How to Develop a Remote Intern Program
Jun 16, 2020

We all know the indisputable advantages of internship programs. It is not just about grunt work force: through internship companies engage young talents and select best of the best to propose them a job. Interns come to the company’s office, socialize, and absorb the company's culture. But in our time of global pandemic it has become problematic to set up a traditional internship program. What about an online format? Is it worth developing an online internship program, and what are the pros and cons? 

On the one hand, you may find a few drawbacks in having remote interns.

  1. Interns may feel isolated. In absence of coworkers in sight, brainstorming and staff meetings their morale lower significantly.

  2. Lack of interpersonal relationships. It can be difficult for interns to blend in without human contact if all communications are organized via calls and texts.
  3. Decreased intern visibility. You as an employer can’t be sure if your intern is working in the home office or just procrastinating in front of the monitor.
  4. Plenty of distractions. Not everyone in the office is able to stay focused and not be distracted by social media or YouTube, let alone the home office with its regular coffee breaks and Netflix. 

On the other hand, an online internship program seems to be a viable alternative to the temporarily unavailable offline option.

  1. Recruit all over the world. With online working processes your talent pool extends immensely. You are not limited to a specific city or even a country.

  2. Enter new markets. If the interns (native speakers) live in different countries, they can help your company strengthen its position there.
  3. Less office space. There is no need to squeeze interns into the office space. You can recruit as many as you wish.
  4. Grateful interns. Amid the lockdown, students still have to do summer internships, work on their CVs, learn something new and etc. Provide them with such an opportunity, and that will dramatically improve your employer brand.   

We at VCV have broad experience in organizing online working processes, with more than half of our team members working remotely even in normal times, not to mention that 100% of our staff quickly switched to remote working when the lockdown began. So, this year we decided to start our regular internship program online. Today we can share our experience in creating an online internship program in order to help you mitigate the disadvantages and get the most out of it.  

Planning and Scheduling 

Creating a roadmap is the first step. Your future interns should understand what they’ll be doing and for how long. That’s why it’s necessary to explain to them that they won’t be sitting around in front of a monitor waiting for random tasks. Each day should be mapped out. 

However, it will be more difficult for interns to reach out to managers if they have questions. Of course, when they do so this usually distracts employees and slows down the work processes. So, make your internship more educational. Devote, for example, one week to get the interns up to speed on your company’s industry, as well as your company’s procedures and practices for the intern’s department. The next week can focus on practical application of their knowledge in particular areas. The third week can be for personal projects and so on. This is how interns can get the most out of their internship, and your colleagues will not lose precious time on frequent phone calls and texting with interns. 

Give Clear Objectives and KPIs 

Your interns know what they’re supposed to focus on during each week. Good. Now it’s time to set clear targets, KPIs and deadlines for them. Create a table where you will keep track of the tasks. Every day in the morning an intern should open this list and have a complete understanding of what he/she is supposed to do, depending on the department. These tasks should be built on the knowledge attained thus far. 

Also, you can create an additional table with side tasks that your department is currently working on so that an intern can pick one. This will help you to deal with the daily routine and broaden the intern's area of responsibility, thus making him/her more self-aware.  

Keep in Touch with your Interns 

Find the most convenient format of communication. It can be 15 minute daily briefings where you discuss the main goals and KPIs for a day. Or via a messenger chat for constant support and Q&A. Whatever the format of communication it must be regular, interactive, informative and brief. In addition, if your interns live in different countries, so keep in mind the different time zones.  

Text your interns from time to time during the day. Ask if they need help, advice or maybe new tasks. Motivate them, give insights and explain the purpose if this or that task. It will not take too much time, and the interns will not feel abandoned or isolated. 

Be Flexible 

Make sure that the task will not take 10 working hours each day for interns. Set something like “no less than 20 working hours a week”. It will be up to the interns to allot their time properly so that all the KPIs are fulfilled. 

Remember, an online internship is still an internship. Certificates of internship/experience, references and recommendation letters should be handed out as a result of your program. It is one of the most important motivating factors for interns.

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