When it comes to marketing execution one of the most common objections I hear from manufacturing marketers is "lack of resources". While this is certainly a valid issue, there are some cost-efficient alternatives to hiring full-time staff. The Summer Season is prime for hiring college interns. Interns can be a great remedy to the ill of resource constraints. I know this because it's a practice I leveraged for a number years.
Hiring interns to assist with our content development is a practice I borrowed from my current employer when I was with my former employer. We brought in journalism students to assist in capturing the knowledge of our internal staff. We had very bright individuals at our company but they didn't have the time, and often weren't comfortable with writing in the voice, and with the frequency, required in today's age of "snackable content".
We referred to our journalism interns as canaries because they would go into the field, find the story, report back, and develop the piece. With a little editing we found that both our content volume and quality increased.
We extended this content development exercise into our graphic design department. We partnered with several universities and eventually brought on graphic design, instructional design, video design, and project management interns.
This was a tremendous success. I found that not only did we get quality work out of the students, but they also raised the bar for the rest of the team. We all worked harder, faster, and more creatively. And for the students they walked away with work for their portfolios, college credit, experience, and a little extra cash.
This program was certainly successful because of the Executive buy-in as well as the mentoring offered by those on our marketing team. These programs only work if you set the interns up to succeeded. The team provided the required direction and coaching to enhance the skills of the students.
Whether you're considering hiring one, or a team of interns, proper planning is required.
Below are some recommendations for hiring interns. You can also download the guide I used here.
The Intern Program is a program designed to enhance the Intern's experience at the company. Manager support is critical for Intern participation in marketing. Managers are expected to support their Intern's participation in the program. Interns whose Managers strongly encouraged or required their participation report a much more fulfilling intern experience than those who did not have their Manager's support to participate.
Over-prepare for the Intern
Often interns work much faster, more thoroughly, and more accurately than the Hiring Manager expects them to. It is best to be over-prepared for the Intern. Have a key project lined up for the Intern to work on but also identify several smaller projects that can be assigned when the intern comes to you to tell you that he/she has completed the primary project. The last thing interns or managers want is to have down time with n intern wandering around looking for work to do. Managers should be prepared with too many assignments for the Intern rather than too little.
Accessibility and Feedback
Interns want feedback- they want to know how they are performing, how they can improve, what the Manager likes. Managers should schedule weekly meetings to sit down with their intern to discuss the project/work, the workload, how the Intern is fitting into the team, questions the Intern has about the company and/or the project. The Manager should also take time to get to know the Intern. Interns have commented that some of the best Managers were those that took the time to get to know them as a person.
Hiring Managers must be accessible to their Interns. Managers should have an "open door" policy when it comes to be available to the Intern. Interns with Managers who are accessible for questions have a much better experience than those who never see or interact with their manager.
It is expected that the Intern will be assigned a Mentor. The Mentor should not be the Hiring Manager. The Mentor can be someone the Intern will be working with directly, a supervisor other than the manager, or another employee in the division that the Manager feels would add value to the Intern's work experience.
Ask anyone who gives assignments to the interns to notify the intern manager so the manager can monitor how much work each intern has "on his/her plate." In some cases, the intern's workload may be too little or too great. In cases where there are multiple interns, one intern may be overworked while the other is under-worked. The manager can then re-assign tasks to another intern (or another staff member) as appropriate.
Be flexible in what assignments your interns work over the summer. As the summer progresses, their interests and capabilities will likely evolve. In particular, as they "get up to speed," they may identify new work areas where they can, or would like to, contribute.
Introduce the intern to as many technical staff members on the projects as appropriate, and encourage the intern to speak with these individuals (in addition to you and your back-up) over the course of the summer about their work. This will enhance the intern's experience by exposing him/her to different skills, personalities, etc. The interns will get more out of the summer if they are permitted to "pick the brains" of 10 people versus just one or two people.
In order for the intern to feel like a "regular employee," ensure that they have the proper equipment to do their jobs (in particular, up to date PCs with sufficient storage space, memory, etc.).
If you have a problem of any kind with an intern, you should discuss it with him/her immediately than wait and "document it" for the official record. Interns are all typically bright and hard working, so use these evaluations as merely a formal method of recognizing an intern's good performance. It's extremely important to keep an open dialogue with the intern throughout the summer - once a week is not enough, daily is a better, and several times daily is even better! It's a great idea to discuss with the intern at the beginning of the summer what he/she wants to "get out of their intern experience," but recognizing that those goals may evolve or change completely over the course of the summer. Goals usually evolve continuously over the summer as the interns learn more about the types of work the company does, and where they can (or want to) contribute, etc.
What practices have you put in place to develop and support an intern program?