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How to successfully integrate interns into your small business

6th October 2014 Print

Over recent years, the small business sector has been taken on a financial rollercoaster ride by the global markets, forcing these companies into searching for ever more economical ways to structure staffing requirements. Internships have proved an incredibly popular solution which adds young, fresh-thinking individuals to your workforce whilst keeping costs to a minimum. However, although it’s great in practice that everyone benefits from the deal, a big question that small businesses often face is how to fairly and usefully integrate these interns into the company.

Roles and Responsibilities

The first decision that needs to be made is who will be the person responsible for guiding your intern through their initial placement. This should be someone that they can use as a mentor as needed throughout the internship, but don’t lose sight of the fact that these are generally going to be young, proactive people who are keen to make an impression. 

A common misconception from people new to the business of internships is that they are to be treated similar to work experience placements – this could not be further from the truth. In essence, you are bringing on people who are firmly committed to their education and development within your particular sector and they should be treated accordingly. The government website offers an official perspective on how interns should be treated in the workplace. 

Remember - you’re not bringing in young people on work experience who are there to carry out whatever duties that need doing, no matter how menial. The interns work responsibilities should reflect their learning and open up avenues to help them learn new skills across various facets of the business.

Become Part of the Company

If interns are going to form a valuable part of your workforce then it’s important to integrate them into the team as swiftly as possible. Departments within small business tend to be very tight-knit groups, so do what you can to accommodate your new starter with the minimum of disruption.

By forming and implementing a set integration process, you can easily administer the provision of an e-mail address, telephone line, business cards, and other day to day necessities depending on the role. Welcome your new intern into department meetings and get them involved with discussions to introduce them to the rest of the team in your natural working environment. You can read some great references to these team building qualities in a blogpost from the UK-based business funding specialists, Fleximize.

Remember that your interns are relying on you as their employer to help them grow into the role so use your expertise to give regular reviews and constructive feedback. Assess the various aspects of their contribution and be honest when it comes to handing out praise when they’ve done well and conversely laying out an action plan for areas to work on going forward. 

Invest whatever tools you have at your disposal into your interns and take pride in their development – it could prove to be an incredibly economical way to grow the future success stories of your organisation.