Today, more people are graduating from college than ever before and employers are much more selective when choosing interns. Gone are the days when employers viewed interns as free labor. Today they’re seen as potential future employees, already brimming with experience and able to jump right into the company. Students no longer treat internships as a means to fulfill graduation requirements; they expect internships to provide them with a true learning experience and honed skillset.
Capital One, Altria, Royall & Company, and other large companies we work with have very robust internship programs. Starting with the selection process and all the way through their 10-week program, companies are doing everything they can to treat their interns with respect, providing them with opportunities to learn, set high expectations and give them a sense of the real world. In addition, they usually host extracurricular activities and social events to help people interact.
What do social events provide and how is that cost justified? In our experience, social outings like going to a ballgame, bowling or to the bar don’t do as much as companies might think. Usually, people interact with the people they already know instead of building new relationships. If you really want people to interact, you need to encourage them to do so by getting them out of their “social comfort zone”. This can be accomplished through team building
What kind of message are you sending with your company culture? Something else to keep in mind is the kind of message you are sending about your company’s culture. We’re not suggesting that happy hours aren’t a good thing and are not trying to suck the fun out of everyone’s good time but it is important to consider what these activities are supporting. Are you portraying the idea that work is work and play is play? Are you suggesting that everyone at work is just a big family? These team activities should speak to your company’s culture and reputation.
What can you do to set up your interns for success? From the interns perspective, they want to be successful so they need to know what success looks like and how they can be successful at your company. Interns want to feel like you are preparing them for success and you are interested in their well-being and future, even if they don’t come to work for you. There is plenty of time to go to the bars and play outside of work but if you don’t help them build relationships with others, show them what you value and work to equip them for success, you are doing yourself and them a great disservice.
Signature Teambuilding has been thinking about this for many years and we have designed programs that combine purpose, fun and learning all at the same time. We believe that learning can be fun and that fun can be purposeful. For example, our Shifting Gears program is strategically designed to break down barriers between people by conducting a variety of activities that are “smart” not silly, challenging but not impossible, and inclusive not exclusive. There are a variety of activities to ensure everyone will engage in the process and we break the group into various sized teams for each different activity so participants will interface with nearly everyone during the program. Most importantly, the program will connect to the company’s value, mission, culture, and competencies so the participants get a true sense of how to be successful working there. Provide your interns with the best possible experience with true team building.