot of smaller interactions that happen before they come on board so that they have a lot of clarity on what they're actually doing when they get there."

Continuous, experiential training

Following formal onboarding, HR will want to focus on continuous learning, according to Holtom.

He noted that such efforts are good for building capacity and making sure that interns feel they are gaining from the experience. There are a lot of ways to deliver this kind of training, however, and it does not need to be formal or in-person; it can be worthwhile, for example, to make learning opportunities experiential.

"[Students] want to gain the experience that prepares them for the next professional opportunity and the chance to build relationships with other professionals in their field. That really sets apart a positive internship experience from a negative one," Rachel Loock, associate director of career services at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, told HR Dive.

For graduate school interns, experiential learning can be particularly valuable because they are already experienced professionals that may be making a career switch. They may need to get up to speed on certain software or business concepts to successfully make that switch.

"MBA internships are often used as a ‘bridge' to pivot from one industry or function to another,  Doreen Amorosa, associate dean of career services at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business, told HR Dive. "Successful internships allow MBA students to demonstrate newly acquired academic skills which enable those career transitions," she said.

SOURCE: Kidwai, A. (13 April 2020) "3 steps to optimize intern onboarding and training" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/3-steps-to-optimize-intern-onboarding-and-training/576014/


3 tips for a successful virtual internship program

The coronavirus pandemic has created many disruptions for the workforce and many workplaces. Another disruption that has been caused has been a disruption in career development that is gained through internship programs. Read this blog post to learn more.


The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all manner of talent development and acquisition activities, including internship programs.

Talent acquisition software firm Yello found in an April survey of college students that more than one-third (35%) of those who had accepted internship offers had seen their internships canceled, while 24% said their internships would be virtual. A separate April poll of employers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found 22% of employers revoked offers to interns but that generally, "employers are adapting their summer 2020 internship programs by moving as much programming to a virtual space as possible."

Indeed, a number of larger employers have announced in recent months an intent to move internships to virtual status, similar to other roles. Microsoft, which was set to host 4,000 interns this summer, announced its shift to a virtual program in April. Kathleen Hogan, the company's executive vice president and chief people officer, previously said that students would be encouraged to "co-create their summer experience" while the program would also help shape the company's broader virtual employee experience.

Below are three ways employers can enhance their virtual internships.

#1: Choose accessible tech tools

In the scramble to move operations remote, employers have likely settled on solutions for video chat, team communication, presentations and other organizational functions. But it's important that these tools are available and accessible to interns, Bo Goliber, Head of Philanthropy at marketing agency Fingerpaint, told HR Dive in an email.

"We have some tools that work best for smaller, internal meetings, and others that we use for our clients," said Goliber, who is the creator and manager of Fingerpaint's internship program. "Our interns have access to anything our full-time staff would be using."

Shared software can enable interns to work in company systems using their own computers. That's the approach taken by Fannie Mae this summer: The mortgage financing company's nearly 140 interns use programs like Microsoft Teams, Whiteboard and Cisco Webex, Teresa Green, vice president of talent acquisition programs, told HR Dive in an interview. To keep in touch with team members, Fannie Mae's interns also have access to Yammer, a social networking service, as well as a dedicated Microsoft Teams site.

#2: Ensure equity

Even before the pandemic, employers considered a variety of factors, including manager reviews, when assessing interns' performances. In a virtual environment, managers at Fannie Mae work with interns to develop summer work plans that outline an intern's tasks and target skills to be developed and later used as the basis for evaluations, Green said. The company is also collecting feedback from other team members on their interactions with interns.

At Fingerpaint, both managers and interns fill out evaluation forms with questions that focus on areas including communication, presentation, performance and overall skills, Goliber said. The company schedules additional check-ins with teams, managers and the internships facilitators at each of its individual offices.

"Our expectations for both interns and managers remain high, and we ensure proper training to navigate through any possible challenges that may arise from being virtual," Goliber added.

The issue of compensation has been one of concern for recent graduates as they endure the pandemic. Previous research cited in a 2019 analysis by researchers at the Stanford University Institute for Economic Policy Research showed that college graduates who started their working lives during a recession earned less for at least 10 to 15 years than those who graduated during more prosperous years. As COVID-19 impacts interns, some companies have publicly stated their intent to pay interns through the pandemic, sometimes regardless of delayed start dates.

Neither Fingerpaint nor Fannie Mae are changing the ways their interns are compensated this year, Goliber and Green said. In fact, Fannie Mae is also continuing to offer payments to interns for summer housing and commuting costs that have been offered in previous years. "We still honored that, because they made some of those investments already and we didn't want to put them at a disadvantage," Green added.

