How to Offer Remote Internships During the Covid-19 Crisis

How to Offer Remote Internships During the Covid-19 Crisis

Key Takeaways

If you can still afford to offer your promised internships, you should try. The relationships you build now will have a lasting impact.
Remote internships aren’t so different from in person ones. They just need different tools.

How to Offer Remote Internships During the Covid-19 Crisis

Canadian Payroll Services has gone fully remote in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our team made the transition without major hiccups and are operating as efficiently as before. With the transition complete, we can look forward to our plans for the year and one question looms largely: should we continue with our summer internship program and, if so, what should it look like in our newly remote team?

For some organizations, internships are now out of the question. If you have laid off staff, shuttered, or are overwhelmed by delivering essential, frontline services, running a high-quality internship program with no disruption to your operations is impossible. But for organizations that have made the transition to working remotely and aren’t slowing down, continuing an internship program can provide a much-needed sense of normalcy to your team and a crucial learning opportunity for people just entering your field.

Only you can answer the first part of that question for your organization, but we can help with the second. If you do choose to offer remote internships this year, here are some things to keep in mind:

1) Remote Internships Should Come with a Good Onboarding Experience

Onboarding is one of those HR processes that get a lot of attention at first, but that teams tend to truncate over time. After you’ve onboarded 20 new people, some of it feels unessential, doesn’t it? But onboarding is every new employee’s and intern’s first experience of your team and you should strive to get it right every time.

Plan to deliver a best-in-class onboarding experience to your remote interns, because unlike more experienced workers, they may struggle with a rushed, online onboarding experience. They have less time to learn in and less experience to draw on. Rather than just making a bad impression on your new team member, a bad internship onboarding experience can mean the difference between success and failure.

It’s important that you work out the details of your online onboarding experience now, before you bring anyone onto the team.

2) Interns Need a Structured Learning Program

Although we are operating in changed circumstances, none of the formal requirements of internships have changed. Every intern needs a learning plan with clear goals and an evaluation system. Interns should never be treated as gophers – fetching coffee and shredding documents is of no value to them or you. (Your team members can get their own coffee!) This should be even more obvious when it comes to remote teams operating during a pandemic – temporary grunt work isn’t necessary and can even slow down your team. Structured remote internship programs, though, can still deliver high value for you and your interns.  

Onboarding your interns in your project and task management tools is a must. Whether you use Planner, Jira, Trello or a Slack add-on, your remote internships should be onboarded with the same tools that every other team member is using. This makes tracking the progress of remote interns fast and easy because it focuses your attention on tangible results rather than attendance, and it helps you keep internship goals aligned with that of the whole team.

3) Overcommunicate with Your Interns

Whether they’re new to the field, transitioning laterally, getting started in a new country, or returning to work, interns have one thing in common – they’re new to the field. Never assume that interns know the unspoken rules or shorthand of your industry, let alone of your company. Always communicate more than you would with a new employee, checking in regularly and confirming that your interns understand expectations.

Invite your interns to all regular and relevant team meetings. This is a good learning experience for them and will help them find their footing with the team faster. It also has the added benefit of encouraging long tenured team members to communicate their goals and projects clearly and concisely.

In addition to meetings, you (or the intern’s reporting manager) should have regular, one-on-one Zoom or Skype chats. This will let you focus on your interns individually and give them a chance to ask question they might not be comfortable with raising in front of the whole team.

4) Even Remote Interns Need a Buddy

Even though you’re all working from home, your interns still need a mentor on the team. They can’t take your interns out for lunch or a cup of coffee, but they can make themselves available on the company chat for questions and a welcome to the team. When it comes to mentoring, you should let your mentors figure out the best way to make those relationships work but be on hand if they need advice. They may be assigned relationships, but they should still be authentic.

Are you continuing with plans to bring on interns this summer? Tell us about your plans for remote internships in the comments.

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