Advice for Onboarding Interns (These Tips Are Game-Changers!)

Find out how to make interns feel a welcome part of your team.

Advice for Onboarding Interns (These Tips Are Game-Changers!)

Are you bringing in a new batch of interns, looking to introduce them to your company, or planning on creating a more successful internship program? It all starts with onboarding.

Although these individuals are only with you short-term, a great onboarding experience is integral. It establishes firm foundations on both sides and sets up the employer and intern for success.

If you're contemplating introducing interns to your workplace, here are a few reasons we'd encourage you to go for it.

Benefits of interns for employers:

  • You can identify potential future hires
  • They offer support to your current employees so they can focus on higher-level tasks
  • They provide new perspectives
  • They're generally more cost-effective
  • They create mentorship opportunities for your employees
  • They can assist in managing workload fluctuations.
  • Satisfied interns can become brand advocates for the company

Now that we've persuaded you (if you weren't already), let's discuss the onboarding process.

Reach out before their first day.

Remember when you first stepped out into the world and started your career? We're sure you'll agree it can be extremely nerve-wracking. Including something as simple as an introductory email in your onboarding plan can go a long way toward settling those nerves.

Set the tone for their arrival and let your interns know a little about yourself and the work environment. For example, the dress code, where to park, how to enter the building/office, who their primary contact is, and anything else that would have kept the younger you up at night.

A timetable for their first couple weeks is also a great idea so they can mentally prepare. Many places even organize team bonding activities before the official starting date.

In-person intern orientation

Intern orientation in the office

Remember to have someone greet your guests on the first day of their internship to provide maximum comfort. Walking through an office of peering eyes can be very intimidating for a young adult.

It's always a great idea to have an official orientation. It doesn't need to be too formal or lengthy—just something to share the need-to-know details and provide introductions.

Make sure you cover:

  • Their go-to person for support
  • Fire exits
  • Data protection
  • How to find essential teams/departments

Welcome kits or swag bags are also great—who doesn't love a freebie? Think of everything you need on the first day of a new job, from stationery and water bottles to snacks and contact lists.

How to welcome a remote intern

Thanks to all the doors that technology has opened up, you can do much of the same with remote teams as in person, including virtual team-building exercises.

The key thing with remote workers is establishing a good line of communication from the beginning. This is vital in person, too, but it's easier for remote employees or interns to feel isolated.

Team-building events

Group activities are a great way to break the ice, bring your interns closer, and make them feel more comfortable around your full-time employees. And team bonding isn't just for office staff—there are countless hybrid and virtual corporate event options too.

Our favorite in-person events include collaborative abstract art and musical bingo. And for virtual events, we love fun challenges like digital escape rooms or creative activities like chunky blanket making.

Establish a positive company culture.

Interns laughing together during orientaation
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

The goal is to make your interns feel like they're a valued part of your team—not insignificant or in the way. Doing this will increase their performance and morale and reduce stress.

Invite your interns to lunch or your after-work hangouts, set goals, be encouraging, listen and empower them.

Ultimately, the way you are as a company is what they'll remember most. And if you want your intern to return for a post-grad job, it could determine their decision.

Be flexible

The workplace has changed a lot in recent times, and flexibility is becoming more of an expectation. This isn't to say you can't set boundaries, but, for example, remember that your interns may be juggling school in addition to their placement. So perhaps remote work would suit them better.

Make sure you communicate effectively from the start and set expectations on both sides. You also want to discuss long-term goals and whether you can adapt their projects to support them. This way, you can ensure everyone is happy and getting the most out of the experience.

Partner them with a team member.

Work buddy helping an intern
Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

Work buddies are great for everybody—it's less pressure on you and a great mentoring opportunity for your employees. For your interns, it's a more intimate and educational experience. In addition, it's comforting for them to know they always have someone to turn to.

Acknowledge achievements

Praise means a lot to most people, but when you're just starting out—often full of self-doubt—it means even more. Acknowledging triumphs is encouraging and shows you're heading in the right direction. As a result, people strive to achieve more and do their best not to disappoint you.

Set up educational opportunities.

The more your interns learn, the more beneficial it is to their careers and the more resourceful they can be to you.

Perhaps after your conversation on long-term goals, you realize there's an internal learning opportunity you can provide or a course you can send them on.

Diversity, equity and inclusion training is also essential for interns (and permanent staff).

Be a proactive communicator

One-on-one with intern
Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

Communication is arguably the most important tip, as it plays a role in all the above. Whether you set a dedicated catch-up every so often or check in more spontaneously, the important thing is you have that running dialogue and answer questions.

During these conversations, you can ask how things are going, discuss whether there's room for improvement (on both sides), set goals and acknowledge achievements.

Bonus: Best practices for managing interns

  • Follow their lead—give them more responsibility if they want it
  • Establish a long-term goal—what skills/experience should they have when they leave
  • Make it fun!

Are you celebrating National Intern Day or onboarding/looking to introduce interns to your business? Get in touch with our event planning experts to see how they can support you in welcoming them to your team.