Fingerpaint has not wavered from the compensation promised to interns in the company's offer letters sent back in February, Goliber said: "Because the capabilities and expectations of our interns did not change, we believe the interns should be paid for their talent and work, no matter where they are physically performing it."

#3: Keep traditions and culture alive

Experience has been a key point of focus for HR departments as employees remain socially distanced, and Fannie Mae has extended this focus to internships by creating "business mentors," a new internal role, according to Green. Business mentors work with interns on building relationships, connecting them with other employees and identifying mentorship opportunities.

The initiative is in part meant to provide a replacement for the lack of "casual collisions," or chance interactions, interns might otherwise have with other employees in a normal office setting, Green said. Fannie Mae interns have connections with their managers, "but we knew they needed more than that," she added. "We needed to create another way to engage with them and show them other areas across the company."

Virtual meetings have replaced coffee runs and lunches for many employers, but interns should have the opportunity to participate as well, Goliber said, which is why Fingerpaint designates times for virtual meetings that allow interns to connect. "We want to ensure everyone feels seen and heard — not only as an intern team, but also as individuals," she added.

Employers should also plan to keep annual traditions alive, however small. Fannie Mae interns will still receive t-shirts, Green said, but they also have the opportunity to participate in virtual community service events. The company confirmed to HR Dive that its interns will participate in a virtual event with the nonprofit Love for the Elderly, collecting homemade cards and mailing them to global older adult communities.

SOURCE: Golden, R. (30 June 2020) "3 tips for a successful virtual internship program" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/3-tips-for-a-successful-virtual-internship-program/580803/


COVID-19 Changes Internships, Apprenticeships

As the coronavirus pandemic has put a restriction on many plans, it's also raised concerns for organizations with internship and apprenticeship programs for early career development opportunities. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Travel restrictions and social-distancing mandates prompted by COVID-19 are causing organizations to rethink their approach to apprenticeships and internships, which typically involve hands-on, in-person participation.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is seeing a steady push toward moving internships online or limiting them in size and duration. A quick unscientific poll it conducted April 3 with 130 of its employer members provided insight on how members are adapting their programs:

  • 35 percent are making no changes to their program.
  • 35 percent are reducing the length of internships by delaying the start date.
  • 29 percent are moving to a virtual program.
  • 20 percent are moving events such as end-of-program presentations online.
  • 15 percent are reducing the number of interns.

Some organizations are considering micro-internships that condense a 10-to-12-week internship into a one-to-two-week experience later in the summer, said Bruce Soltys, head of talent acquisition sourcing strategy at The Travelers Companies based in Hartford, Conn. It has a 450-person internship program at 25 locations throughout the U.S.

He was among speakers at a panel discussion on internships that NACE hosted April 2.

"Companies might put a little bit more of an emphasis on training and development where [interns] are really focused on the learning and development piece and not so much on a personal project," Soltys said.

"From a change management perspective, we've presented the case to our senior leaders to say, 'If we have to go down this path from a virtual-work standpoint, the main question is, can this work be done virtually?' I think a lot of managers are not comfortable with the notion of interns doing the work virtually because [interns] are so new to the organization."

SAS, a computer software company outside of Raleigh, N.C., has a seven-figure investment in its internship program, said Kayla Woitkowski, a university recruiter leader for SAS who spoke on the NACE panel. Her employer is "making sure that any internship that does go virtual … the students have valuable work" to perform.

She has found, based on phone conversations with other employers, that organizations are taking one of three stances toward internships in light of COVID-19:

  1. Turning their internship program into a virtual one, ensuring that any work interns have been hired to perform can be done remotely.
  2. Canceling internships.
  3. Pushing back start dates.

As organizations wrestle with what to do with their internship programs, it's important that they keep in contact with the students they selected, said David Ong, panel moderator and senior director of corporate recruiting at Maximus. The Washington, D.C.-based company is a health and human services provider for state, federal and local governments.

The organization met with all interns and program associates as a group to assure them that they would keep them up-to-date on the program's status.

"It is also just a chance to keep them engaged," Ong said. "A lot of these students have [other] options."

Online tools can be an internship program's friend, according to Renato Profico, CEO of Doodle, a Zurich-based online scheduling tool.

"They can translate culture into a digital setting to make interns and new hires feel included," said Profico, who has personally invited every employee to a 15-minute virtual coffee meeting over the next few weeks. "These little things are important at a time when employee engagement and retention could dip significantly."

Apprenticeships

Changes prompted by COVID-19 will likely cause companies to be more pragmatic in how they view the role of apprenticeships, said Jennifer Carlson. She is the co-founder and executive director of Apprenti, which operates in 12 states as a fully paid technology apprenticeship program for minorities, veterans and women.

