Getting The Most From Hiring Interns for Your Workplace

Human resource professional Sylvia Loo, Head of Compensations and Benefits at Samsung Asia, shares her best practices when it comes to managing an internship programme.

While internship and traineeship programmes have been an integral part of tertiary education for many years now, it has gained traction amongst Singapore-based employers recently due to the manpower disruptions caused by COVID-19.

As part of the pandemic relief measures, the Singapore government launched an initiative known as the SG-United Traineeships Programme. Specifically, this programme provides fresh graduates from the Institute of Technical Education, polytechnics, universities, and other educational institutions with traineeship opportunities lasting up to six months across various sectors. The aim is to help fresh graduates develop industry-relevant skills and boost their employability when the economy eventually recovers.

My team manages the internship programme at Samsung Asia, and I am personally mentoring one intern now. We also run special cross-functional projects annually that focus on building future business strategies and ideas, which feature a good mix of experienced staff and trainees. These provide interns with an effective platform for learning across functions and geographical boundaries. 

These projects, which are identified by management, focus on future trends and current business needs. For instance, one project looks at ways to grow our online community to cultivate more brand ambassadors. For this, we tapped on our intern group to gain insights from the Gen Z demographic. Meanwhile, the experienced staff will act as a mentor and facilitator to ensure that any ideas and insights generated are translated to business outcomes. As such, it is a good cross-learning opportunity for both groups.

There are numerous benefits for an organisation that hires interns, such as gaining fresh ideas and perspectives from a group that is likely to be more exposed to the latest trends and can thus offer new ways of doing things. Employers can also leverage their internship programmes to build a pipeline of future talent, as it allows managers to determine the suitability of trainees to work at the organisation full-time.

To make these processes more effective, we put our interns through the same performance review as our full-time staff. Through structured performance check-ins, managers can better identify whether an intern is the right fit for us. Meanwhile, students benefit from internship programmes as they are able to gain practical work experience in an industry they are interested in, including acquiring softer skills such as navigating the intricacies of a corporate culture. A more “forgivable” working environment that such a programme provides also gives interns the freedom to make mistakes and be less afraid to ask questions. 

Planning is Key

To get the most out of your internship programme, detailed planning is essential. As internships tend to last only a few months, it is important that they are well-managed to deliver the results that you want.

You first need to decide what your needs are when it comes to hiring interns; whether it is seeking support for a specific project or creating a pool of potential candidates. Having established this, you should identify interns that have the education and skill levels to meet your needs.

I recommend coming up with a training agenda that provides comprehensive onboarding and guidance for interns throughout their time with your organization. Be clear on their assignments and objectives, as well as what is expected in terms of performance.

To keep the work challenging , our interns are tasked with roles and responsibilities which are similar to those of our regular employees. As such, we never assume that they will be able to easily manage the tasks they are assigned, and we do not leave them alone to handle them. Most of the time, rookie mistakes, such as sending e-mails to an inappropriate stakeholder, are made because mentors did not provide enough and clear instructions.

We also hire interns by batches to allow them to form a community. Furthermore, our interns are expected to participate in and organize employee engagement activities, including our annual Dinner & Dance and staff volunteer activities, to make them feel like a part of our team.

As remote working is now commonplace, planning an internship programme under a hybrid working arrangement comes with its own set of challenges. With employees working from home, how does an intern continue to learn and contribute effectively?

While Samsung Asia does allow for remote work arrangements, we also ask our interns to come into the office for team meetings so that there would still be opportunities for face-to-face interactions. The use of technology and mutual trust are also key to managing remote employees; whether they are interns or full-time staff.

Regardless of the type of working arrangement, it is important that your intern has a network of people that they can turn to for guidance. This will help them stay on track to deliver the results that are expected of them, and ensure that you get the most out of their time with your company.