Internships as an efficient onboarding instrument? 7 tips!

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A smart and effective onboarding is also very important during internships. Moreover; In fact, a well-organized internship is a recruitment tool and an onboarding instrument in one! We would like to give you 7 tips on how to use the internship to make enthusiastic, committed fans of your company from interns or graduates.

1. Reduce administrative tasks to a minimum

Millennials and their successors (Generation Z) are digital natives. Therefore, reduce the administrative side of the internship to a minimum and see where you can convey your message smartly and effectively. Look carefully when you need certain things. After all, you want to prevent 'infobesitas' among students. For example, make sure that on the first day of the internship, the student can fully focus on your company instead of on contracts and tax forms. And is it necessary for the interns to give all his colleagues a hand on day 1 (and forget the names again), or can you give this a smarter dose? Can you make this more fun and interactive? The better you connect your process to the wishes and needs of interns, the more enthusiastic they are about your company and the faster and more effective interns are of added value.

2. Take a strategic approach to interns & trainees

Do you want students to deliver real added value to your company? Then it is important that you think carefully about the tasks you give them. It seems like an inducement, yet it is striking how many companies deal reactively with internships. 'We get a job application, we'll see if it fits' is a frequently heard response to the question of how companies deal with internships.
This can be much more effective! What problem can a intern solve for your company? You do this by knowing what your qualities are, where interns contribute and what you would like to achieve with students in the longer term (3 to 5 years). This can be directly related to the content of activities (such as a market survey once a couple of year).

It can also connect with your strategic HR policy; for example by using internships as a recruitment tool for vacancies in your organization. Do you expect that certain functions are needed in your company? Does it look like employees are leaving? Anticipate by recruiting specific interns. Even if you can not directly offer a job, you build up a talent pool of (if done right) enthusiastic ambassadors. Take a good look at the unique proposition that your company offers to students in this internship strategy.

3. Build a strong Employer Brand

The labor market is very tight. You are the candidate as a company. Then you want to ‘be in the picture’ of young talent. You do this by getting to know students during the training and by giving them a great internship experience. Pay attention! What you learn during the internship is not decisive in your employer brand. How you can learn in your company determine your image. It is about the experience. Do you give a top experience? Then students will enthusiastically tell about your company. If you do not do that, students will tell you that too, but then perhaps negatively. A tip from us: you can develop your employer brand by highlighting all aspects of the internship. Not only by making recruiting hip and appealing, but also by tackling the onboarding smartly, by setting up the supervision well, giving honest reviews and using the offboarding to learn where you can improve as an organization. A cactus on instagram is not yet an employer brand (Dutch article).

And another bonus tip: start building your employer brand on time. Make sure that you arrive 'on the radar' well before the internship. For example with guest lessons and company visits, or for example by putting a 'virtual tour' on your site.

4. Retain knowledge and culture 

An internship takes an average of 5 to 6 months. This also happens to be the period it takes for a new employee to be well-trained (3 to 6 months). Of course, that intern knows on day 1 where the coffee machine is and where the workplace is. But how your corporate culture is put together is a lot harder. During the onboarding you can introduce students to your company in a smart, well-dosed and fun way.
Another important advantage: during this period, an intern hardly presses the budget. So you have a great opportunity to introduce someone to your company or organization without risk. Do you have the opportunity to hire an intern? Then you have a well-integrated new power that delivers added value from day 1, not an expensive new employee who first runs for half a year, Smart!

The departure offboarding of interns (offboarding) is also a fantastic opportunity to transfer and improve knowledge and culture. A good offboarding gives your company a 'usercase' of an intern every few months. With this you can continue to plan for your 'product-market fit' around internships. Of course it is sometimes difficult to go through the entire internship in a final interview. There is little time and the student does not always know what he thought or felt in the first week. A useful tool is a 'diary of surprise' in which you let the intern keep track during the entire internship, which is strange, fun, stupid or unique. This is great data to make the experience around internships even better.

Tip from us: Put that student back in the process for recruitment and training purposes of new interns. For example, by including a video of the intern in your onboard program. View all the benefits of our app right here.

5. Improve the quality of the guidance and the intern

If you really want to use internships as an onboarding instrument, then it's all about quality. The quality of the intern, which you use in a smart effective way, so that it is valuable for your company or that you might want to prepare for a starters job during the internship.
It is also about the support by your company. It is the guidance that determines whether an intern is enthusiastic, or not. You should not leave that to people who do not know how good guidance works, or who get an intern 'thrown over the fence' without the support of the entire company. 'It takes a Village to raise a child', also with interns.
Your entire company is the learning environment, remember this! Successful internship companies do three things during internships: there is a company-wide approach, people know how to provide good guidance and there are clear processes and systems that ensure the onboarding and the internship are effective and efficient.

6. Reduce staff turnover

Did you know that 20% of the starters in the labor market decide in the first 45 days whether or not they will stay? And that 77% already makes a decision about this within the first 6 months? That's a lot.

The main reason for this is that the company does not meet expectations. These are, for example, companies that promise a huge amount during recruitment, which occur very differently than in reality. It is also possible that the starter has not gained enough practical experience, as a result of which the image of the profession does not correspond with reality. A smart internship strategy can prevent a large part of this outflow. So make sure that the student gets a great first impression of your company, both during the onboarding of the internship and during the internship itself. This gives you a great image, you grow ambassadors for your employer brand. And you prevent new interns (or starters that can offer you a job from the internship) with false expectations. This will help to drastically reduce your staff turnover.

7. Internships provide a high ROI

Less turnover, cheap, sustainable and risk-free!

Last but certainly not least - the ROI of internships. Of course, an internship costs money and time. There is a workplace, an internship and supervision time for regular employees. If you organize this smartly, you can already achieve a lot of profit there. After all, what if you can go from two hours of guidance per week to an hour thanks to a well-organized approach? It will be even more interesting if you compare this investment with the recruitment of regular employees. If you consider that the replacement costs of a regular employee add up quickly in the tens of thousands of euros, then that internship fee of a few hundred euros, and those few hours of guidance time suddenly peanuts. In addition, during the onboarding the student does not yet print on the payroll as a 'regular' employee.

A student can not behave completely differently for six months than he or she is. Not your company either. You really get to know each other. This way you make a deliberate choice whether you have a 'fit' or not. This is great for the retention of employees. And does not it fit? Then there is no man overboard; the costs are relatively low. For you and for the intern who has a good learning experience. Do not forget your marketing costs, by the way; a few enthusiastic ambassadors who like to tell about your company to other students are the best advertising you can get, at extremely low costs.

Where can your company get more out of the connection with young talent? And what are the advantages for your business? Then we have only one question for you: What are you waiting for?


This is a duo blogpost written by Malique Steenbrink from Appical and Maarten Brand from Bureau Brand (and author of the big internship book for Employers, the very first management book on internships).

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