"COVID-19 is going to force companies to be more deliberate and probably see apprenticeships as an equitable pipeline, equivalent with all their talent acquisition pipelines," Carlson said. "Not all jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, for example, require a college degree.

"You can take people from nontraditional [areas] and train them and create a second pipeline [for talent] using apprenticeships."

One such example is the Youth Technology Apprenticeship Camp (YTAC) in Charlotte, N.C., a major technology workforce site in the U.S. Last year, for example, home-improvement company Lowe's announced the creation of a 2,000-employee global tech hub in Charlotte.

The demand for employees with tech skills "is off the charts for these companies," said Tariq Scott Bokhari, Charlotte city councilman and founder of the Carolina Fintech Hub. The Fintech Hub created YTAC and partnered with the city of Charlotte, the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council, the Bank of America Foundation and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Apprentices are high-school seniors who earn a credential after completing the four-week program. Those performing above a certain threshold are guaranteed acceptance into the local Workforce Investment Network training program. After successfully completing six months of training, participants are guaranteed a job as a full stack developer with a starting salary of $55,000.

The pandemic prompted a format change to the apprenticeship: It will be entirely virtual. Participants meet in small virtual breakout groups to work on their project, participate in labs, hackathons and livestream competitions and attend virtual training.

Bokhari thinks the altered format will continue in some way after the pandemic is over. With the virtual setup, overhead costs are lower, so more students can be accommodated. It also mirrors what he thinks will be the new reality for work.

"I think things will change forever after this, but it will probably be some mixture of physical and virtual [format]. We want this experience … to mimic the real-life workforce environment. I think the real-life workforce environment is going to change."

SOURCE: Gurchiek, K. (13 April 2020) "COVID-19 Changes Internships, Apprenticeships" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/Pages/COVID19-Causes-Changes-to-Internships-Apprenticeships.aspx


Facebook Unveils New Career-Development Portal

Recently Facebook unveiled a new career-development portal that will provide accessible, relevant content to entry-level job seekers. Read this blog post to learn more.


Facebook is jumping into the learning market in a big way, announcing the launch of Learn with Facebook at its New York offices yesterday, a big step toward the social-networking giant’s recently stated goal of equipping 1 million business owners in the U.S. with digital skills by 2020.

Learn with Facebook is a career-development portal that offers introductory, free-of-charge courses in both hard and soft skills. It’s aimed at people hoping to re-enter the workforce after a period of absence as well as those wishing to acquire skills that will help them compete for entry-level jobs in the digital economy, says Fatima Saliu, Facebook’s head of policy marketing.

“We’re facing a major skills gap in this country, and Learn with Facebook is our attempt to address that,” she says. Learn with Facebook has already been launched in France and Germany, says Saliu, and will expand to other markets as well.

Learn with Facebook is a direct move into LinkedIn’s territory, although Facebook representatives denied yesterday that it was seeking to compete directly with the business-focused social network. LinkedIn has steadily built up its own learning offerings since it acquired Lynda.com in 2015 and rebranded it as LinkedIn Learning. Last week, Harvard Business Publishing announced a new partnership with LinkedIn that will allow customers of HBP to access its content directly via LinkedIn Learning’s platform.

The courses currently available on Learn with Facebook include tutorials on digital marketing as well as resume writing and job interviewing. Facebook is working with the Goodwill Community Foundation to develop course material and adapt it to the needs of local communities, says Saliu. “Our goal is to provide accessible, relevant content to entry-level job seekers,” she says.

Facebook is also enhancing its Jobs on Facebook services by allowing businesses to share their job postings on Facebook groups as well as on their own pages and newsfeeds. The company says more than 1 million people have found jobs via Facebook since it launched the service last year.

Facebook is also making updates to its Mentorship tool, which is designed to make it easier for members of Facebook groups to connect with others who have specific experience or expertise. Users will now be able to sign up to share information on what they’re offering or looking for, making it easier for other Group members to find and connect with them on their own rather than going through a Group administrator first, says Michelle Mederos, Facebook Mentorship product designer.

Facebook Groups have enabled people working in high-stress, low-prestige occupations such as certified nursing assistant obtain mentoring and support, says Seth Movsovitz, founder of a Facebook Group called CNAs Only.

Although LinkedIn currently remains the dominant social-media player in the jobs space, it’s clear that Facebook is determined to be a big player as well. For employers that are desperate to fill jobs in a tight labor market, more competition between the two can only be a good thing.

SOURCE: McIlvaine, A. (15 November 2018) "Facebook Unveils New Career-Development Portal" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://hrexecutive.com/facebook-unveils-new-career-development-portal/